All that I am, all that I ever was…

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…


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Six of the best: My Short-Term Goals

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
What short-term goals do you have?

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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 27

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Discuss any and all progress you have made.

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I began this challenge on the 4 August 2014. Back then, I was self harming on a daily basis. Every afternoon, I would halt whatever I was doing, take out my cutting implements, and carve love (and hate) on my arms. It was a coping mechanism. the only thing that kept the depression at bay and gave me half a chance of making it through the day unscathed.

It is now the 15 August 2015, and although I have struggled to complete this challenge in a timely fashion, I have succeeded in being self harm free for over eight months now. I no longer feel the urge to cut. I no longer feel the compulsion to injure myself in any way. This is huge progress. For someone who has been self harming on and off since I was thirteen years old, to go so long without feeling the urge to self harm is massive.

It is certainly something worthy of celebration! :)


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 21

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?

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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.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 17

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Do you know anyone else who injures themselves?

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I’ve known many people in my life. You wouldn’t know that now, of course, given the socially isolated state I find myself living in, but once upon a time I had several good friends, a dozen or so acquaintances and a plethora of random people who didn’t fit neatly into either category. I’ve known people who are mentally sound and those who battle mental illness on a daily basis. People who deal with depression, with BPD, bipolar, schizophrenia and ADHD. But amidst all those people, amidst all those wonderful, beautiful souls, I’ve only known three people who self-harm.

One, is my mother. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind you knowing that, given how fervently she believes mental illness should be talked about. Even though I know my mother has dealt with self harm, I’ve never had all that many conversations about her history with self harm. I don’t know when she started. I don’t know how long she self harmed. And I don’t have any idea what triggers her. I do know however that she has worked hard to get her self harming under control. I know how hard she’s worked to not given in to her urges. And I know how much she wants to remain self harm free. I’ve always admired my mother for her battles with self harm. She is one of the most inspiring people I know and is a source of tremendous strength in my own battles to remain self harm free.

The second person I’ve known who self harmed is Samantha. She didn’t do it all that frequently, but she did dabble (her word) with cutting, hitting and burning. It’s something that drew us together, something that cemented our friendship, and is one of the primary reasons she remains one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever met. Her own dealings with self harm meant she never judged other people. About anything. Samantha just accepted people for who they were, warts and all. I don’t believe her self harm was solely responsible for this, I think it was just who she was as a person, but her desire not to be judged for her actions certainly inspired her own belief that you should never define a person by just one aspect of their personality.

Lastly, Grace admitted to me during an emotional phone conversation that she self harmed. Out of the blue one overcast weekday she called me in a panic; she was close to self harming and wanted someone to talk to, someone to distract her from her internal pain. Knowing that I myself had been in similar situations in the past I talked to her. I talked to her about the weather. About university. About her favourite Aussie Rules Football team. I talked to her about anything that popped into my head in order to stop her from retreating into hers. What I didn’t do was tell her about my history of self harm. At that juncture in my life I wasn’t ready to talk about it. I wasn’t ready to tell other people about my secret, painful activities. I’ve always had tremendous respect for the strength Grace displayed during that telephone call. To ask for help is difficult. To ask for help in a time of mental distress is nigh on impossible. Yet she fought her demons and made the call; she asked for help, and I like to believe I answered her call in the best way I could.

After the call I talked to Grace about self harm on several occasions, eventually finding the strength to tell her that I did it myself. Like Samantha, she never judged me. She knew what it was like to feel the cold steel of a knife against your flesh. She knew only too well how quickly darkness can descend over your mind.

I’ve always believed self harm should be talked about; that it should be discussed. And I’ve had conversations with all three people I’ve known through my life who self harm, about self harm. I’ve also had conversations with several other of the old friends and acquaintances I used to have about self harm. It is a subject that shouldn’t be shied away from. It is a subject of such seriousness that it deserves to be spoken about, at length.

So if you know anyone who self harms. Or even if you don’t. Never be ashamed to raise it in conversation. The more people who do, the better.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 16

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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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 14

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Is there anyone you consider to be an inspiration in your recovery?

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I draw most of my inspiration from other bloggers; for example, Marci, Mental Health and More, Pride in Madness, Many of Us, Diary of a Social Phobic, Panic Disordered. Their stories are a continual source of inspiration as I continue my journey toward recovery. Even if their story doesn’t necessarily revolve around self harm, without them, I don’t think I would be where I am today. I certainly don’t think I would have been self harm free for as long as I have been. Visiting their sites, reading their inspirational words, gives me the strength I need to keep going, to keep battling.

As for people outside of the blogosphere, people who have inspired me in my recovery, we’re talking few and far between. Grace, would be one person who inspired me. In the short time we were friends she fought her own demons, and through those skirmishes she gave me courage and confidence to persevere with my own battles. Samantha, also, is someone who gave me a tremendous amount of support and kindness when it came to my self harm. She would listen to me when I needed to talk about it. Never judging me. Never holding it against me. Just supporting me. Just being the distraction I needed to conquer my pain. My mother is also someone who has given me inspiration in my battles with self-injury. Like Grace, she too has battled the demons of self harm, and she has found a myriad of strategies and mechanisms to help her cope, strategies that she has shared with me so that I could work toward reigning in my self harm urges.

To all of these people, both in real life and the blogosphere, I extend gratitude from the bottom of my heart. Without you, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be self harm free for eight months, two weeks and four days. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to conquering my self harm urges. So thank you, truly. You are all a source of tremendous inspiration for this troubled soul.