Last August, before the demon Depression firmly grasped my soul, I began working through a 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge. I was able to reach day 12 before I stopped writing. Now that things are a little (and I repeat, a little) better, I’ve decided to continue working through the remainder of the challenge. Partly because I hate leaving things unfinished and partly because I think it’s an important subject to talk about. So I’ll pick up today where we left off nine months ago, with day 13…
What is the biggest realization about self harm you’ve had?
When I was last writing this challenge, I was self-harming on a daily basis. Every day, around the same time, I would take out my knife and slowly, carefully, begin cutting my flesh. It was a means to an end. A way to cope with the tremendous emotional and psychological pain I was under. Depression had seized control and my means of fighting back was to hurt myself; to show the world that no matter what, I wasn’t going to let the demon overwhelm me completely. I believed that by seeing my pain in neat, red lines on my flesh, I was proving to all and sundry that I was coping; that I wasn’t letting things get the better of me. But I was wrong. All I was doing was externalizing my pain. All I was doing was proving to the world that the demon was winning; that it was causing me to not only feel tremendous emotional pain, but by self-harming, tremendous physical pain as well. By self-harming, I was allowing the demon to win. The only way to not let him win, was to not self-harm. The only way to not let him win was to defy twenty odd years of coping strategy – the length of time I had been self harming in order to control my emotional pain.
And that isn’t an easy thing to do. To stop something cold, as anyone who has ever quit drugs, smokes or alcohol will tell you, is a painfully difficult thing to achieve. For weeks the urge was ever-present. The urge to hurt. The urge to harm. The urge to control. But I fought through the urges by taking things day by day. If I felt overwhelmed, if I felt like I had no other option, I would take out a red pen and draw on me instead. Sometimes just lines. Sometimes intricate patterns. I imagined the red was my blood slowly seeping through my skin but took solace in the knowledge that it was only ink. And whilst it was only ink. I was triumphing over the demon Depression by not succumbing to its urges; by ignoring its command. Slowly days became weeks, and weeks became a month, then two months, then three. Although the urges were still present, although I wanted to self harm, I consciously chose not to.
And then came today. Another day I didn’t self-harm. Another day I didn’t give in to the urges. Another day where I beat the demon Depression. That makes it eight months, two weeks, three days and an unspecified amount of minutes and seconds. Eight months, two weeks, three days and an unspecified amount of minutes and seconds that I haven’t self-harmed; that I have chosen, consciously, to not let the demon Depression win. No matter what anyone says about this, it is an achievement that I’m proud of. To go so long without self harming, through such a deep and persuasive depressive episode, is a personal record for me. And that’s the biggest realization about self-harm I’ve had. That no matter how much I want to self-harm, no matter how much I need to self-harm, I don’t have to. I can survive without it. I can live without it.
I can’t say whether or not I will ever self-harm in the future. I may do. I may not. Only time will tell. But I can tell you that I have learnt I don’t need to self-harm. That no matter how bad things get, how painful things become, I can – and will – survive without it. And I’m glad I’ve learned such an important lesson; even though it’s taken twenty odd years to realize it!