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I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 16

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Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
What advice would you give to someone about self harm?

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Four tips for someone who is about to self harm…

Distract yourself…
There are a myriad of ways that you can distract yourself when the urge to self harm arises. Simple activities, such as watching a movie or playing some songs that make you happy, may turn your attention away from whatever has triggered your urge. Other activities, such as colouring in, playing with play-dough, smelling essential oils, hugging a cuddly toy or spanking a pillow, are also excellent in distracting yourself from self harm urges. In fact, any activity that sparks the senses – sight, smell, touch, sound etc. – can work wonders when it comes to controlling your self harm desires.

Be creative…
One activity that I have used to control my self harm urges involves a red felt tip pen and your flesh. If you’re a cutter, which I am, instead of using a knife on your skin, use a red felt tip pen instead. Draw on your arm the cuts that you would otherwise have made. Perhaps instead of drawing the cuts, draw something fun and creative. I used to draw intricate patterns on my flesh, all of which distracted my mind away from my urges onto the act of creativity. This activity may work for you, it may not, but it’s worth trying all the same as anything is better than cutting.

Build a self harm safety box…
I don’t mean make a box from scratch with wood and the like, I mean take a shoe box or other cardboard container and fill it with things that you can use to distract yourself from self harm. Throw in some candy to enliven your taste buds. May I suggest popping candy, to give you a touch sensation in your mouth as you eat. How about throwing in your favourite cuddly toy, some Sudoku puzzles to get your brain working, a stress ball, bubbles or books. I have a movie or two in my safety box. I also have a notebook and colouring pens for doodling and drawing. My safety box contains all manner of items that I can turn to instead of self harming, so when the urge arises, I can turn to the box and find something to occupy myself with instead of turning to the knife to harm myself. In fact, I would highly recommend a safety box to anyone who battles with self harm urges.

>>> Read ‘How to create a self harm safety box‘…

Pamper yourself…
Instead of self harming, why not run yourself a nice soothing bath with all manner of bath salts and sweet-smelling bubbles? How about treating yourself to an epic shower – remember, the hot and cold of a shower can be a wonderful distraction – plus you have the added advantage of getting all squeaky clean at the same time. Or how about lathering yourself with scented body butter to soothe your skin and excite your senses. Instead of harming yourself, be nice to yourself, and you’ll find your self harm urges dissipating quicker than you can say “I’m awesome!”

Work out…
Exercising releases endorphins. Endorphins relieve pain. Endorphins make you happy. So instead of harming yourself, head to the local gym and do an epic work out to get your endorphins rocking into action. You’d be amazed at how quickly you feel better when your body gets moving. If you don’t fancy heading to the gym, or can’t deal with being out in public, do some exercise at home. Squats. Planks. Sit-ups. They all help to release endorphins. They all help to make you feel better when life gets too much to handle.

…and two tips for someone who already has!

Remember first aid…
My self harm kit contains first aid paraphernalia as well as knives and scissors. I have disinfectant, bandages, plasters, wipes, everything and anything that I think I might need to heal myself after the event. Personally I think this is a vital aspect of self harm. Sometimes the damage we inflict is not serious to warrant hospital intervention, sometimes it isn’t even serious enough to warrant going to a doctor, but it is always serious enough to warrant some form of self-care. So when self harming, be mindful of what you can do to help yourself after the event. Always have disinfectant, bandages and the like handy so you can clean up after the fact and limit any infection or unwanted side effects that may occur.

Keep a list of emergency numbers handy…
Sometimes things don’t go to plan. Even though I had been self harming for years, always able to control the damage I was inflicting, in 2008 I accidentally cut too deep when I was self harming. Unable to stem the flow of blood myself, I had to somehow navigate a nasty depressive and agoraphobic episode to seek medical aid. The episode was so bad that I couldn’t remember anything. Not even my name, let alone the number to call an ambulance. Now, in case of self harm emergencies, I keep a list of emergency numbers on the lid of my safety box; 000, suicide helplines, general helplines, my local GP and support worker. Anyone who may be able to help in the event of a self harm emergency. I’ve never had to use the list, but I am thankful it is there, in case I did need to use it. So consider compiling a list of important numbers of your own and keep it somewhere handy. You don’t have to limit the numbers to medical contacts, you may want to list a few friends who you can call, for you never know what you might forget whilst lost to a period of depression and self harm.

What about you? Do you have any tips, tricks, tactics or advice that helps you deal with self harm urges? I’d love to know…

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