Living with Self-harm is tough,
but knowing that you’re not alone is vital to helping you cope.
Watching the brilliant Sharp Objects with Amy Adams showed that self-harm is something people are now more willing to talk about, to show, and people are becoming more aware and hopefully understanding.
Sharp Objects is an HBO show (Sky Atlantic in the UK), an eight-parter, with Amy Adams starring as emotionally traumatised Camille Preaker and was originally a book written by Gillian Flynn who wrote Gone Girl. The series concentrates a little more on her trouble with drinking (maybe more socially acceptable?) than Camille’s self-harm as the book does, but with women at the helm as producers and Amy Adams on board as executive producer too, this show is highlighting womens’ trauma in a way I haven’t seen before.
It was validating to see a character that I instantly related to.
I don’t cut like Camille does, if you watch the show you’ll see just how much her addiction with self-harm has affected her, but I cut and I understand. Camille’s cutting is vast, serious, and deep, but it’s important. When was the last time self-harm was portrayed honestly in general film or television?
I’ve watched the first four episodes and though a self-harmer is likely to be triggered – I was – I felt relieved that something so central to my life is not being dumbed down and is being shown as it is for many.
Self-harm exists. The toxic society we live in today has seen a rise in those suffering. In October 2017 the NHS reported a study based on teenage girls and there had been a 68% rise in girls self-harming between ages 13 and 16 since 2011. This rise is likely to continue and move into older age groups.
It is a myth that only teenage girls self-harm. I know many men and older people who suffer. I began cutting when I was fourteen and I’m now forty-seven and still doing it.
It’s an important condition to understand and compassion is vital to those who both live with it themselves and for those who live with a loved one who cuts. If you want to understand Self-harm and learn how to cope with it I have two other posts on the subject: Understanding Self Harm the Myths and Truths and Coping with Self-harm – How to Fight the Urges and Win. Please take a look to learn more, discover the myths and truth, and how to cope.
The most frequent question those who don’t understand ask is: Why do you do it?
I recently read Louise Gornall’s Under Rose Tainted Skies about an agoraphobic and Norah also cuts herself. I read one paragraph in tears because it described my relationship with self-harm so well: It works like a shake, a slap, an injection of anaesthetic. I picture it like a never-ending tug-of-war between panic and calm. Self-harm is an impartial observer that steps up with something sharp to sever the rope. The minute the cut is made, both teams fly back, collapse to the ground on top of one another, exhausted.
For me, this is why.
My brain is often stuck in that pre-panic attack moment… bewilderment, anxiety, and bubbles of emotion in the back of my throat – those bubbles that stop you from falling apart but are keeping you at the edge…
My self-harm often erupts alongside a panic attack, or when I feel deeply hurt, or just when I am disassociated, angry, or lost and need grounding. In Sharp Objects when Camille bought a small sewing kit I knew exactly why. Sharp objects, I love this title – it covers so much ground – can be the emotions that accompany you, the words people speak, and the objects you cut with.
Try to understand, coping mechanisms are different for all of us. When you ask me about my cuts, I’m likely to say it was the cat, but when I do, know that it probably wasn’t. We need to be open, to explore, and understand with compassion, so that those who self-harm feel comfortable to talk, to share, and perhaps to stop.
If you are dealing with your own self-harming issues please see your GP, if you can. I am currently taking propranolol to help control panic attacks. It’s a 50/50 thing, but if you can find help, whether it be medication, therapy, counselling, or something else, please do.
I also recommend Calm Harm an app designed to help you through a self-harm urge. It helps me with panic attacks too and has been invaluable.
Lastly, please know that you are not alone. Awareness is growing and more people are appreciating the need to have coping mechanisms and tools to deal with the lives we are living. There is no shame or guilt with self-harm, but with support and help you may be able to overcome it.
My scars are me.
They are my battlefield, my personal road map to where I’ve been.
They are who I am.
Thank you for sharing this. I have several friends who self-harm (besides you) and although I understand it in theory, it’s something I have never feel the need/urge to do. But now my son is doing it – he is biting himself, but he tells me it is not hard enough, but he draws blood. His autism causes him to be overwhelmed by his emotions and I know that it is a release. He feels if the pain on the outside is more than on the inside he can cope.
I have no tools to help or stop him or how to help him cope with those feelings – other than sit with him and talk through it or just rub his back and listen. I did tell him other people self-harm, but I am not sure that was a good idea, as up to that point it had no occurred to him to cut himself.
I will look into the Calm Harm app.
In the meantime, big hugs.
Calm Harm has helped me a lot. I use the breathing activity most, just enough to calm my racing heart and allow sense back into my head. There are several settings and a variety of activities, you just find what suits you most. It’a aimed at teens, so hopefully he’ll find something that helps.
I completely understand his reasoning, if you can distract yourself with outside pain it can override the inside pain.
The best advice is distraction… when I want to cut the urge is overwhelming and hard to overcome, and if I’m on my own it’s easy to do. That’s when Calm Harm comes into its own. If people are with me then it’s harder to self-harm and their support and distraction can be amazing.
My GP has just referred me to the adult autism specialist – over a year long waiting list, but I’m on it at last!
I started cutting when I was 11 I still do, but not so much now, I’m learning different coping mechanisms. xxx
It’s so hard to find what works for you, I tried lots but breathing through the urge with support helps me most now. It hasn’t stopped it, but has lessened it. Much love to you Adele xxx
Love back to you, Lisa. We are survivors. xxx