Hi everyone, I hope things are going as well for you as possible! I’ve been going through a hard time on my end. The past weeks have been getting worse and that’s really scary considering that school starts on tomorrow. I’m also speaking for the Bell Let’s Talk event of our CEGEP in two weeks. It’s amazing to be part of the team and the opportunity for me to share with other students makes me very grateful… I just wish I wasn’t so incredibly anxious about it and the semester in general.
I’ve been having pretty bad Bipolar mood swings and the intensity of my emotions seems to be either 0 and flat, or at x 1000. I can be super happy, motivated, excited and full of ideas. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night so I work on projects the whole time. (Projects I don’t always end up finishing.) Then a switch flips and I’m tired, depressed and empty. I don’t feel like doing things and my confidence and hope are super low. Sometimes I feel a mix of both ends at the same time and that pretty much feels like being torn in half. And in between all of it is intermittent anxiety and anger / irritability that scares me because I’m not generally an angry person.
All of this has made me do things I haven’t done since last March which makes me very disappointed in myself. I scratched and cut…more than once. They felt like breaks from reality. In the moment I think of nothing but my pain and the desire to hurt myself, and only afterwords do I realize what a huge mistake I’ve made and end up regretting it so so much. One evening after I cut I had a major breakdown that I won’t even come close to accurately describing…it was just horrible.
The good news is that this may be largely due to how we stopped one of my meds and replaced it with another that clearly isn’t doing the job. I saw my psychiatrist the day before yesterday and he modified things. I’m praying to feel positive effects soon and to be more in control. I have to be the one in charge of my emotional states and thoughts, but chemical support to dull the edges would be much appreciated! Thankfully the extended release Seroquel is keeping my head from running away from me.
Current events gave me the idea to write about self-harm today. I personally have more questions than answers and solutions to give, so this article is something I need to apply as well!
I am very much NOT talking about stereotypical, attention-seeking, teenage behaviour! I absolutely detest the stigma that surrounds self-harm and one of my goals is to burst that open. For starters, if a teenager is hurting themselves for attention…they must be hurting inside. Something is making them feel that need and instead of shaming them I say that they require immediate help too! But I’m not referring to that right now, I’d rather focus on the kind of self-harm that people hide and don’t talk about. If that doesn’t illustrate a big difference right there…I don’t know what will. Many people who self harm don’t want attention. We’re actually ashamed of what we do and wish we weren’t doing it. We just don’t have a good enough handle on our emotions yet to cope a different way. Above all, we don’t go around flashing wounds! We dread people seeing the marks and go to great lengths to hide the behaviour. Sometimes we even self-harm in a way that doesn’t leave marks, which is unfortunately what I was doing since March instead of cutting but I won’t explain what it is for fear of giving anyone ideas.
The Dangers of Self-Harm
These will probably be obvious, but I think that it’s important to remind ourselves of how bad this behaviour is no matter how ‘well’ it works for us in the present. Self-harm is dangerous and can lead to permanent harm and disfigurement. For example I have some nerve damage in my left arm as a result, and both arms are permanently scarred in a very visible way. In some cases self-harm can even be fatal. Beyond the physical effects it creates an extremely harmful pattern that is ingrained the more we do it and becomes harder to stop as time goes on. After 5 years of it I find the temptation incredibly difficult to resist. Remembering the long-term impacts of self-harm is important for recovery and can become a strong motivation. I had a very harsh scare a few weeks ago regarding one of my forms of self-harm which has made me terrified of doing it again. The trouble is that without it I’ve switched to cutting and scratching as a replacement.
Why Do People Self-Harm?
Self-harm is an unhealthy way of coping with strong emotional distress. It can be used when one feels empty and needs a visual reminder that they’re alive. It can also be a form of self-punishment or to feel pain somewhere physical which makes more sense than the intangible pain in our minds. Each individuals’ reason for self-harm is incredibly important because self-harm is a symptom of something MUCH bigger. To stop at the thought of just wanting to cause pain would be … skin-deep; dark and horrible pun not intended.
We need to look inside to really think about why we self-harm and what we can do to change our patterns. This is no easy task, and that’s what makes the whole situation of self-harm so sad and difficult. As long as the emotions and their link to self-injury remain intact, things won’t change. This means that to break the behaviour we need to break the link and find something healthy to relieve our pain. This is why I made an exercise sheet to guide us through a process that will hopefully lead to healthier coping mechanisms and a new plan.
Here is the PDF, and remember…we’re in this together!