Today I am 2 years cut free. I am going to refrain from going into details on the behavior in this post because I would like to keep it trigger-free so those attempting to stay cut free can read how I did it. Obviously, this won’t work for everyone, but this is how it happened.
My cutting had become completely out of control, and staying in psych wards and having coworkers try to keep me accountable wasn’t working. In early 2016, I moved in with a family who was incredibly supportive and understanding when it came to mental health. It was my hope that living in a supportive environment and with people my own age would help me feel less alone. They hid all the razors and knives, which was very helpful. A week or so after I moved in, I was approved to go live in a mental hospital (Rogers) for a few months. Panicking, I cut one last time with my hidden razor, not knowing when I’d be able to participate in the behavior again.
While at Rogers, I stayed in the most suicide and self-harm proof building I could have ever imagined. So for my first 60 days of my journey to clean arms, I didn’t really have a choice to be clean or not. I realize this isn’t always an option for everyone, but hopefully even staying a week or two in your local psych ward can help kickstart the process. Being forced to stay clean while learning all sorts of effective coping skills was key. My favorite coping skill that I learned involved a frozen orange. While at Rogers, I still had self harm urges. When these urges arose, I went to the unit freezer and grabbed a frozen orange. Using my fingernails, I would carve into the orange’s skin. If I carved deep enough, the juice would squirt out (same concept as the behavior I was trying to stop). Because it was frozen, it provided pain in a safe way. The scent that the juices admitted was also very grounding and helped when I was dissociating. There were always at least two frozen oranges, and they got daily use on the unit. I would also write on my skin with red markers. By the time I was discharged, I was feeling a sliver of hope that I could be cut free.
For the first four months after discharge, I was living in that same supportive home. For the first month or two, razors were hidden and knives were stowed away. There was always an orange in the freezer for me. I had a safe environment where I could get support, day or night. It was hard, I’m not going to lie. At this point is still had a razor hidden away, and I justified it as being “just in case” and didn’t tell anyone about it. If I thought about having to go a whole day without cutting, I would focus on just trying to make it through the next hour. When that hour was over, I challenged myself to make it through another hour. Eventually, the hours turned to days, and the days to weeks. I would reward myself every time I met a goal, no matter if it was a day or a week or whatever. I’d have a bowl of ice cream, or I’d buy a bracelet or something. The longer I went without cutting, the bigger the reward.
When I started having bigger goals, like 100 days or every few months, I’d celebrate with bigger things. I’d get a build-a-bear or even a tattoo! I tried to reward myself with experiences, rather than material objects that could break or get lost. I’d drive out of town and explore places I’ve always wanted to explore, but they were always too far away. Or I would go golfing with a friend or buy a new book to get lost in. At 300 days clean, I finally threw away my hidden razor for good. As time went on, the thought of going a month without cutting seemed feasible. It wasn’t until recently that I could think about never cutting again without getting overwhelmed and discouraged. I still take things one day at a time. It’s been a long, difficult journey, but I did it, and so can you.