Sunday, March 1, 2009

National Self-injury Awareness Day~ March 1st.

As a woman who has earned the 'label' of a self-injurer, and since today is National Self-injury awareness day, I thought I would take some time today to talk about self-injury. There are millions of Americans, and countless more throughout the word who regularly injure themselves. Sometimes called "Cutters", and frequently misunderstood by those who have not self-injurers, as well as the Mental Health Professionals, they are not psychopaths or freaks, and cutting is not typically a 'suicidal' act. People who self-injure are usually intelligent, functional and likable.

Often self-injurers have suffered sexual, emotional, or physical abuse~ and self-harm is typically an attempt to escape from the intolerable or painful feelings relating to the trauma of their past. Self-injurers commonly have difficulty expressing their feelings, and often are unable to verbalize what they're feeling. Cutting serves as a coping mechanism for overwhelming feelings. There are many other reasons why someone self-harms, but there is always a reason, and recognizing that reason is the first stop. People don't self-injure because they want to, they do it because they feel like they need to, and it is a tool they use to get through the day. That said, the ultimate goal is to learn other healing ways to cope.

Alice Miller said, An unacknowledged trauma is like a wound that never heals over and may start to bleed at any time."
The body is the temple for the soul, and when the body is ravaged, the soul cries out~ and when the soul is trampled upon, the body bleeds. Cutting can create a powerful release from psychic suffering. Some people self injure to escape their emotional pain, to numb themselves, and create a barrier to keep out the emotions that overwhelm them. Self-injurers often engage in self-mutilation during the time they were most abused. For example, if a woman suffered nightly sexual abuse at the hands of her father, it isn't unusual for her to save that time, after everyone has gone to bed, or even if she lives alone, to self-injure.

"The truth about childhood is stored up in our body and lives in the depth of our soul. Our intellect can be deceived, or feelings can be numbed and manipulated, our perception shamed and confused, our bodies tricked with medication. But our soul never forgets. And because we are one, one whole soul in one body, someday our body will present its bill."
~ Alice Miller

Once you understand what triggers you to self-injure, it will be easier for you to identify an alternative solution. It is important to recognize that it's nearly impossible to stop self-injuring without the having an alternative way to handle your emotions. You have to replace your self-injuring behavior with something else.

If you self-injure to deal with your anger and frustration, you may instead:
* Scream into a pillow
* Hold an ice cube
* Rip paper
* Work out, go running, dance to loud music
* Clean

If you self-injure because you feel numb or disassociated:
* Try to ground yourself in the present
* Look around and name 5 things you see, hear, smell, taste, touch
* Focus on your breathing

If you self-injure to punish yourself:
* Make a list of things you like about yourself and read them
* Have your friends make a list of 3 things they like about you to read
* Make a list of positive affirmations

If you self-injure to numb yourself from painful emotions:
* Do something creative; write, paint, pottery
* Research something you're interested in
* Do a puzzle or game that requires concentration

If you self-injure in order to feel calm:
* Take a warm bath - use your favorite bath salts and lotion
* Do yoga, stretch
* Concentrate on your breathing, meditate

Create an "Emergency Coping Box/Basket"~ be as creative as you want to be...I did this for myself and I keep it by my chair. I bought a white wicker basket with a pink floral liner. The contents of my basket include:
~ A pomegranate candle
~ Pictures of my children
~ a bracelet with a Rudraksha seed that my DT gave me
(Rudraksha is an ancient Hindu seed said to bring tranquility to all who wear it)
~ a zen meditation CD

There are also medications that can help.
The most important thing to remember is to have support. Whether that is a network of friends, a support group, or a therapist~ unconditional support and acceptance are two key tools on this journey.

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