Self-Injury Awareness Day 2018 was technically Thursday, March 1, 2018. As of right now, I missed it by 2 hours and 37 minutes. I had a major blog entry regarding self-injury planned out, but I ended up in the ER because my throat closed and my whole day was gone before I knew it. The doctors at the ER weren’t sure why my throat closed but, thankfully, I am okay now. So, instead of my planned out entry, I am going to tell you about my journey with self-injury.
Self-Injury: Samantha’s Story
I can clearly remember the first time I self-injured like it was yesterday. It was 19 years ago, and I was only 12-years-old. At that time in my life, I had never heard of self-harm, cutting, burning, or anything. It was still the late 90’s, so it wasn’t all over all over the place like it is today. Now, it is everywhere you look and almost everyone knows of or has heard of someone who self-injures. I had never seen or heard of anyone intentionally hurting themselves before. Heck, I didn’t even know my own dad was a self-injurer because I rarely got to see him during that time. I never knew we had so much in common.
During this first episode, my mom and stepdad were fighting really bad. I could hear him as he hit her, and I could hear my mom screaming, “Please, no!” from their bedroom in a tiny three bedroom apartment. It’s not really something children should be listening to. Plus, I had two little brothers and a little sister to watch after. They were probably too young to remember this instance. I just had all this pain, hate, and anger building up inside of me and I didn’t know what I could do.
I kept threatening to call my grandmother. I could have called the cops but I was young and it was ingrained my head from a young age that, “what happens at home, stays at home.” While my siblings were in the living room watching TV, I grabbed a kitchen knife and locked myself in the bathroom. I don’t know what came over me but something in my head kept telling me to drag the knife across my left forearm and that I would feel so much better afterward. I listened and then gave in. It felt like everything was going to be okay. It was like the hate, anger, and the pain turned into some sort of pressure inside of me and only seeing my own blood was the only thing that could possibly relieve that pressure.
After that night, I dabbled with it here and there but didn’t get really into it, as my coping mechanism, until I was 14-years-old. After that, a razor was like my secret best friend. I took it with me when I would go out sometimes. Anytime I got anxious, stressed, sad, depressed, or felt any form of negative emotion I could pick up the razor. I would mainly cut my upper thighs because they were easily concealed in shorts and were easier to hide than my arms.
When I was 16, I was mad at my mom and slit the vein in my left foot and then called my mom to come see it – needless to say, 911 was called and I was rushed to the ER. For the longest time, my mom didn’t know that that I was a cutter until I showed her one day out of anger. She never really followed up on it and I think she may have asked me why, but that was the end of it. If you don’t talk about it, it’s not a problem right? I felt like that was how my mom coped with a lot back then.
As of today, I am still a cutter. I don’t do it as frequently as I once did, and I am working on ways to stop. I have the S.A.F.E. Alternatives app on my android cell phone and it works amazingly for their impulse control log.
I have even created my own log (I made an entry about how to create an impulse control log. Click Here to be redirected to that entry.) and write in that before I pick up a razor blade so that it distracts me enough to think before I act.
Sometimes all I need is a distraction to keep me from harming myself. It’s not a method I use to try to kill myself, in fact, I do it for the complete opposite reason – to keep the pressure from building up so I won’t resort to suicide.
Everyone has their own reasons for cutting and most of the time, believe it or not, it is not to try to gain attention from people. This is especially true for the people who hide their cuts. If we try to hide them, why would someone think we are trying to gain attention from that?
I self-harm to gain control over my overwhelming emotions and feelings. When things become too much for me, or when a traumatic memory starts to haunt me – which they often do. Like I started to mention, I am trying to look for new ways to not self-harm. I have a list of things that worked for me in the past to try first. The longest I have gone without cutting was almost a year. I always get sucked back into it, however.
Cutting truly is an addiction that people can quit or relapse from. When someone finds a way that helps them cope with life – in unhealthy manors- whether it is alcohol, drugs, cutting, starving yourself, or punching walls it can turn into an addiction because people start to overuse it as their means to try to feel better either about themselves or about life in general.
From where I was before to where I am today, I have made amazing progress. It takes time, effort, and dedication. I just really want everyone out there who self-harms to know that they are not alone. It is an everyday battle sometimes, but progress can be made. Just like I gave up alcohol, (6 months sober as of 2/27/18) I will eventually find a way to implement healthier coping mechanisms instead of cutting.
If you ever need anyone to talk to about self-harm, healthy coping mechanism, or anything else that you see on this blog – feel free to email me @ ContactMyBipolarMind@gmail.com
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.