Category Archives: Self-Abuse

Hope – even in the darkness.

im-sorryI haven’t written a post on here for some time now.  It was a realization which came to me sometime during the wee small hours of the night last night/this morning.

The truth is that it appears that I had, without realizing it, been going through an episode where my mental health was not as good as I thought it was.

I don’t know about you, but that happens to me sometimes.  In my head, and as far as I am aware, I think that I am managing much better than I really am.

And then something happens and I realize that this has just not been the case.

Now depending on what has happened during that period, or more specifically, how much damage has been done during that period.  I either do my best to fix any damage and move on or – where the damage has been great – it sends me into another deeper episode of poor mental health.

And that is what happened this last time.

But thankfully I think I am at least coming out of that episode now and whilst I know my mind still isn’t ‘right’ so to speak.  And whilst writing posts like this is taking me way longer than it would normally take (and requiring far more corrections that normal), I am at least able to post again.

So I wanted to apologize for not having posted here for such a long time.

And I also wanted to share some good news and some hope for those who like me struggle with self-harming.

Even though I had obviously been going through a period of bad mental health and even though – on realizing this and that some damage had been done as a result of this – I am so grateful that in all this I haven’t, as far as I can tell, self-harmed.

That is not to say that the need or the urges haven’t been there.  In fact it was during and fighting the most recent compulsion to self-harm which made me realize that despite knowing that I had had them, I hadn’t responded to them how I normally would.

I am so encouraged by this!  And I wanted to share it with you as a way of sharing that there is hope.

Thankfully, I have had a lot of support lately – even and especially whist going through this latest bad episodes and I am sure that this has helped.

I think that this whole realization and indeed the thought processes surrounding my self-harming came as a result of my watching a movie yesterday and a song which was featured in that movie.  It is not a song (or artist) which I was aware off, until now, and it really spoke to me when I heard it.

So I thought I would look for it on YouTube and share it with you.  The song is “Breathe Me” and the artist is called ‘Sia’.  I hope it speaks to you as it spoke to me.

🙂

 

 

 

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“Scars Are Meant To Heal”

To-Save-a-Life-christian-movies-paddedScars are meant to heal“.  I chose the phrase as the title of this article as it is a quote which stood out for me from the film ‘To Save A Life.’

I have been slowly building my library of Christian and faith-based movies of late and one of my kids (Devon) told me about the ‘To Save A Life’ movie.  “Dad, you simply have to get it.  It is one of my favorite Christian movies.”  He told me.

But he also added the warning, “But be real careful when you watch it Dad, because it deals with, and even has a scene with, some self-harming.”

Of course, he knows that I have had a history of self-harming in the past and that I – like many others – still struggle with it when my mind gets bad.

And the truth is that one of the aspects of self-harming (and one which is extremely dangerous and unhealthy) is that it is often done in secret and all too often kept hidden.  Fears of being considered a freak, or judged or ridiculed, or rejected, accompany this and all too often compel us away from the very help that we need.

So, as a Christian Dad, I decided that I would not allow myself to hide this – or my mental health issues – any more.  Either from my children (who were old enough to understand what was going on) or from anyone else who should know.

And I have to tell you that it (deciding to no longer hide it and to actually get help with it) was probably one of the best decisions I have made.

Do I still struggle with self-harming?  Yes, the truth is that I do.  [And I say that in full knowledge that articles from this blog automatically go on my Facebook page and that others who know me (including folk from church) might read this.]  But I truly believe that there is indeed hope and that sharing information about this particular movie – and it’s content and message – is so very important.

Actually. the film deals with far more than self-harming.  It deals with teenage suicide as well.  And it looks at feelings of; isolation, loneliness, hopelessness, alienation and desperation, as well as other topics and it also challenges the church’s approach to these issues.

In truth I am no teenager, and in truth it has been many years since I was one.  But those feelings – feelings of; isolation, loneliness, hopelessness, alienation and desperation are far from being exclusive to teenagers and in truth suicidal thoughts and suicidal ideation are no respecter of age or color or status or creed.

I watched the ‘To Save A Life’ movie this morning and I would (the warning below having been given) recommend it to any one – especially parents, youth workers and church leaders as a movie well worth watching. And I am very grateful to Devon for recommending it to me.

