Today, I want to talk about self harm and mental illness, which has been one of my childhood pet peeves, even before I knew that it was self harm, but continued even up to when I was diagnosed with a mental illness.
When I was a child, I would suck my tongue and pull out my hair, which to me felt good, and I didn’t see it as nothing wrong, not even my mother, because back then children did all kinds of things, and the older folks just looked at it as it being “Children will be children.” It was a norm for me to and nothing wrong. As I grew up, I gave up sucking my tongue, but I still would pull out my hair, even when I was depressed or stressed out.
In my teenage years to my early twenties, I still would occasionally pick out my hair, until I got so fed up and it looking uneven that I went to the barber and cut it off, now I go natural with a small afro, that way its safer for me, if and whenever I get the strong urge to pull out my hair, it would not look that bad. I had also often thought about cutting myself, especially when I am feeling mentally drained or depressed, I would look at the razor blade and then at my skin, often times I would also hear those negative voices in my head, beseeching me to go ahead and cut myself, like a band, chanting for me to do it and cheering at the same time; then there would be this other voice so soft, smooth and almost silent, whispering not to do it, they it’s not over for me, I still have a great much things to do with my day and my life. Then, there’s the constant question, “Which keep popping up, what do I do?” I would have to look long and hard and even twice in the mirror to see the same person looking back at me.
Now, that I am in my late thirties, whenever I think about harming myself, the only thing which I still do is pull out my hair, especially when my afro grows, I have more ammo to pull out my hair, but when I cut it down low, I can’t. I even tremble, at any other ways to harm myself, the mere thought of it makes me quench, even looking at a knife, razor blade or scissors to cut or even the thought about burning myself or coming up with other methods and way to harm myself, I can’t do it, even when I feel totally depressed, I can’t get myself to literally harm myself, it’s like those voices have all just gotten quite or disappeared; the only voices in my head are the ones which are telling me to go on, to press forward in life, and so I do. I do believe that I was put here for a purpose, that all my struggles in life are just that, struggles and phases, which one goes through.
To go further into what self harm is all about and is there a connection between the two: Self Harm and Mental Illness.
Self harm is when someone purposely injures their body by either cutting themselves with a knife, razor blade or scissors; even burning oneself with a hot iron, hot pot or even over a fire; substance abuse; pull out their hair; pick at wounds to prevent healing; and now self embedding sharp objects such as paper clips, staples and glass, which has become a new trend.
Self harm also causes a feeling of shame at times, for which the scars caused by frequent cutting and burning can be permanent. I had one friend in high school, who did that, often wore long sleeve shirt and when their a school outing, she’s always absent. She did get help, but life was never a fair game for her. In the end her scars and wounds never did heal, she was one of my dearest friends, who lost the battle to cancer in her adulthood.
The constant misuse and abuse of alcohol and doing drugs while hurting oneself increases the risk of a more severe injury than intended; and it even takes away time and energy from other valuable things a person might want to be doing, because one might have to skip classes to change a bandage, or avoiding social gatherings and events all together for fear of people seeing their scars and this can also have a negative effect on one’s school life, work and relationship.
Self harm is not a mental illness most would say, but more a behaviour from lack of coping skills, especially when dealing and coping with one’s parent divorce, relationship issues, work crisis and with challenges of life in general. There are indeed several mental illnesses that is associated with self harm, such as borderline personally disorder, depression, eating disorder, anxiety or posttramatic distress disorder; for which most of us suffer greatly from, like me.
Is there is a cure or treatment for person who inflect harm on themselves, the answer is YES. There are very effective treatment for self-harm which allows one to take back control of themselves, such as psychotherapy, psychiatric hospitalization or lifestyle and home remedies.
Known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy can help you:
– Identify and manage underlying issues that trigger self-injuring behavior
– Learn skills to better manage distress
– Learn how to regulate your emotions
– Learn how to boost your self-image
– Develop skills to improve your relationships and social skills
– Develop healthy problem-solving skills
There are also several types of individual psychotherapy may be helpful, such as:
– Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – Which helps you identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones
– Dialectical behavior therapy – A type of CBT that teaches behavioral skills to help you tolerate distress, manage or regulate your emotions, and improve your relationships with others
– Psychodynamic psychotherapy – Which focuses on identifying past experiences, hidden memories or interpersonal issues at the root of your emotional difficulties through self-examination, guided by a therapist
– Mindfulness-based therapies – Which help you live in the present, appropriately perceive the thoughts and actions of those around you to reduce your anxiety and depression, and improve your general well-being
In addition to individual therapy sessions, there’s also family therapy or group therapy which comes highly recommended.
If you injure yourself severely or repeatedly, your doctor may recommend that you be admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care. Hospitalization, often short term, can provide a safe environment and more intensive treatment until you get through a crisis. Day treatment programs also may be an option. Please don’t ever find yourself, reaching this point.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
I have found myself a winning way besides seeking professional treatment, which works best for me, but might not for you, but you can still try at your own risk and benefit.
Here are some important self-care tips:
– Stick to your treatment plan and keep therapy appointments. I am guilty of not sticking too, or pursuing, but it is great.
– Recognizing the situations or feelings that might trigger your desire to self-injure. Make a plan for other ways to soothe or distract yourself or to get support, so you’re ready the next time you feel the urge to self-injure. Mines are writing, blogging, watching hallmark movies and going to the beach.
– Ask for help. Keep your doctor or mental health care provider’s phone number handy, and tell him or her about all incidents related to self-injury. You can even appoint a trusted family member or friend as the person you’ll immediately contact if you have an urge to self-injure or if self-injuring behavior recurs. I am guilty of not asking for any help whatsoever and doing my own thing.
– Take care of yourself. Learn how to include physical activity and relaxation exercises into your daily routine, on a regular bases. I have attempted to do.
– Eat healthy. Ask your doctor for advice if you have sleep problems, which can significantly affect your behavior.
– Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. They affect your ability to make good decisions and can put you at risk of self-injury.
– Take appropriate care of your wounds if you injure yourself or seek medical treatment if needed. Call a relative or friend for help and support. Don’t share instruments used for self-injury — that raises the risk of infectious disease.
No, there is no medication to treat self harm/self-injuring behavior, except if one is diagnosed with depression or an anxiety disorder, the medical doctor can recommend antidepressants or other medication to treat the disorder, and may help a little to compel the person to stop harm themselves, but it’s all up to the individual.
Look out for more information on self harm or even the new self-embedding craze at later dates.