My Struggle with Self-Harm

TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about SELF-HARM which may be triggering to those who struggle with cutting and other forms of self-harm.

Before I was in recovery, self-harm was a large problem for me. I was giving myself at least a dozen cuts every few days. I always had a razor with me. I had to keep going to different stores at different times to make sure no one saw me frequently buying razors. I wore long sleeves all the time. I hated people touching me because my arms hurt so bad, and I was afraid someone was going to notice.

For me, cutting wasn’t a form of self-punishment. It was a way to manage my anxiety. The endorphins that the cuts released helped me stop shaking. Plus it’s hard to worry about anything else when there’s blood coming out of you. It made me feel like I was actually competent at taking care of myself when I dressed my wounds. I felt like my scabs and scars were tangible evidence that I really was sick, even if people rarely actually saw my arms. I could just pull up my sleeve and go “see?!” when someone told me it was all in my head, or that I was faking. Not that I ever did.
The last time I self-harmed was about a week before I went to Rogers Memorial Hospital for a two month stay in their FOCUS program, which dealt with mood disorders and depression. At the time, I had no idea it’d be my last cut. I still often wonder if I would have treated the “occasion” differently if I had known it would be my last. Maybe I would have tried to remember it better, or maybe make more of an effort to stop.

It’s been just over 300 days since then, and I still miss it. If I see a picture of fresh cuts on the internet, or if my bunny scratches me so deep I bleed, every fiber of my being wants to return to cutting. Sometimes I catch myself picking at scabs, trying to make them bigger. When I’m laying in bed, and can’t stop shaking, even after I’ve taken my medication and participated in healthy coping techniques, I still wish I could cut to make the shaking go away.

I love tattoos. Right now I have seven and have four more on my wishlist. Unfortunately, being mentally disabled and unable to work leaves me with little money for things as expensive as tattoos. A cheap alternative that is trending right now is the Stick ‘n’ poke tattoos. It’s done by buying your own appropriate ink and using a needle to insert the ink into your skin, one dot (or poke) at a time. Normally, I’d be all for giving myself one using this method, but because of my history of self-harm, I know that the idea of poking myself with a needle repeatedly for hours isn’t safe for me mentally. This is just one example of the ways that my life in recovery is still affected by my addiction to self-harm.

Even though I don’t cut anymore, there are still ways my mind and body attempt to get the same results though other forms of self-harm. Whenever I feel like my brain is being stupid, whether it’s a feeling or something I said, I sometimes catch myself hitting myself hard in the head with the heel of my hand. Sometimes I don’t even catch it, and if there’s a person with me, they’ll place their hand in between my hand and my head. Sometimes I don’t try to stop my bunny from scratching me right away. While I have the cutting under control, there are still ways that my mind allows me to harm myself to get similar results. I’m still taking everything one day at a time. Recovery takes work, and with an addiction, it can often be years or even a lifetime of a battle.

Taken the day before I left for Rogers Memorial Hospital, ©Erin Bormett


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