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Recovering from Self Harm

Rebecca Hilliard

Guest Blogger

Self harm is no joke and something that needs to be taken very seriously. I struggled with it for years and it took so much work to finally overcome it. Even now, years later, I still get urges to do it when something especially stressful is happening. Studies show that self harm is just as addicting as cocaine, but most people don’t know or understand that.

There are many different reasons why people self harm. For me, it became a way to release my emotions and express what I was feeling. I didn’t have the words or know-how to talk about it and I thought that if people could see the self harm on my arms that they would understand what I was going through. Of course, people don’t understand how you’re feeling just by seeing marks on your arm. But whenever I looked at the self harm marks it felt like, ‘Yes, that’s exactly how I feel!” and it gave me some relief knowing that it could be seen and ‘expressed.’

Something that I realized years later was that a lot of my self harm urges were coming from anger that I felt towards myself. I’m an abuse survivor and it never felt safe to be angry at my abusers so I always directed it inwards and felt that I deserved the self harm. I thought that the abuse was my fault and that I deserved the cuts and punishment. In a backwards way, I thought that if I abused myself no one else would, and so it gave me a sense of control. Like, “Yes, I know I deserve to be abused but you don’t have to do it to me because I’m already doing it to myself.” It took me years to understand that this was what was part of the self harm urges and it helps me now when I sometimes get urges to do it. Anger has never felt like a safe emotion to feel and I always thought I couldn’t express it towards the people I was angry at, but anger has to come out somehow, and for me it was in the form of self harm. Whenever I get the urges now I’m learning to identify that it’s anger and who the anger is actually towards, and that helps me to not take it out on myself.

There are a lot of other ways to get the ‘release’ that self harm used to give me; a lot of other ways to get the emotions out. For me, active movement really helps, whether it’s through taking it out on a punching bag, going on a fast bike ride while I listen to music, or going kayaking out in nature. Talking to my therapist about how I feel helps so much, as well as writing about it. Other coping tools are scribbling on paper, taking a hot or cold shower, screaming into a pillow, or distracting yourself with your favorite movie or TV show. The WhiteFlag app also helps so much because there are people on there who understand what it’s like to have self harm urges and it’s so helpful to talk to them about it and get support and understanding from people who have struggled with the exact same thing.

Recovering from self harm is possible. It’s hard, and sometimes it takes a while, but it’s possible. With a good therapist, the right coping tools, and a good support system, anyone can overcome it. You might feel like you don’t have a support system but there is a ton of support on the WhiteFlag App. And virtual support is just as helpful as support in ‘real life.’ If you’re struggling right now, know that you aren’t alone. There are people who understand what you’re going through. I understand. And I know you can get through this. I believe in you.

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