Dermatillomania, bees, and buttercup.

Yesterday during a volunteering session at the local community garden, I had a really interesting experience.

We were clearing out a garden bed in order to create a bee-friendly space. A space with a diverse variety of flowering plants, to give the bees a healthy range of pollen sources. This first involved weeding out all the invasive, pest species, and then planting new flowering herbs which will hopefully grow big and strong.

Getting rid of all the buttercup plants first was a mighty task, as it had completely taken over with really deep, twisting roots. Although buttercup is flowering and therefore can be suitable for bees, it’s pest and weed type nature means that it smothers out all other, less intense plants, removing the natural diversity in both the vegetation and soil.

We used hook type tools, and Japanese weeding blades to clear the buttercup shoots and to dig up the roots, and in doing so, something really weird happened.

It’s really difficult to explain. In using the tools to dig deep into the soil, and remove out the knot of budding weeds which centred each buttercup plant, this mirrored exactly how it can feel to have dermatillomania.

Don’t worry if you are lost, even I’m quite confused about it all at this point.

The drive, the full concentration, and sole needing, of absolutely having to remove all the complex layers of root systems of each plant – is exactly how I feel having dermatillomania.

Except with my skin.

Macro Photography of Green Grass

Even thinking back to all the weeding we did, removing the plants in their entirety; it gives me a weird feeling. A feeling of needing to keep going, to make it all perfect, of it never being good enough. A feeling of absolutely having to, of there being nothing else I would want to do, or could do instead. That this is what I need to do, plain and simple. Making the soil pristine from all buttercup roots which could come back with a vengeance, and the appearance of the garden bed with far less imperfections – it’s all exactly the same as needing to clear and get rid of my skin.

As a small child, I remember sitting in the gravel driveway of my Uncle’s farm, using a stick to pick out small stones. This wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing, per say, as visiting the cows or hanging out with my cousins would have been far more fun, but it’s something I couldn’t resist. I had to, almost impulsively. It’s like I had no control. The satisfaction of removing each small piece of gravel was like some sort of buzz, keeping me going and going until my parents said it was time to drive home. The knowledge that what I was doing was incomplete and unfinished, bothered me greatly.

It’s not as though I’m particularly passionate about weeding, or removing small pieces of gravel for that matter. It’s more an “instinctive” feeling or drive, like something I just have to get done before all else. I took a while to get to sleep last night because my brain kept replaying over and over again how removing the weeds felt. And how that feels very weirdly exactly the same as removing anything I deem “wrong” with my skin. Which is quite often an awful lot, and sometimes apparently invisible to everyone else.

I don’t necessarily like or enjoy what I’m doing. I just have to do it, if that makes any sense.

All I can think about is how it feels removing the weeds, which is annoying because today there are lots of things I need to get done, and none of them involve obsessing about weeding buttercup. Honestly, if anybody else could see inside my brain, they would be absolutely baffled.

Seriously brain, what are you doing?

Hopefully this discovery, albeit strange, can help me channel some of the nuisance that is dermatillomania into helping the bees instead. Saving the bees is a way better cause than taking apart my skin any day.

All of this felt kind of uncomfortable to write, like saying it aloud. Does anybody else have experiences that have nothing to do with what’s going on in the brain, but feel strangely similar?

A reason to recover (number one billion).

WordPress is prompting, encouraging eagerly to “share your story here” but this particular story is a really difficult one to share.

It’s one that is close to my heart, that has shattered me and broke me in ways I never knew possible. It’s also one that I don’t know if it is right to share.

However in saying that, it is part of my story, part of me in some way, and I’m trying to learn not to be so darn ashamed all the time. I yearn for honesty – to share openly and with vulnerability – as this is where I’m at in recovery.

I’m at the stage where I’m trying to stop running. The stage where you learn to stand still, strong, in the face of all the old gusts of wind trying to force you to bend, break.

Before I begin, I must say that what’s to come discusses miscarriage, pregnancy loss and self-harm. Remember to put yourself first, and please stop reading if it won’t serve your recovery.

