We’ve reached the final installment of our self-harm series : How to stop self-harming. I’ve found some good guidelines and some distraction techniques that I thought I’d share.
Step1: Admit you have a problem. It’s the same step in every form of battling addiction, and you are addicted, admitting it just helps you realize you need something to help you. If your one of those people who think, “I don’t need anyone’s help. I can take care of myself.” You’re wrong. Everyone needs someone’s help at one point in their lives, and if you’re battling this devastating addiction, your time is now. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing it for 2 weeks, or 2 years. You have to stop before it comes to the point that you really hurt yourself. After will be too late.
Step 2: Think positively. You don’t have to run through the streets saying, “My life is AMAZING!!!” but you do have to change your thinking. It won’t happen overnight, don’t expect it to. It’ll happen slowly, but it will happen if you let it. Start by doing small things, like, whenever you feel negative, think of every single positive part of it. You might have to really think, but in every bad situation there are good things to come out of it. Chances are if you have a problem with self-harming, you have a self-esteem problem. The main thing to do to fix that is really simple. Like thinking positively, it takes a while to happen, but if you do something simple like stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself “I’m beautiful.” Every day, it’ll help. Every time you think of something bad about yourself, counteract it with a good thing, even if you have to come up with something that feels silly like “I have cool shoes.”
Ok, here’s my problem. Being positive is very important. Fixing a self-esteem problem is in NO WAY simple but it can be done as long as you take control of your attitude. I only mention this because I don’t want you to think that if you can’t change the way you think about yourself right away than you must be doing something wrong. Especially for those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder how we think is wired a little differently and these things can take a little more effort.
Step 3: Find coping skills. Some examples of healthy coping skills are, listening to music, writing, reading, drawing, taking a shower/bath, hugging a stuffed animal or blanket, playing a game, talking to people, and running your hand through something calming, like sand or rice. Self-harm is a type of coping skill, but it’s unhealthy. Find things to occupy your mind, so that you don’t think about it. When you DO think about it, find things to get your mind off of it. Writing is a really good coping skill, because it helps release your feelings or wanting to self-harm, and the longer and more emotional your writing is, the more stress you’ll get out, which lessons your desire to self-harm. If you put your coping skill into effect and still want to self-harm, the best possible thing you can do is ask for support.
Step 4: Tell someone. You don’t have to go on Facebook and say, “Hey, I hurt myself.” But you should tell someone you trust, preferable an adult, like your parents or teacher (or any other adult), but even telling a friend is a huge step up. When you feel the urge to self-harm, the best thing you can do is tell someone you feel that way. Telling someone about your problem can be an extremely hard thing to do, especially if you’ve gone months or years without anyone knowing about it, but it’s the BEST thing you can do if you want to stop.
Keep in mind the things I wrote previously about Coming Out aboutSelf-Harm.
Step 5: Believe in yourself. If you don't have faith in yourself that you can do it, then it'll be a lot harder to stop. Don't kid yourself and think that it will happen overnight, but don't be negative Nancy and think that you'll never be able to stop. Addiction is a monster, a big scary monster that a lot of people face, but every monster has its weakness. If you think positively and have faith in yourself, little things like that will slowly rip the monster to shreds, until it's just a memory that left a few scars. Once you stop self-harming, you'll feel and think much better. Believe that others care about you, and care about yourself. You can stop- just have faith in yourself.
Here’s a list of things you can do to distract yourself, other things you can do to cope. Some of them are kind of silly, but hey, if it works for you, then it’s really not all that silly at all. When you feel in danger of self-harming try at least a few of these things to get through those times before allowing yourself to take more drastic measures.
1. Call a friend or two and talk to them about anything – the weather, politics, the news, old times, new recipes, etc. Distract yourself, and enjoy the company.
You don’t even have to tell them that you’re trying not to self-harm, just talk to someone to get your mind on other things.
2. Watch a movie or two, or three, or however many it takes till you get past the urge to SI. Promise yourself that you will watch movies until you feel safe again.
3. Write about your feelings in your journal. Write a poem out about your feelings.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this.
