Tag Archives: Self Harm

Everything You Need to Know About Self-Harm

everything self harm

What is self-harm?

Self-harm is just what it sounds like: a person hurts themselves intentionally, specifically without intent to commit suicide. This usually includes a ritual which the person follows each time.

  1. Self-harm does not include hurting others or lashing out.
  2. Self-harm is never committed by another person.
  3. Self-harm is defined by a physical injury or trauma. If no physical injury occurs, the behavior and/or symptoms are not classified as self-harm.
  4. Self-harm is committed intentionally. Accidents or unintentional injuries do not qualify as self-harm.
  5. Self-harm never includes suicide attempts. Although a person who has attempted to commit suicide may have hurt themselves, they are trying to die, which is directly opposite the models of self-harm.

Why do people self-harm?

The reasons for self-harm are unique to each person, but there are several common factors.

  1. Relief from emotional or physical pain. Causing a physical injury prompts the body to begin the physical healing process. The body releases endorphins, hormones, adrenaline, and other chemicals which reduce physical and emotional pain.
  2. Addictions to endorphins can form. Endorphins affect the body in a way similar to morphine. Adrenaline is also addictive in the same way.
  3. Reenacting previous abuse is another reason a person may hurt themselves. This can represent the person taking control in a way they couldn’t when they were abused, or could be part of a flashback episode.
  4. Self-nurturing is another goal of self-harm for some people. Sometimes, the person feels alone or abandoned, and self-harms to provide a reason to take care of themselves. Many people in this category have rituals regarding their self-care, which can sometimes include preventing the wound from healing properly.

If someone self-harms, are they suicidal?

Self-harm events and suicide attempts are completely different actions. In fact, if someone attempts to commit suicide, the event is not considered self-harm, regardless of physical injury. If someone self-harms, they are looking for solace, strength, or relief which makes living easier. If someone attempts to commit suicide, they are trying to die, not live a better or easier life.

Who self-harms?

  1. Gender: Both genders are equally likely to self-harm, about 8.9% of the population. Transgender individuals, however, are much more likely to have self-harmed, up to 59%.
  2. Sexuality: LGBQ individuals are between 3 and 6 times more likely to self-harm at some point in their lives.
  3. Age: Self-harm usually begins as a teenager, intensifies into the twenties, and fading in the thirties. This is by no means a hard rule, and people of any age might self-harm.
  4. Victims of abuse are much more likely to self-harm. It should be recognized that those who self-harm are not always victims of abuse, and not all victims of abuse self-harm.

Wait, boys self-harm too?

Yes, despite the mistaken perception of self-harm affecting mainly girls, both genders are equally likely to self-harm.

Is self-harm an attention-seeking behavior?

Not necessarily. Some individuals might self-harm to communicate pain, but this is done to reach out, not cause drama or receive pity.

How do people self-harm? Is it just cutting?

While cutting is the most commonly seen form of self-harm, there are many ways a person might self-harm, including:

  1. Cutting
  2. Burning (flames, cigars, hot objects, and sometimes flammable substances such as gasoline)
  3. Scratching
  4. Biting fingernails, cheeks, lips, or fingers
  5. Breaking bones
  6. Hitting

stand alone

Where is someone likely to hurt themselves?

The most common places a person might self-harm are:

  1. Shoulders and upper arms
  2. Wrists
  3. Chest
  4. Thighs
  5. Genitals

What kinds of rituals are involved when someone self-harms?

Any repetitive behavior a person participates in is considered a ritual. These elements can include:

  • Location of injury. Some people always self-harm in the same place, even cutting or burning scar tissue from previous self-injury sites.
  • Type of injury. Usually one or two forms of self-harm are used regularly.
  • Environment is another factor. Many people only self-harm in a particular place such as the shower, bedroom, or garage.

Is it possible to stop self-harming?

Yes! Most people grow out of their need to self-harm. Others remove or treat the cause of the need to self-harm. The first step, as with anything, is to ask for help! I suggest a few things for folks who are looking for help:

  1. See your doctor, therapist, or family member you trust.
  2. Make notes for yourself, so you can clearly communicate your points.
  3. If you become overwhelmed, take a break. Talking can be hard.
  4. Be compassionate to yourself. You deserve it.

What do I do if someone tells me they have self-harmed?

Here are my best tips for helping someone who has reached out to you. Remember, you know them better than I do, so YMMV.

