NB.: There are no images of self harm in this post.
It was about a year ago when a friend, who had previously engaged in regular self harm, told me she had a revelation that would bring an end to her self harm behaviours. I was really pleased for her because I knew it had been a hard battle for her to overcome. It always is. If you think it’s as easy as throwing away your blades, you’re very mistaken. It is so difficult to break that pattern of abusing your body, hating yourself that much and for many, to also break the addiction that it becomes.
I was really happy that she had found a reason to stop. I knew well enough that anyone else’s reasons were not enough, but that if she had found a reason for herself, then she had a good chance of breaking the hold self harm had over her.
At the time, I was on my own path to recovery from years of self harming in a number of ways. I admit that I didn’t have any such profound revelation, and even though I could tell her’s was going to work I knew that at that point, her reason wouldn’t be enough for me. And that made me a little sad.
I was simply taking it one day at a time. A significant motivation for me to choose healthier coping mechanisms than self harm came from wanting to set an example. At the time I was running an on-line peer support group for people recovering from self harm, and I wanted to demonstrate that recovery was possible (even when I was only a few steps ahead of most in the group).
It’s now well over a year since I last self harmed. I haven’t been one of those people who counted the days and weeks self-harm free. I simply kept going, and hoped I could keep going in my resolve to be free of self harm.
It hasn’t been easy. While I have got past the point where it was an almost automatic response to a bad situation, there have definitely been times when I’ve wanted to reach for that blade, or starve myself… or any number of ways I used to use to cope. I admit that I can still see the attraction and seductiveness of self harm, but I also know that I have beaten the urges sufficiently to believe I can keep choosing healthier options.
I have just finished reading Keira Van Gelder’s book ‘The Buddha and the Borderline’, about her recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). In the last part of the book, she discusses her adoption of a Buddhist lifestyle. Something she highlighted was that if she wouldn’t harm another person, then why would she harm herself.
It made me think. Would I take a razor blade to another person? No. Would I take a razor blade to an animal? No. Would I deliberately starve another being? Absolutely not. The questions go on, and the answer is always no. I would never seek to harm another being. Perhaps if I look at myself as being just like another being then I can choose not to harm myself.
A year ago, while I was happy for my friend (when she used this same reasoning), I wasn’t at a point where I could use this means of thinking as a way to stop my self harm. But now, I think I can. Now I intend to use this as my reasoning for choosing not to harm myself any more.
I’m human, and I’m not infallible. I know well that there may still be times when I want to self harm and so I need a strategy to enable me to say ‘no‘. This seems like a good one for me. Compassion is something important to me, but I have failed to extend that compassion to myself. It’s time to include myself in that choice to not harm others. It’s time to value myself, value my body and to keep saying ‘no’. To make a conscious decision to treat myself with respect and compassion.
“You’d be surprised how easy some things can be, things you never thought you’d do, when you take self-respect out of the equation.”
― Sarah Addison Allen