About two and a half years ago, I was a broken, confused, and very, very lost person.

I was 20, had just dropped out of university due to being too unwell to attend, and was deep in the hardest slog of recovery from the eating disorder. I spent the next eight months working incredibly hard to gain back all that I had lost – weight, energy, friends, the ability to learn and understand, and most importantly, my life.

I moved in with love of my life, my now-husband, and had enrolled to begin a new course at a different university. A brand new start all round. Things were looking up. I was learning how to be stable in my eating disorder recovery, though still struggled immensely with self-harm and anxiety.

In the weeks leading up to beginning my new degree, I felt a bit different, a bit “off” you could say, and was experiencing symptoms that weren’t normal for my cycle. Despite not believing that it could be a possibility at all, I took a pregnancy test just as a precaution, so that our minds could be at ease.

We were not prepared for the result.

Those two, little purple lines, a positive, changed life as we know it.

We were terrified, confused and shocked to say the least. We always, always would use contraception, so were baffled at how it could have happened. No form of contraception is fully 100%, but it’s not the sort of tiny chance that you think would happen to you.

Until it does.

How could it all be real?

However, the positive result lines were not the only marks that caused immense feeling. Days earlier, in one of my many, messy episodes of intense self-harm, I had slashed into my stomach, leaving behind superficial trenches of hate, of hurt.

Right across where our apple seed sized baby was growing.

I don’t think I have ever hated myself as much as when I realised what I had done.

background, blur, bokeh

A few days later, I woke to the sound of my alarm going off, waking me to begin my first day of classes, in my brand new course.

Immediately, I felt that something wasn’t right. I didn’t feel nauseous, as I had every day before. All my pregnancy symptoms were gone. As nice as it was to feel normal again, it was confusing, so I took another pregnancy test.

This one came back negative, meaning that my body had stopped producing hCG, the pregnancy hormone.

As if with perfect timing, blood flowed, and I lost our baby.

What I didn’t know, or expect, or anything, because nobody really talks about early miscarriages, is that it takes days. It takes days for your body to pass the pregnancy tissue, to empty your womb out, and that it’s a really, really hard thing to go through.

When researching early pregnancy loss, I found out that miscarriages are actually really common. One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, and most of the time nobody really knows why. It’s just part of life, sadly.

One of the most difficult parts of it all to deal with is the guilt.

The guilt for feeling afraid of your pregnancy, especially because it was unplanned. We were young, financially struggling, and I was still unwell with mental illnesses. I feel the need to point out, though it really doesn’t matter, that although I am staunchly pro-choice, I wouldn’t have chosen an abortion. However the thought of bringing a child into our lives was still, nevertheless, incredibly frightening. And that’s something that it’s hard not to feel guilty about.

Then there was all the guilt about the ruins I had turned my body into, merely months earlier, from the eating disorder. That this could have been the reason for our baby leaving us.

There was also the guilt about all of the self-harm, all of the time and energy spent into tearing myself apart, all while unknowingly pregnant. What if the baby knew how much it’s mother hated herself, and left because of that?

Although we don’t know the reason for the miscarriage, it could have been anything really (and logically I know that, I promise), and in a way it has really influenced my recovery.

I think back about how ill I had been, both before that time and during, and I am astounded that person was me.

It has made me determined to be the best I can be. To work on my mental health, which in turn helps my physical health. To be the most well and healthy I can be, so that when we are ready, we can welcome our baby with open arms.

Sometimes we think of what could have been, and although painful, it’s comforting in a way. We like to think of that baby just visiting, popping in to say “hello, I’m waiting for you”, and that they will come back when the time is right.

All these experiences, they have broken, torn and ripped through me. But in a way, they have given me the opportunity to build strength, to work on being resilient, and heal, for when we do have our own family.

You maybe have seen me mention babies a few times on here, and that’s because the prospect of them makes me so excited. I am filled with so much joy and hope, at the thought of becoming a Mum, and same with my husband at becoming a Dad.

We are so excited to meet our future babies.

Finding anxiety in novel pages.