  1. Feel honored. It’s not easy to trust someone with your pain. They told you, therefore they trust you.
  2. Listen, don’t assume. Everyone’s experience is unique.
  3. Encourage treatment.
  4. Avoid telling the person that they can/should be “fixed”, and instead focus on treatment or “help”.
  5. Emphasize that they aren’t alone. They have you, and people all over the world are getting help, too.
  6. Say, “I love you.”
  7. Don’t say, “I understand,” unless you have been there.
  8. Don’t encourage passivity. Letting God take care of things includes them getting treatment. Taking care of yourself is half of God taking care of you.
  9. Don’t give up, but take breaks if you need to. Your needs are important, too!

To everyone: Whether you self-harm, know someone who self-harms, or suspect someone you know might self-harm, it’s important to remember that people are people, not their illness. Hate the illness, but never the sick. We’re all human, okay?

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Stereotypes Number 2 – Self Harm

“Only teenage girls self-harm.”

This one kills me. Most of you will know why. I hurt myself sometimes. I have scars in various parts of my body that I’m not proud of. My ex-husband has a shoulder covered in scars. Another one of my male friends has scars everywhere but his face. His neck, his hips, everywhere.

The media really likes playing up the image of teenage girls “cutting.” It’s because they can make them look stupid, weak, and overly emotional. But people of all ages, genders, and walks of life self-harm.

People do it in different ways. I knew a man who would punch concrete blocks to break his hands. When people asked, he would say that he got into “a really tough fight.” He told me once that the fight in question was with himself. He also broke his leg by jumping off of his house as a “stunt.” He did it to break himself, no other reason.

I’ve always tended to draw in friends with self-harm issues. Friends in their teens, twenties, thirties, forties, and even one lady that was 85. She was a patient, so I won’t say more.

I’ve seen men put out their cigars on their necks and shoulders. I’ve seen a grown woman’s scars, saying terrible things. “Slut,” “Ugly,” and “Failure,” CARVED into her thighs. I’ve known men and women who have hurt their own genitals. I’ve known women who cut their breasts, and a man who would drop heavy weights onto his scrotum.

Did you know boys under 10 are more likely to self harm than girls that age? Did you know people who self harm are 50-100% more likely to commit suicide? It’s an illness, and it affects everyone.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, I have a 2 inch scar on my right forearm that I will never be able to hide again. It’s embarrassing, but I’ve resolved to tell anyone who asks about it the truth. My kids know why I have it, and they understand that they should talk to someone if they feel like they want to hurt/die. This kind of communication changes lives. I really believe that, or I wouldn’t write all this down for you all.

This is my right forearm.

This is my right forearm.

I self harm because I feel such big emotions inside sometimes. I feel like it HAS to come out NOW! It’s hard to feel all the emotions my brain has sometimes. Part of it is that I feel like nobody understands. I feel like, if I had scars all over, people would know how much pain I had suffered. I also feel like I deserve to hurt. I feel like I’ve earned the pain, and the discomfort. I’ve earned the scars, I just don’t have them all yet.

It’s not logical, and logic doesn’t make it go away. I’ve hidden blades around my house at various times. I’ve cut myself with rusty and dull things. I’ve punched walls, and broken my hands. I’ve shut my hands in the door of my car. I’ve gone into a bar, found the biggest mother-fucker in there, and punched him in the face.

I have found some dangerous ways to hurt myself over the years, and I’m not proud of that. I can’t tell you how much guilt I feel when someone close to me realizes that I’ve hurt myself. Telling my kids what I had done was just heart breaking. They don’t understand, not completely. But that’s okay, because we all know that I’m an open, safe place. I can talk to them about anything, and that has to be enough.

Sometimes, I know I’m not explaining myself completely, and tonight is one of those nights. There is so much to this subject, that I feel like I’m not doing it justice. Please, feel free to ask ANYTHING by messaging my Facebook page. I will respond to you, and update this post, or write another one. Thanks for all the feedback I get, guys. It means a lot. Remember that anyone you know could be hurting, and that’s okay. Carry on, dear reader.

P.S. I don’t hide blades around my house any more. Jenny and I cleaned them all out after the cut on my arm. It’s not okay for me to hurt myself. It’s not bad that I want to, it’s just not okay to actually act on that. I’m trying to be strong for my kids and fiance. I’m trying to be strong for all of you. Most importantly, I’m trying to be strong for myself.

Black and White

While filling out the evaluation paperwork last week, Jenny and I had some interesting conclusions. One of the more interesting ones from Jenny was that I am very black and white, and have little room in my life for grey areas. This is kind of a big deal, actually, because it gave me some insight into why I react to some things the way I do.

Image in the public domain.

Image in the public domain.