TW SIGN

– TRIGGER WARNING –

BUT if you struggle with suicidal thoughts or self-harming I would not recommend that you watched it alone.  The movie is both very real and very hard-hitting!

Please, if you struggle with either of these, only watch this film with others who you trust.

Scars are meant to heal.”  I absolutely believe this.  And I absolutely believe that that healing is available if only we know where to look for it and if only we can reach out and grasp it!

I know that mine, by the grace of God and the love of those who truly care for me, are healing.  And it is my hope and my prayer that you too – if you are struggling with these issues can reach out to someone and find that help and that healing.

There truly is hope and you truly do matter!

God bless you.

Kevin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Does the end justify the means?

It is an interesting question isn’t it?  One which has been around since ages past and one which will no doubt be around for ages to come.

It is also a question which I think those of us who self-harm should consider at some time or another in respect of our self-harming behaviour.

Self-harming is something which is entering more and more into our public awareness and in the main doing so in a positive way.  This is without doubt a good thing.  Too long has it gone unrecognized and misunderstood and in truth far too long has it and those who suffer from it been treated with stigma and condemnation.

But we need to be careful don’t we?

There is in life and human nature – especially corporate or collective human nature – , or so it seems to me, something I like to call the pendulum effect.

The pendulum effect is basically an over-compensation in response to a given situation and it is, I would suggest visible, in so much of our history.  Many of our laws have evolved through a process of over-compensation before settling to a more rational and appropriate state.

Recently I and at least one other follower (that I know of) of this blog have been following a piece on self-harming where it would appear that the suggestion is that we view self-harming as an ‘authentic’, ‘spiritual awakening’ or a ‘life journey’ or a ‘rite of passage’ .  This has all the potential markings of such a pendulum effect

I cannot begin to describe how deeply concerned and disturbed I am over this approach and since that approach is now ‘out there’ in the ‘blogosphere’ I think it is important that an opposing and alternative view be ‘out there’ also.

So let’s look at each of those in turn…

‘Spiritual awakening’.

Let me nail my colours to the mast here.  I am a Christian and as such I fully believe that there is a spiritual aspect to all things.  Likewise I freely and fully accept that in some cases the cause behind a person feeling the need to resort to self-harm may at it’s core be spiritually based.  However, is this an ‘awakening’?  Well not in my understanding it isn’t!

Could it be a call or even a cause to spiritual awakening?  Absolutely, but the truth is that I cannot view it as a spiritual awakening unless the spiritual aspect of it is actually explored.

‘Life-journey’

The word ‘journey’ suggests a process. Its very meaning is a ‘defined course’.  But I think we need to be very careful here.  If I were to write an auto-biography of my life (to map my journey thus far) it is certainly true that my struggle with self-harming would feature as a part of that journey.  BUT is a part of that journey that I should have taken and is it part of that journey that I HAD to take.

The answer to both of those questions is of course NO and actually the fact remains that in terms of my journey (and I would suggest the journey of most people who have struggled with self-harm) it is a part which did more harm than good – but then the clue is pretty much in the term isn’t it?

Which leads me neatly to the next part…

‘Rite of passage’

The term rite of passage was I think originally used by Arnold Van Gennep – a French anthropologist and nowadays is used more commonly to signify ‘A ritual or ceremony signifying an event in a person’s life indicative of a transition from one stage to another, as from adolescence to adulthood’.

Ok so again I can see the tenuous link here BUT again I have major problems with this.  As we have already demonstrated yes this can feature as part of an episode or episodes in someone’s life but it is important that we see the ‘rite’ or ‘ritual’ part in the context of it being a series of actions or a type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone and not as something ‘glorious’ or ‘noble’ or even ‘acceptable’

Which I think brings me to the last part and possibly the key part of all this – that suggested ‘authenticity

‘Authenticity’

It is here that I want to be as clear as I can possibly be in all of this.  I truly struggle with this label – what is meant or implied by it?

Accurate?  Reliable? Right?  Factual?  Proper? Appropriate? Responsible?

Are we really suggesting that these apply to the act of self-harming?

Please do not get me wrong here. I am not disputing the authenticity of the feelings,  emotions, or thoughts which can result in a response of  self-harming I am simply disputing the ‘authenticity’ of the response itself.

I started this piece with the title and question, “Does the end justify the means?” and it is, in the opinion of this writer, a very pertinent and extremely important question for those of us who struggle with self-harm.

