How understanding self-harm helped me stop
This spunout contributor delves into realising different forms of self-harm, shedding light on unrecognised behaviours and the path to self-healing.
Written by Anonymous
Last Updated: Dec-08-23
Voices - Experiences
Young people share their personal experiences.
TW // This piece discusses self-harm. Please look after yourself if you choose to read on. Our text support service details are listed below.
When I was younger, I believed that self-harm was physically hurting or wounding myself. However, I later came to realise that self-harm had many forms and that I was hurting myself in ways I never even realised. This realisation was part of what helped me stop harming myself in the end.
Earning the good things
One self-destructive behaviour of mine was depriving myself of things because I felt I didn’t deserve them. Most of the time, I deprived myself of help. I told myself to suck it up and pretend like everything was alright because I didn’t feel worthy of being in pain. I thought that my life was so good that I didn’t deserve to be sad about anything. I felt that everyone else’s lives were so much harder and that I shouldn’t burden them.
This led to me suffering in silence. I went through my days thinking I was weak and fragile for having bad mental health when I was just overflowing with years of struggles that I had suppressed because I didn’t feel like they were serious enough to worry anyone over.
Whenever I asked for help, it was with shame, guilt and self-hatred. Even as my mental health got better, I still only felt comfortable confiding in someone after I had already helped them. In that way, I earned the right to ask them for advice.
Another way that I used to hurt myself was by punishing myself by avoiding the things I loved. Most of the time, I didn’t even realise that was what I was doing. Usually, it was just that I had disappointed myself, and my shame made me lose my appetite, or my enthusiasm. So, I skipped a meal or refused to do the things I enjoyed.
My therapist was the one who made me see that these were unhealthy forms of punishment for my mistakes. When they suggested this to me, I was astounded. Surely, it wasn’t a big deal that I just wasn’t in the mood to enjoy myself. I thought it wasn’t anything as serious as self-harm.
Over time, however, I understood what they meant. When I made mistakes, I felt shame, disappointment and frustration. I hated myself in that moment. Instead of recognising and empathising with my own frustration, I blamed it. If I had some food, went on a walk, or just did something calming, I could have soothed my nerves and shown myself the love and empathy I needed to get through tough setbacks.
Instead, I let my anger turn against me and turned away from things that could actually help me in favour of self-hatred and self-harm. Those punishments that I used to think were nothing serious, suddenly revealed to me my own lack of self-love.
How realising helped me stop my self-harm
At the start, I still found it tough to really accept that I was harming myself. Still, at the very least I realised that my behaviour wasn’t good for my mental health. It made me aware that the times when I wasn’t in the mood to have fun or take care of myself were the times when I needed self-care the most.
If I thought about cancelling on my friends even when I wanted to see them, or I felt so angry I lost my appetite, I started looking deeper into those feelings. It was a draining process, but slowly I started seeing patterns in my behaviour and changing those patterns. Instead of skipping meals, I just drank a glass of milk. Instead of cancelling on my friends entirely, I hung out with them although I was just sulking in the background.
Even though at the moment I never saw a major difference from all these little changes, over time, they grew to make me much happier. Those little changes were incredibly hard, especially because I didn’t understand whether they were even helping or not. But once they started working, I had the self-empathy I needed to start making bigger changes.
Realising those patterns and starting to change them is what made me truly see that they were hurting me. That I was harming myself. And that was what I needed to start wanting to break that vicious cycle and love myself instead.
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