4. Scrub the house from top to bottom. Distracting yourself with tedious tasks, paying close attention to details can give you a different focus for the energy you are feeling.
This is one of my anger management distractions as well. When I get really pissed, I clean like crazy.
5. Get out the hottest jar of salsa and add jalapeno pepper or red chili peppers, and dig in. It might burn your mouth or make your eyes water and your nose run to eat this, but it won’t scar or cause actual harm.
6. Draw or paint on paper what you want to do to yourself. Draw or paint a second picture showing why you want to do this. Draw or paint a third picture showing how you wish you were feeling.
Art therapy is one of the most helpful things in the world for me. It’s always better to use your energy to create instead of destroy.
7. Play with, pet, hold, or hug your pet. Find comfort and soothe yourself with the company of your dog and cat instead turning to pain or injury.
8. Take a walk or exercise. The physical release of energy is helpful.
Physical exercise is also a good prevention method. Exercise helps clear your head, reduce stress, and work out all that pent up frustration, stress, and anger.
9. Plant a small garden. Creating something nice, making something pretty to look at, and tending to something alive can put you into a different frame of mind.
10. Take a bath or shower. Let the water soothe you and help release your stress. Talking out loud or crying in the shower helps get the pain out that is locked inside you. Let the stress rinse off and send it “down the drain” away from you.
11. Draw on yourself with a red marker instead of cutting.
12. Put a rubber band on your wrist and snap it when you think of hurting yourself.
13. Hit a pillow over and over and over till you tire yourself out or the thoughts go away. Speak or cry while you are doing this, if you can.
I have a punching bag, same principle.
14. Listen to soothing music (or scream to angry music).
15. Read your favorite book, or read a new book from your favorite author.
16. Watch something really funny on TV – use comedy and laughter as a release.
17. Play games online. Computer games can be monotonous, trancey-hypnotic, time-consuming, and calming.
18. Work on web pages or any other big task that requires your attention.
19. Sleep, just have to complete shut down. Let the time pass, and hopefully when you wake up, the intensity of the emotion will have subsided.
Yep, this is something I’ve done a lot. I always try to remind myself that in the morning my feelings won’t be so dire. If I can just make it until morning I’ll be able to think more clearly. The quickest way to get there, is by being asleep.
20. For those with DID / MPD, go to the safe place you have created inside. Visualize nice things, comforting things, favorite things. Allow yourself to be surrounded by good things in life, even if it exists only in your internal world at that moment.
21. Snuggle under your favorite blanket in a safe, private, secure place, and allow the feelings to surface. Cry, shake, feel, breathe. Let yourself experience and feel your feelings.
22. Think of all the people who have ever had good, kind thoughts of you. Imagine each of them standing with you, holding hands and being with you. Allow them to offer comfort and support to you, even via your own thoughts. Write letters of appreciation to them.
23. Play the guitar or piano and play out your feelings through the music. Write a song about your feelings. Sing out loud with your favorite CD’s. If you find a song that fits just right, play it over and over and over.
24. Close your eyes and visualize yourself on vacation, far away from your stress. If you love the beach, for example, picture yourself walking at your favorite time of the day, barefoot along the shore, feeling the cool breeze across your face, listening to the waves coming and going, watching the sea gulls fly, picking up sea shells. Imagine yourself walking in the warm clear water, swimming with the dolphins, being totally safe.
25. Eat a healthy snack (not too sugary), have a cup of herbal tea, or a glass of milk. Avoid caffeine. Nibble on saltine crackers. Challenge yourself to take 50 nibbles or more on each cracker.
Stopping self-harm isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t quit the first time you try. I’ve tried to quit many times and subsequently had many relapses. This is my longest period of time without self-harming. I can’t promise that I’ll never do it again, but I can promise that I’ll try other things first in order to cope and if I do happen to slip I won’t beat myself up for it. The world will go on and there’s always another chance to try again. I’ve had a lot of people e-mail or catch me on Facebook when they’ve needed support or an encouraging word. It’s important to get help if you can. But if you can’t that doesn’t mean you can’t still help yourself. I’ve been in therapy, but the decision and the will to stop cutting has been my choice. The choice starts with you.