A few days ago, I was buzzing around the local library. I’m going to say buzzing, because browsing would be too serene, and wandering is what I wished I was capable of doing instead. My anxiety was taking my stomach on small leaps that day, causing me to flutter nervously around, haphazardly picking up random books before setting them down again, hoping nobody would notice.

Imagine! Somebody being aware of my existence in the library! How terrifying!

I noticed a book on one of the display shelves at the end of the rows, which had really intriguing cover illustrations. It is a collage of faces, and it drew me closer instantly.

The book was Holding Still For As Long As Possible by Zoe Whittall, and I just got a good feeling from it. It’s weird, how intuition works. After briefly worrying about if it was right to take a book from a display shelf, or if that was a ‘bad’ thing to do, I decided to just get over it, and loan it out. It’s amazing how even a simple trip to the library can include a cascade of anxiety-driven, absolutely ridiculous thoughts.

And what can I say, aside from wow? I need to find better words, aside from wow, for this book.

I think what was worse than a nervous breakdown was the route on the way to it. Everything is scarier when you anticipate it, right? I bet real crazy-town is actually not so bad. Maybe a little bit freeing. Still, I was trying to avoid it with every bit of my anxious, cautious self, and avoiding anxiety only makes it worse. It lurks in your periphery, taunting you with every doubt and possibility you could ever dream up.

I didn’t pick the book based on anything apart from liking the cover. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing to do (note to self – please work on this whole “not being sure of yourself thing” – it’s annoying), but that’s how it happened, and the universe really surprised me.

One of the narrators in the book has panic disorder and OCD, as well as many intrusive thoughts, which naturally filtered her voice, and the way the reader experiences her story. Whittall’s descriptions of panic attacks and anxiety were incredibly accurate to my own experiences, it was kind of spooky. I felt as though the thoughts of the narrator experiencing these could have been mine, but far more coherent and understood.

It didn’t matter that I understood what was going on physiologically  in my body. My neural thermostat was fucked up. My body went into fight-or-flight response for no good reason. Blood rushed to my heart and legs, away from my fingers and face, causing my extremities to tingle. My stomach shut down, throat constricted. All these things are helpful when you’re faced with an oncoming bus. Need to lift a car to save a baby? Awesome. Sitting at dinner? Absolutely incapacitating.

As I quickly read through the book, it was a really enjoyable read, I became sure that Whittall must have experience with anxiety herself, to be able to write so accurately and elegantly about a topic that I imagine would be really difficult to write about otherwise. One quick Google later taught me all I needed to know, and gave me the gift of reading more of Whittall’s writing.

astronomy, clouds, dusk

Having a panic disorder means you’re way too alive, as if someone has turned up your volume button to deafening. Somewhere inside, the real you lies dormant, asleep for fear of having to live like an electric current, a lightning bolt, a bottle breaking into shards. I’m a jack-in-the-box that won’t stop jumping out, an uncontrollable, hiccuping heart.

I found a fabulous short article called Why “Crazy” People Make Great Writers that Zoe Whittall wrote for Open Book, a website celebrating Ontario’s literary scene. Honestly, the more I learn about Canada, the more in awe I am. I am so excited to hopefully travel there someday.

Both Whittall’s article and book are written with great wit, humour, alongside the harsh reality of living with mental illness. And that’s something I admire, an awful heck of a lot.

When you’re having a panic attack the one thing you’re certain of – besides your own death – is that the attack will never end. Even when it does stop, there’s always a sense that another one is on the horizon, and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What are your favourite books that deal particularly well with mental health issues? I would love to have some recommendations.

Social media & cookies.

Social media is both a blessing and a curse, all rolled into one super powerful, itsy-bitsy, hand-held rectangle. Since social media’s uprising has become such an influential part of our current day, it can be hard to find a good balance between how it can enrich our lives, and how it can deplete them.

Social media is like jam. A sweet, fruity, strawberry jam. A little dollop on your toast is great for breakfast, but if you stick your whole hand in the jar, you will just be left with a handful of jam and unable to do anything else, well, because, your hand is covered in jam. Think Winnie the Pooh and his honey pot. Actually, that’s a much better analogy. Whether social media is your jam or your honey, it’s best to find out how it best works for you, without creating a mess.

