Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Have you tried to stop in the past? What are you doing differently this time?
In the past, I have tried to stop self harming many times. The first concerted effort was in late 1999, seven or so years after I had first self harmed. Tired of what I was doing, tired of my life, tired of the darkness that overwhelmed me, I embarked on a quest to see as much of Scotland as I could. The plan was to distract myself with the beauty of this majestic country. For a few weeks it worked, but after settling into a backpacker hostel and looking for work to fill the coffers, the urges of the past resurfaced. Rather than cut to self harm, I made the ill-fated decision to start smoking, thus replacing one self harm act with another. But I didn’t cut. I didn’t hit. I didn’t burn. For nearly twelve long months – taking in three months in Canada – I didn’t injure myself in any way, shape or form.
Then I started college. Then Rachel killed herself. Then my depression returned with a vengeance. I started self-harming again in October 2000 and kept up a sustained routine of self harming behaviour for three long, painful months. But that New Year I met Louise, and soon after, fell in love. This simple act of human emotion was enough for me to reapply myself to becoming self harm free, and although difficult, with Louise’s help I succeeded in my attempt. For four long years I remained self harm free, in fact, for the duration of our relationship I only self harmed on three occasions. Once in 2004 and twice in 2006, not long before our relationship ended, which triggered a return to self harming.
By late 2006 I was self harming on an almost daily basis. My friends had no idea. My girlfriend, Kathy, had no idea. But it no longer held the appeal it once did. I wasn’t receiving the same release. When I self harmed it wasn’t easing my emotional distress, it was increasing it, so I made the conscious effort to once again rid myself of this practice. It was hard, and painful, to go cold turkey, but by the time of my birthday I was self harm free and remained self harm free for several months, until a mental breakdown struck my soul and rendered any chance of remaining self harm free impossible.
Throughout 2007 I self harmed frequently. Sometimes several times a day. I hit. I cut. I burnt myself. I did anything and everything I could to relinquish the emotional pain I had found myself in. It wasn’t until the latter months of that year, when Samantha rekindled our friendship on Facebook, when I was beginning my blogging journey, that I was ‘stable’ enough to once again return to a self harm free way of life.
This effort was short-lived. By mid 2008 I was self harming on a semi-regular basis, seeking emotional release through cutting and hitting. It was something that I hated doing, but it was something that I had worked into my routine, the only way I could live was to self harm. Throughout the year I self harmed in spite of hypomanic episodes, periods of anhedonia and a blossoming relationship. I continued self harming throughout the early months of 2009, and when homelessness hit, I knew my chances of remaining self harm free were next to none. For three long years I self harmed frequently. Occasionally I drew on myself in an effort to minimize the cutting, but I always returned to this blissful release to ease the trauma I was living through.
When my homeless ended in 2012, I made another attempt to quit my self harming behaviour. For a while it worked. But the stress of living way below the poverty line took its toll and I returned to self harming in order to cope with my meager life. 2013 rolled into 2014 and self harm had once again become the norm. In fact, by the middle of 2014, my self harm was worse than during my homeless years. It was a daily routine. A highlight of my day. But then, as I had attempted several times in the past, I decided I needed to quit this behaviour.
My dalliance with physical illness helped. The pancreatitis and resultant cyst caused me so much physical pain that I didn’t need to inflict any more upon my person. But what helped more was my fervent desire to succeed. I was more determined than ever to remain self harm free. I restocked my self harm safety box. I armed myself with a myriad of coping mechanisms. Whenever the urge arose to self harm I would turn to my box and play with the contents until the urge had passed. I still do to this day. Over eight months self harm free and I remain as determined as ever to never self harm again.
I’m not really doing anything different. The safety box is a new coping skill that I haven’t used in the past, but the rest, the distraction, the determination, the self belief, the smoking, are all things that I have tried during every period I had tried to give up my addiction in the past. Perhaps not having any new mechanisms will mean that I will once again fail to remain self harm free. But I’ve never had this much determination, this much self belief that I can succeed, so hopefully these emotions will guide me to success.
Only time will tell.