Whilst it is a very simplistic answer I would have to say that the end justifies the means ONLY where no better alternative means or end are available.

And there within lies the truth doesn’t it?  The fact is when it come to self-harming in the majority of cases a better alternative is available to us.

I struggle with self-harm.  I make no secret of that fact.

Thankfully, I have over time been able to find alternative coping mechanisms, redressed and righted the altered or wrong perceptions that have caused these responses in me or addressed and righted the situations and circumstances in my life which were also causing them.

I understand why I self-harmed and still sometimes still get the urge to self-harm BUT I do not justify, validate or authenticate that behaviour because to do so is both wrong and harmful in itself.

The truth is there are better alternative means and less harmful ways of dealing with things and the truth is that self-harming can have serious and long lasting effects which all too often lead to greater distress, discomfort or problems in life.

If that pendulum I spoke of earlier, in respect of self-harming swings from that place of condemnation, stigma, and ridicule to a place of understanding and appropriate response then I for one am all for it and afterall isn’t that the main purpose of this blog?

BUT the minute it swings too far the other way to a place where the self-harming behavior itself becomes acceptable then I think we are in a very dubious and dangerous area indeed.  Because then we are neither endorsing nor encouraging nor enabling the healing but instead we are endorsing, encouraging and enabling a wrong and harmful response.

If you personally struggle with self-harming or know of someone who struggles with it please know that there is help out there and please feel free to get in touch via the comment section below.

 

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Supporting Sufferers of Self-Harm and their Carers

It seems very appropriate, seeing as May in Mental Health Month in the USA that it should be now that I launch this graphic.

Self-Harm, Deliberate Self Harm, Intentional Self-Harm,  including such things as Self-Abuse, Self-Neglect, Self-Injury, – which ever label or terminology you prefer or are used to – is often done in secret and all too often goes undetected or undisclosed.

Because of this establishing accurate statistics is virtually impossible.  But that does not make it any less of a serious issue and in fact makes it even more serious in some ways.

So in view of this and mindful of it being Mental Health Month in the USA this blog and  other supporting blogs I am involved in are going to display the following graphic in an attempt of raising awareness and in the hope of removing some of the stigma and shame often associated with Self-Harm, Deliberate Self Harm, Intentional Self-Harm,  including such things as Self-Abuse, Self-Neglect, Self-Injury.

If you are a blogger who is concerned about the issue of self-harm I invite you to do the same…

Oh and one last thing I should perhaps mention or explain…

Because of the amount of misconceptions out there concerning self-harm I have really struggled over which graphic to use and have finally settled on this one for now.  The thought processes behind the design of this graphic are as follows…

Through the use of a ‘teddy bear’ instead of a ‘person’ I hope to remove or reduce any gender-specific associations.

Additionally, through the use of a ‘brown’ teddy bear as opposed to a pink or blue one we hope to also remove or reduce any gender-specific associations.

By choosing a teddy bear with a band-aid/plaster on it’s head we hope to illustrate injury or that the bear has been harmed.

By the band-aid/plaster being on it’s head and not arms or body we hope to stay clear of the incorrect assumption that self-harming is just cutting  etc.

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Claiming and Keeping the Now.

There are without any doubt multiple reasons behind the decision to self-harm at any given moment.  Sometimes it is in response to some circumstance or stressor that has happened there and then and sometimes it is because our mind has wandered back to a painful or distressing or unhealthy memory.  Other times it can be less of a wandering and more of an instant jump back to a painful or distressing time.

For me personally there are a few ‘triggers’ that seem to instantly send me back to that memory and thus to a dangerous or unhealthy place.

When this instant situation happens dealing with it is much harder although not impossible and I intend to share about this later.  But for the purpose of this piece I thought it might be helpful if I shared what I do when my mind starts to wander towards dangerous or unhealthy memories or thoughts.  Times when I desperately need to claim and keep hold of the now and not to go back ‘there’.

Distraction.

Distraction from the memories back onto current things can be a very useful tool.  Whether this is done by calling and friend or by interacting with someone else or through focussing the mind on current tasks is entirely up to the person concerned and their personal circumstances at that time.  Factors such as;  the time of day, how many friends – especially understanding ones – you have, how much telephone credit you have left, where you are when the need arises, all can affect the choice you make in terms of what method you choose.