Day 4 – Clean up your social media feeds.

To be honest, social media can be like kryptonite for my anxiety; fueling a rush of unbearable flames. Seeing how seeming “perfect” everybody’s lives look is an easy way to ruin a day. Comparison is the thief of joy after all. Although logically I know that Instagram, and other social medias of the likes are usually highlight reels, it can be hard to accept this as fact. When you feel your deepest lows, and encounter mundane everyday problems, being surrounded with apparently flawless and magnificent lives, can be overwhelming and harmful to self-esteem.

Something I am very guilty of, and am trying very hard to change, is the amount of time I spend mindlessly scrolling on social media. Notice the word mindless; if it were mindful instead I would be a very happy chicken! However, I waste so much precious time doing nothing on social media – it filling in the gaps in my day. I am working on replacing this time with reading, practicing mindfulness, playing the ukulele, talking to my favourite humans and of course, writing too. It is a much lighter feeling, to not be constantly bearing the weight of comparison, and reflecting my lows with other’s highs.

beach, beautiful, blue

The mental health communities on social media can be quite a mixed bag. If you dip your hand it, it can be quite a surprise as to whether it’s a community that seeks to support, or one that seeks to hinder. A friendly nuzzle from a rabbit, or a harsh bite from a crocodile. A pretzel or some goopy mayo. You get the picture. As somebody who spent many teenage years lost in an eating disorder, browsing Pro-Ana websites, it’s actually really scary to think back about the harmful content that is out there. In some communities, it’s almost a competition to see who is “sickest”. In others, it’s a wonderful group of people who share openly and honestly, yet also support each other in the process. It is important to remember that ultimately you are in control of what forms of social media you follow and engage with. It isn’t rude, horrible or dismissive to not interact with something that doesn’t serve you. They can do what works (or quite possibly doesn’t) for them, and you can do what works for you. There is a hugely diverse spectrum of mental health communities on social media. You just have to dig through a bit sometimes to find the ones that bring you up, rather than the ones that leave you feeling torn down. Here on WordPress is a fabulous place to start.

However, in saying all of this, social media is not all one burnt cookie. It can also be a perfectly crisp, chewy, chocolate chip cookie too! The information that can be accessed, the ideas that can be shared, and the connections that can be made are all invaluable components of social media. The community here at WordPress is just one example of how social media can enrich and enlighten us; it was such a joyful surprise to find! Social media can also be a space for creativity, and the sharing of it, whether this be through art, writing or photography just to name a few.

My aim for the way I use and engage with social media is to use it with clear intentions, and in a way to build myself and others up. I am aiming to spend less time mindlessly on social media, and more time with purpose, and with purpose comes passion. Lately I have been making sure I unfollow any accounts that do not help my recovery, which I’m trying not to feel bad about, as well as engaging with people who I look up to, and who I admire. Balance really is everything.

 

Light beyond self harm – A guest post for Be Your Own Light.

The amazing Eleanor from Be Your Own Light invited me to write a guest post for her blog, and here it is (the link is just at the bottom too)! Thank-you, so incredibly much Eleanor, for the opportunity to be part of the important work you are doing. Her blog is a wonderful resource for all of us in the mental health community, and she writes with honesty, strength and frankness about her experiences. Definitely check it out!

(image: Dare to Live SOS) The author Kaitlyn blogs at http://www.withbeingalive.wordpress.com . Trigger warning: talks about self harm behaviours (but not graphically), please be careful when reading. When you are curled within the cradling, spiked tentacles of self-harm – one wrapped around each wrist, and another brushing away any tears – those pesky alternatives of “holding […]

via Light Beyond Self Harm by Kaitlyn W at withbeingalive.wordpress.com — Be Your Own Light: A Mental Health Recovery Blog

A morning routine for a bundle of nerves.

