Tag Archives: Sharing

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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