Many have been down this road. Maybe out of curiosity, out of need, or even out of desperation. There are many ways to harm yourself and all of them leave ugly reminders on your skin of what you felt. The common misconception is that this act is only performed by moody teenagers as a way to draw attention to themselves. This is not true at all.
For those of you who have never self-harmed, I implore you not to try.
The Function of Self-Harm
So why do people harm themselves? The main reason is that at the time, the person is going through emotional distress. It serves as a temporary means to alleviate some of the pain that you are feeling, bottling it up for another day. For some, it allows you to get on with the rest of the day, unburdened by our feelings. Anything to feel a sense of calm. Even if it is short-lived.
When you injure yourself, you release endorphins that allow the pain to be temporarily subdued. It’s a simple reaction. This “high” is addictive. What starts out as a last resort becomes a primary instinct. It becomes a ritual of sorts. Further down the road, you will find that you are not satisfied until you see the sight of your own blood. It’s maddening.
The worst part is that it reminds you of your grief constantly. You see the damage that you have inflicted upon yourself which reminds you that things are not okay.
No one wants to continue to cut themselves or harm themselves in any way. Yet, we allow ourselves to succumb to the vicious cycle.
Stopping the Cycle
There are some methods out there about what to do. Some are practical and others … not so much. I’ll list them all anyways and include my observations when testing them. Please test them for yourself as your experience may differ.
- Draw on your skin in red – The theory is that the red ink will convince your mind that it is blood. By witnessing the ink (and mimicking the act of cutting), the need to self-harm will pass.
My experience – This didn’t work for me. I needed to feel the pain component associated with the act. Plus, I felt silly covered in red ink.
- Holding ice cubes in your hands – Go to the freezer and pick up some ice cubes and squeeze them. It should allow you feel pain without actually harming yourself.
My experience – This too did not work for me. The primary reason was that a freezer was not easily accessible during the times when I did self-harm.
- Breathing Exercises – Take a few deep breaths and try to calm yourself. Try to centre yourself back into the present moment. This is supposed to allow the urge to self-harm to pass.
My experience – this was partially successful. I was still left with feelings of anger and grief that lingered. It was also dependent on the severity of the urge.
- Remove the Usual Tools Used – If there is a typical instrument that you normally use to self-harm, get rid of it. Ensure that it is nowhere near you. The inconvenience should prevent you from causing injury.
My experience – It was partially successful. I was good at replacing tools, though.
- Write it Out – Grab a piece of paper and describe how you are feeling. Go into as much detail as you can. Once this is done, throw the page out.
My experience – It was successful (the times that I could do this). It allowed me to release the emotion and physically (and emotionally) attempt to discard it.
- Listen to Music or Distract Yourself – Pretty straightforward. Listen to something that you know calms you down. You could also take a moment and browse a website, or preoccupy your mind. If the distraction is successful, you should have forgotten about the urge.
My experience – This was not too successful, but it depended on the severity of the urge. Sometimes, I found myself too distraught to focus on a new distraction (if that makes sense at all)
- Go for a Walk or Exercise – Being physically active is another way to release the pent up frustration and sadness that you feel. Exercising also another way to release those endorphins that you may experience while cutting.
My experience – the times that I could do this, it was very successful. I recommend going for a walk in a scenic area (if there is one near you). Being around nature tends to be calming for me anyhow.
- Punch a Pillow or Scream into a Pillow – This is another method to release the anger and frustration that you may have bottled up.
My experience – this didn’t work. It made me feel childish.
These are just some of the methods that I have come across. If there are others, please feel free to let me know! If you have tried any of the above methods and have had different experiences, you can go ahead leave a comment.
Or, if you prefer to remain anonymous, just send me an email. I will update the post with the information you provide.
Please remember that this moment will not last forever. The effort you put in now will be well-rewarded in the future. It takes some time, but you will feel better.