As you have probably gathered from this little corner of the internet if you aren’t a stranger – I am a little bundle of nerves, all squishy and squeaky, and sometimes even am an entire, complete, mess. The mess part usually happens when I’m Wednesday-deep in a week-long bender of panic attacks, whereas the wild bundle of nerves part is my general, day-to-day state of being.

Mornings with anxiety are not often pretty. Instead of rolling out of bed and dancing around with some small, singing animals like in a Disney movie, you might kind of topple out of bed, with a mountain of panic about the day ahead rising in your chest. Sometimes I wake up with my heart pounding, my hands and feet numb and with pins and needles, feeling dizzy. It’s weird; like being awoken mid panic attack.

Having a good morning routine has helped me to manage my anxiety immensely in the past, however I also know that I can do better. A set plan of action, or plan of attack, depending on how you look at it, for the morning, has about an 80% chance of making your day just that little bit better and more bearable. This isn’t a scientific statistic, in any way, but I have found that my immediate actions when I wake up have a definite influence on how my day progresses.

Day 3 – Create a new morning routine.

early, morning, mountain range

Here are some ideas that help bundle of nerves me, to cope with mornings, and what helps to ease our good friend anxiety even just a little bit.

Eat breakfast. This sounds like your mum, teacher, and a Wheatbix advertisement all rolled into one, but it’s true. Your body needs fuel to give the day all it needs, and your brain needs fuel to keep recovering. It’s tough work! We cannot expect our bodies to live a good, whole life, when they have nothing to sustain them. Eat some food with lots of nutrients, or eat some food that makes you soul happy. Either way, simply eating something will help, an awful lot.

Get up. Get out. It seems as though every time I want nothing more than to stay in bed, hiding in our room all day, that this is quite possibly the worst thing I could do. Shock horror! Listening to your head telling you to isolate yourself, that everyone hates you, that you don’t deserve anything good, and all that palava, all day long, isn’t going to help you to feel better. It’s rubbish, and it’s just going to make you feel like so. Hop out of bed, and drag yourself out to the mailbox or into the garden, literally anywhere, aside staying in bed. Written from past experience of many miserable days, I promise it will help.

Shower and get dressed. Showering and putting on clothes for the day makes it feel as though the day is official. That it’s here, and that I can’t hide from it! Because I got dressed already! I feel more able to tackle the day when I’m not in pyjamas, and I’m also less likely to hide away from the world too (bonus points).

Do something for you. Having something to look forward to and be excited about, regardless of how small or trivial it seems, is so important for when the going gets tough. Your morning could include planning something fun for later in the week, talking to somebody you care about, having a delicious breakfast (yes, breakfast is definitely something you can get excited about), or even just reading a chapter of a good book. The mindfulness that may accompany this part will also do very nice, very sweet, massaging to those pesky little claws of anxiety.

Mornings can be wonderful opportunities and bright nightmares, all rolled into one. Yet they are also incredibly powerful, because they set the foundation for the rest of the day. What do you do in the morning, which helps you?

Water and living.

Let’s begin with the truth.

The self-care task for today didn’t go quite as planned. 

Day 2 – drink at least 2L of water.

I definitely didn’t manage to drink 2L of water today. Perhaps only about half, at a stretch? However, all those little droplets that didn’t make it into the perfect 2L don’t really matter.

I’m trying to believe that what matters is that I’m trying. That what matters is the work and effort we put in, rather than gaining the idealised, planned end result.


Something that I’m realising far sooner than I expected into these 30 days of self-care, is that it’s as much about banishing the idea of perfection, as it is about self-care. I was hoping to complete all 30 days perfectly, but that is wishful thinking. I guess that learning to accept imperfection as good and right, is a form of self-care in a way.

A few years ago, in the depths of the eating disorder, the monstrous voice in my head (which is also my own voice; it’s tricky to explain) made me severely limited my hydration. I made up rules about much water I was allowed to drink, and at what time, and it was incredibly harmful. The fear of the water “sticking” in my body, and never leaving, was overwhelming and intense. I never want to go back to that place.

During this time, I was alive, but I wasn’t living. I was on the brink, on the edge of living, and I wanted so badly to not be alive. I starved myself of water, energy and nutrients, and these were the darkest, most isolated years of my life.