Very often I will play a game that I find absorbing. Sudoku or something that requires me to focus and concentrate.  Or I will do chores such as cleaning or tidying or something like that.  Responding to emails or writing a letter to a friend or family can also distract me from those past thoughts and memories.  Although I do of course have to be careful not to choose folk with whom there is some association with those memories.

Grounding.

Grounding is another technique that I use.  I make mental and verbal inventories of my surroundings which thus bring my attention to the now and not the past.  Imaging that I am on the phone to a friend and describing what is around me or pretending that they have never seen my home or room and have asked me what it looks like and thus I am describing it in detail can be a real help.

Sometimes I play a game I call Increasing Vowels.  In this game I go through my house finding different items beginning with each of the vowels.  I start by finding one item beginning with an ‘A’ then an ‘E’ then an ‘I’ and so forth and then try to find two and then three and so forth until I am feeling much stronger.

There is infact a whole number of different things that can be done to help us ‘claim and keep the now’ and some of them can be found on the ‘Coping Techniques‘ page.

Some may work for you and some may not.  Likewise some may work in some situations and others not work.  What is important, I feel, it’s that we firstly recognize what is happening when we do ‘wander’ or we do ‘trigger’ and that we have in our tool bag a number of tried and tested methods for safely and healthily dealing with these situations.

There is, I believe, a truth here that we need to hold onto in these situations.  Self-harm, whilst being a coping technique, is a very poor one, offering short-term relief at best and nearly always adding more problems than it relieves.

Going back to the ‘place’ which causes this type of response in us, is not a good thing unless done in therapy and a safe controlled environment where the related issues are being addressed.  So staying away from that place at all other times – claiming and keeping the now, if you will, can be a very real advantage and an essential coping tool.

 

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Dispelling The Myths.

There are without doubt numerous myths or incorrect beliefs out there concerning self-harm in its various forms and those who suffer from it.

Personally I think this is quite natural given the covert and often secretive nature of self-harm and the fact that mental-illness (for want of a better phrase) has always had a certain amount of misunderstanding, lack of understanding and also stigma attached to it.

This is of course a sad state of affairs but what we also, in my opinion, need to be mindful of is the fact that very often some of those who suffer from self-harm can themselves be subject to these misconceptions and this can have a very direct and unhealthy impact on; how they view themselves, their actions and indeed their potential to obtain the very help they need.

So no matter what the reason is for these myths, misunderstandings, or misconceptions dispelling them and providing accurate and correct information is essential if we are to fully address this issue.

So here are some of the most common myths and misunderstandings along with the related facts/truths…

-o-

Myth:  People who self-harm are just seeking attention!

Fact:  Generally speaking people who self-harm  do so in secret.  For someone who suffers from self-harm, expressing or sharing this fact can be extremely difficult.  Often because of the fear and/or shame and very often as a result of this very same misunderstanding/myth.  Understanding this is a very real step in dealing with it correctly.

-o-

Myth:  People who self-harm do so to manipulate others!

Fact:     The truth is that whilst it is possible that this may sometimes (albeit very seldom) be the case, the plain simple fact is that this is the exception to the rule so to speak. Let’s remember that generally speaking people who self-harm do so in secret.  However, even in a situation where this is the case, the more healthy approach is not to focus on the method chosen as much as to consider why that person is feeling the need to do this.

-o-

Myth:  People who self-harm aren’t really that serious or their problems that serious if they don’t hurt themselves really badly.

Fact:  As strange as it may sound, Self-Harm is not about harming yourself but about coping.  Additionally it would very wrong to believe that people who self-harm want to do so.  Very often it is seen as the only way to cope and let us not forget that it is fundamentally counter-intuitive and thus the need to inflict harm to oneself in order to cope is very often accompanied with the intuition not to harm oneself.  Therefore the severity of the harm cannot be seen as an indication  of the severity of the difficulties faced.

-0-

Myth:  Self-Harm is something that only teenagers do and mostly just teenage girls.

Fact:  Self-Harm covers many different forms and is neither gender nor age specific.

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Myth:  Self-Harm is all about cutting isn’t it.

Fact:  No not at all.  Cutting is in fact just one form of self-harm and whilst it may be the one that the media seems to focus on there are in fact many other forms of it.

-o-

Myth:  People who Self-Harm just want to commit suicide but can’t bring themselves to do it.