An example. Yesterday, I talked about a man who asked about my scar. I panicked because I didn’t know how to answer. So, I said, very awkwardly, “Let’s just call it an accident.” If there was ever a prize for wording that would confuse someone, I just hit the jackpot. This made me feel angry, confused, and generally upset.  The reason for the panic was simple, once I thought about it. I hadn’t set up a blanket answer.

Jenny and I talked a bit about it yesterday, and she encouraged me to just tell people the truth. She had a good point, too. If I tell people where the scar came from, then they may have the opportunity to talk to me about it, and I could potentially help someone with their issues, or I could help someone understand mental illness or myself better. So, I now have a blanket answer.

No choices, no figuring out what to say on the spot. Just an answer. This is one of those little things that makes my life easier, and all around less stressful. It’s a tool, and now that I’ve recognized it, I will hopefully be able to use it reliably.

I wish I didn’t think of things as black and white. I wish I could reliably come up with a uniquely appropriate answer for every person. I just can’t. It’s part of who I am, and that’s okay. At worst, it makes me very consistent. At best, it moderates my behavior across multiple different moods, which is always something I am looking for.

What tools to you use to make your life simpler? Feel free to leave a comment. Who knows? You might help somebody yourself. Carry on, dear reader.

Inquiry

So I went English Country Dancing with Jenny last night. It was a blast. I really love doing things with her, especially classy things, like dances from Jane Austen Novels. It was a great evening. Until it wasn’t.

When we were done dancing, one of the other gentlemen asked me about my scar. Now, as you can see in the picture below, this is a honking big scar. It is, of course, the scar from my self inflicted cut before my last hospital visit. It is bright, it is bold, and I knew someone was going to ask about it eventually.

Photo from my iPhone Subject: me

Photo from my iPhone Subject: me

I did not expect my reaction, however. I froze. I looked at Jenny, with a decidedly deer-in-the-headlights look, wondering what I should say. I said to him “Let’s just call it an accident.” I also never would have guessed his reaction. He insinuated that he thought Jenny did it for sexual reasons, which she immediately made clear was not the case. I think I left him pretty confused. Hell, I’m still confused.

I began to panic, and it occurred to me that, although I am happy to share my mental health issues with most people, obviously, I was not willing to go there with this man. I think I was afraid. It just doesn’t seem fair that I didn’t feel like I could be myself. But I could have been, and I should have been. I have made up my mind to always be honest about why I have that scar, and have encouraged Jenny to be open about it as well.

I plan on pulling that man aside sometime soon, and explaining where it came from, and why I was hesitant to talk about it. I’d like you all to remember something. Just because I am so open and honest for all of you, all that doesn’t mean shit unless I can be honest with myself, and those in my everyday life.

Remember that I’m not perfect, and I don’t have to be. By extension, you don’t have to be perfect either. Keep it honest, but also keep it positive. Carry on.

What Do You Do If You Think You Have Mental Illness?

Image belongs to: woovakoova.deviantart.com

Image belongs to: woovakoova.deviantart.com

So, we all know mental illness sucks. It sucks big time. But what do you do when you aren’t sure if you have mental illness?

It’s a simple answer, with not so simple results. See a mental health professional. One with gobs of experience, preferably. This isn’t a scam to get you to spend money. It’s the only logical choice.

Seeing a mental health professional will open several doors for you. There are tests, batteries, counseling, you name it. Your choices are not limited to seeing a regular medical doctor, and hoping he’s got enough of a clue to recommend someone for you. Ask your doctor to do so, don’t wait for them to suggest it. Check around, make sure the specialist you are referred to has a good reputation. And remember: “They didn’t give me the drugs I wanted,” is never ever cause for a “bad reputation.” Not all drugs are good for everyone.

The medical tests that might be administered to you include blood tests like thyroid panels, liver panels, and blood cell counts. Also included sometimes are sleep tests, ECGs, EKGs, and other heart exams. Even X-rays can help determine that you don’t have a physical illness. Ruling out the less severe forms of illness is always the first step.

Batteries aren’t always called “batteries.” They can be called “evaluations” or “examinations” as well. Either way, what it comes down to is that they will ask you many, many questions, and sometimes your answers will spark more questions. This is normal, and a suggested part of a treatment plan. This is so critical because your health care professionals need to know if you are a drug/alcohol/tobacco user/abuser. They won’t turn you into the police, or refuse service. They just don’t want to kill you with medication. Please just be honest with them, so they can take care of you!

Finally, counseling is a huge part of mental health care, because it provides the opportunity to express yourself in a guilt-free environment, and sometimes, just talking it out with a counselor allows you to come to conclusions that you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to understand about yourself. Many paths to change come from self-understanding.

Remember, take initiative, be honest, and be your own advocate.