There's a better way
What you need
to know about
Self-harm is doing something to hurt to yourself, like cutting your skin, scratching it deeply, burning yourself or banging your head.
It can also be putting yourself in dangerous situations, like using drugs to numb yourself or unsafe sex. Self-harm is more common than you think, and young women like us are some of the most likely to do it. So it pays to learn more about it and ways we can care for ourselves and each other.
Why do people hurt themselves?
Self-harm can be confusing to people who don’t do it, but it’s a way some people deal with intense emotional pain and stress. There are many reasons why people might hurt themselves. Some people want to distract themselves from emotional distress, some want to feel ANYTHING instead of numbness. Other people cut to express rage or to punish themselves and deal with guilt, but all people who do it are just trying to get through their day.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that self-harm, or cutting, isn’t solving the problem. It doesn’t help in the long-term. Someone who’s self-harming has to keep doing it whenever they feel overwhelmed or needs the release. This results in a build-up of scars and bruises, but also in a build-up of secrets. People who cut often want to hide this from everyone around them. Secrets get in the way of relationships and can add to loneliness, shame and guilt. This is a heavy thing to carry around by yourself.
Maybe you feel ashamed, or maybe you think no one will understand. Maybe it feels out of your control and you don’t feel like admitting it and making it more real. Whatever the reason, we know that people who hurt themselves to cope AREN’T DOING IT FOR ATTENTION. This is a myth that helps no one and takes away from the real distress this person might be feeling.
What can we do?
If you are someone who hurts yourself to cope and want to get help to stop, the first thing to do is to find someone you can share this with. This could be someone you know well, like a friend or family member you TRUST, or someone you don’t know so well but know you can trust, like the school counsellor, a teacher, a coach. Sharing will probably feel a little scary, but will offer you RELIEF from holding it all by yourself.
Just know when you share with someone close to you that sometimes people react out of fear and concern because they don’t understand. Looking at a page like this together, or this awesome link can help get through that first reaction.
You don’t have to share with them anything you are not ready to talk about and they shouldn’t make you show them your injuries. They should be there to just listen and support, this will help you not feel like you have to HIDE IT AWAY and PRETEND IT DOESN’T HAPPEN. Tell them how they can best help you, maybe it’s just by listening or maybe it’s helping you with the next steps.
Try to focus on the feelings that make you want to cut in the first place, is it when you are mad? Sad? Numb? Being aware of WHAT you are feeling will be the first step in finding new ways to DEAL with this feeling when it comes up again.
This might sound scary and hard because often we try and escape our feelings, BUT if we acknowledge them and can even sit with them then they can pass over us like a wave.
Try to notice what triggers you into this feeling and wanting to harm. Understanding your triggers will help with feeling like it’s not out of your control. It will help you prepare other ways to cope so that you feel like you have options when you are overwhelmed.
Once you have identified the FEELING you can find other ways to cope with this feeling.
- If you cut or harm because you are MAD, then try exercising really hard or punching a pillow or tearing up newspaper. Scream sing to your favourite angry song.
- If you harm because you feel NUMB, try reaching out instead. Call a friend, cuddle with you cat, go online to a site that makes you feel good (like em!), or try to spend time with someone you love to be around. You don’t have to talk about what it going on for you, just connecting can help fight the numb.
- If you harm because you feel INTENSE PAIN then try scribbling it out in a drawing, write poetry, write in a journal, listen to music that helps communicate this feeling. This pain is looking for a way to be heard.
- If you harm to SOOTHE YOURSELF and feel CALM, try a hot shower, listening to calming music, breathing to this gif, giving yourself a neck massage or foot massage with your favourite lotion if you have got it. Tense and release your body and try and tune how it feels to relax after all the muscles have been squuuueeeezed.
There are also ways to get the physical sensation of cutting without doing yourself damage.
- Hold icecubes as long as you can.
- Chew on a chilli pepper.
- Snap a rubber band around your wrist.
Not everything works for everyone, it’s just important to keep trying.
People cut to FEEL BETTER.
Let’s try new creative ways to feel better that we don’t have to HIDE. Let’s learn what the feeling is and WHY we are feeling it so intensely. It might be that talking to a counsellor is what you need to get to the bottom of these feelings, you can find more info here.
Talking to a counsellor can feel scary but with the right counsellor, counselling helps. this isn’t something Em believes, this is something EM KNOWS .