Having not enough water is disastrous for both the mind and body. Our bodies are composed mainly of water, and each of our cells relies on it to function. Essentially, water is necessary for all that we do, and without it we cannot be who we are. We wouldn’t be, at all.

Today, water helps me to survive in more ways than one. Not only does drinking an adequate amount help me to live and recover, but also water in other forms has proved more healing than I ever could have expected. Swimming, the rain, the little creek running by our house; it all helps to replenish and radiate peace.

A little message to everyone reading this – please take care of yourself today. Drink water, eat, sleep, go outside, talk to someone. All these little things can make a massive difference. You deserve to not merely survive, but to live too.

Ruby Wax, humour & being mentally ill.

Having a good old laugh and discussing mental illness are two things that don’t really sound as if they fit together well. Kind if like chives and tea. Naturally, mental illness is a serious topic, as the repercussions and impact that it has on millions of lives are immense. Part of the discussion, and the work to reduce the stigma of mental illness, involves these illnesses being taken seriously, as they are often dismissed as being “all in your head.”

Yes.

Mental illnesses are located in the brain.

Correct.

The symptoms of many mental illnesses can affect different parts of the body too, but the brain is the central hub, sending all the signals flying.

Now why does that mean they aren’t seen as real, progressive, or harmful, as an illness with it’s spindly roots growing in an arm? Or maybe in an ear? Or perhaps a throat?

This all reminds me of the wise words from the wonderful Albus Dumbledore –

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

(J.K. Rowling).

Day 1 – Watch a TED talk and be inspired.

Today, I watched the TED talk What’s so funny about mental illness? by Ruby Wax. I picked this one from browsing through the mental health section on the TED website, which I definitely recommend having a flick through! It looks like there are heaps of pretty good ones there. I picked it because it was categorised as both humorous and courageous, and what a beautiful combination that sounded like!

bloom, blossom, botanical

And, wow. You know how sometimes it’s like the universe knows what to put in your way, for you to stumble gracefully (or sometimes trip, falling flat on your face), upon?

This banana peel was Ruby Wax’s TED talk.

One of the key messages I took away from it (and there were lots!), was that there are different ways to discuss mental illnesses, and to work to reduce the stigma around it.

As mentioned at the start, often discussions surrounding mental illness as serious, precise and humorless. And rightfully so, in many spheres. There is still ample work to be done to get people to listen that no, it’s not “just a bad day”, and no, being told to simply “just smile”, probably won’t solve it all.

However, Ruby Wax talked about mental illness in a way that was engaging, energetic, vibrant, and overall, was just plain funny. It was also informative, lighthearted and relatable. The fact that she used humor to portray her message meant that it seemed a bit less scary, and a bit more open for input, shared experience, and insight.

Lately, I’ve been trying to expand the tone I use to write about mental health with, however, it has been hard. Usually I write with a serious tone, as I would always be afraid that writing about it all in any other way, would somehow come across as being disrespectful or wrong. However, I am coming to realise (with the help of the lovely Ruby Wax now too), that it is okay to discuss mental health in different ways.

Using humor can make talking about mental health less daunting, and potentially more approachable. Something I’m trying to work on, is using humor (or trying to) more in my own writing, about my own experience with mental illness. However, it is also important to note that the humor needs to be used in a way that will help propel forward the discussion surrounding mental illness, rather than contributing to the stigma of it. This is why I am so hesitant and afraid to be venturing into putting “funny” and “mental illness” in the same sentence.

Overall, the TED talk by Ruby Wax has inspired me. She is both pretty rad and pretty brave, to be sharing her message with the world so openly and with such great vulnerability.  It has inspired me to keep talking, to keep doing, to keep bashing down the stigma with one long, pointy stick at a time. The stick can be traditional, serious and straightforward, or it can be a little curvy stick, with flaking bark and maybe a caterpillar or two. Both sticks are good, for destroying stigma is a darn good thing.