Fact:  To say that no-one who suffers from self-harm ever wants to commit suicide or to die would be just as inaccurate as to say that everyone who suffers from self-harm does want to commit suicide or to die.  The truth is that for many self-harm is a coping mechanism used in order to survive.

-o-

Myth:  I lived with or knew someone who used to self-harm so I know all about self-harm.

Fact:  That is the same as saying I knew a brain surgeon so I know all about brain surgery.  The fact is that you don’t.  Whilst it is true that you may have witnessed part of it or even experienced some of the pain, concerns and frustrations experienced by someone caring for a person who self-harms, it does not make you an expert and there is in fact a whole myriad of reasons why folk self-harm just as there are multiple ways in which folk do so.

-o-

Myth:  Once you start to Self-Harm it will be with you for life.

Fact:  Whilst there are many underlying reasons for someone choosing to Self-Harm, in many ways it is often chosen, whether consciously or sub-consciously, as a way of coping.  It is without doubt not the best way of coping and indeed other better ways of coping and indeed addressing the issues causing this response are available.   Freedom from this is therefore possible.

-o-

Myth:  Self-Harm is not a recognized condition or disorder.

Fact:  Self-Harm is indeed recognized nowadays and there is a growing amount of professional help out there.

-o-

 

 

 

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An Invitation

Allow me to share something with you, if you will…

“I sat feeling horrible,  alone, like some freak, dishonest and damaged even.  And what is worse is that I couldn’t tell anyone.

All around me people would be carrying on with their normal activities, laughing, chatting, sharing, and yet there was I sat hiding the very thing I needed to communicate but somehow couldn’t.

Every now and then something would happen, I would brush up against something or a friend’s child would climb up on me for a hug and I would wince. 

“Are you Ok?”  The more observant onlooker would ask me.

“Yeah, I am fine.”  I would answer. “Just in a little pain today.”

In truth I hadn’t lied.  I was in a little pain. 

The fact that they assumed it was because of my generally poor health and not because I had harmed myself the night before was not down to me, was it? 

Of course their assuming this was natural since they were aware that I have for a long time now experienced poor health and since I have never once shared with them (or anyone else for that matter) the fact that I self-harm.

So I sat feeling horrible, alone, like some freak, dishonest and damaged even.  And what is worse is that I couldn’t tell anyone.”

-oOo-

Do you recognize that kind of experience?  Does it or those thoughts and feelings contained within it resonate with a ring of familiarity for you?

Well you are not alone and certainly whilst that is actually an account that I wrote about an experience I personally had it could in fact have been written by so many people who self-harm and who feel they have nowhere to turn.

Check out the opening and closing statements of that little story..

“I sat feeling horrible, alone, like some freak, dishonest and damaged even.  And what is worse is that I couldn’t tell anyone.”

Do you recognize the mixture of correct and incorrect statements there?

“I sat feeling horrible, like some freak, dishonest and damaged even.”

That is a perfectly natural response to your situation but the fact that you feel that way doesn’t make it true!

Due to the secretive nature of this condition, statistics are hard to come by but it has been reported that about 3 million people in America alone exhibit some type of self-abusive behavior.  So you are neither ‘alone’ nor are you a ‘freak’.

“And what is worse is that I couldn’t tell anyone.”

Again, this is a very natural and common response.  Even though there is good, professional and confidential help available out there, sufferers of self-harm are very often reluctant to access it.

However, the fact is that accessing that help is usually a very safe and confidential option and certainly one that I would personally recommend. But even if you don’t feel able to seek professional help I would encourage you to seek help from a friend whom you trust and respect.  Sharing your experiences and enlisting the help of someone you trust and respect really can be such an important step on the road to conquering this.

Which brings me to my invitation…

This blog/site, ‘Reson8 Freedom’, was started specifically in order to provide information, understanding and support for folk impacted by self-harm in its various forms.

So why not spend some time checking it out as it grows and why not share your experiences, challenges and victories?

Obviously we need to be careful how much specific detail is shared and also how it is shared so as not to cause distress to either the person sharing or to anyone reading it, but you are very welcome to participate.

It is my sincere hope that what is shared on this blog/site will not only resonate familiarity for others who suffer from self-harm but will also show that, as in my own situation, it really can be conquered and that by sharing our experiences we will not only resonate familiarity but also Resonate Freedom.

Kind Regards,

Kevin.

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