Introduction — 30 Days of Self Care

It’s January! And that makes me so happy and excited! Although changes for the better can be made at any point in our lives, I’m a sucker for new year’s resolutions, and for making positive changes at the beginning of a brand new year.

I began this year with many resolutions to shape all 365 days, and two of these have been to continue working on my mental health, and also investing time and energy into this little blog, to help it grow into a positive space that promotes mental wellbeing.

Therefore, when I stumbled across the 30 Self-Care Challenge by Want For Wellness, a little ping noise rang in my brain, because this will help me to work both on self-care, which is an important part of mental wellbeing, and also to help with blogging consistently.

Self-care is something that we can all work on improving, and especially when mental illnesses are hitting down hard; self-care is of utmost importance. The three components of self-care in this challenge are the mind, the body, and the soul, as each of these is essential for good mental health. All three aspects of ourselves deserve love and care.

Tomorrow I’m beginning the self-care challenge for 30 days, because this is a year of good things. A year of hard work, of change, and of becoming. How do you practice self-care?

The pain of self-harm.

Here’s a thought; pain echoes.

Today’s topic is a sensitive one, and one that I believe is relatively under-discussed. There are different opinions surrouding it, and it can be an almost controversial topic. I’m just here to share my own, personal experience, and I welcome different viewpoints in the comments section. Today’s topic is also something that is very close and cuddly with my heart – self-harm has hurt me, and those close to me.

Lets start with this – the gut-wreching, heart-breaking, pain of self-harm. The physical pain of self-harm is central, obvious, and speaks for itself. However, the emotional pain of self-harm is often withheld it’s rightful voice, and is shadowed into the corner, where all the other elephants in the room as swept. The emotional turmoil of self-harm, both in the moment, and years into recovery, still breaks and burns. And not only for ourselves, the ones committing the act, but also in the hearts of those that care about us.

It’s an understatement to say that self-harm is tied, woefully strong, to our emotions. This could be in the way of how some believe they deserve the pain of self-harm as punishment, the later realisation of actually tearing your treasure of a body down, or the bundled feelings beneath, which self-harm releases. In all it’s ways, shapes and forms, self-harm is a heavy load to carry, and the burden of it can definitely trample the mind. In some instances, self-harm can be tethered and dragged by our emotions of impulsivity, and of wanting to feel something, when actually the mere wanting of self-harm is a feeling of pain in itself. 

Once the vicious cycle or addiction of self-harm is set in place, tearing ourselves away will release the floodgates to further emotional pain. The journey of reckoning and scuttling around “deserving” to be free of self-harm will bend your heartstrings until they snap. Furthermore, living life without self-harm can be incredibly painful at first. If self-harm is a blanket, a cover, a masked warrior to dealing with painful emotions, then ripping it off and having to feel everything that has been surpressed beneath physical pain, is a truly harrowing and difficult experience.


While the pain of self-harm is by every definition, substantial to the individual involved, this pain echoes. The pain we feel is also felt by those who care about us, even if some express it in a way that’s unexpected, or not as we initially understand. Imagine your dog or best friend is upset – you would feel upset that they are upset – and this is perfectly okay. It may not be their fault, that whatever has hurt them is causing them harm, but their pain still echoes regardless.

If you have somebody close to you that experiences self-harm, then you will be forced to understand – the pain they experience is not limited to themselves. It bounds, it leaps, it frenzies and weaves it’s way into the lives of others. Having somebody you care about engage in self-harm, is incredibly upsetting, and immensely awful. All the care and support you hold for them is seemingly not making a dent in the lows they are feeling. 

While self-harm is a battle that nobody wishes to fight, part of being a caring partner or friend is the responsibility of reducing the amount of pain that the other experiences. With self-harm, this is something we have at least a small amount of control over. Engaging in therapy or other professional help is a good place to start. Those that care about us cannot save us from self-harm, but they will continue to support, love, and feel the pain of it all, while we are in the progress of saving ourselves.

If self-harm is part of your life, I am sorry. It’s a truly awful and difficult experience. But you can, and you will, learn how to be free of it. It will become less painful, for both you and those close to you, with time. I promise.