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Posts Tagged ‘self-harm’

I Self-Injured Again

Welcome October – the first of three months of h@#$ for me. I have taken a lot of measures to help make this year different, but apparently that is not in the cards.

I woke up on October 1st feeling anxious and out of sorts. I have a lot going on with my kid, which you can read about here. Whenever I cannot help my kid, I feel like the helpless little girl again who has no hope. I cannot seem to separate out his issues from my issues, even though I know in my head that he is safe.

I was so worked up that I took two Xanax. (I am on the smallest dosage possible to prescribe.) That took the anxiety edge off but left me feeling depressed. I got one call after another – four phone calls before 8:00 a.m. I couldn’t focus.

I tried to take care of something that I have been trying to get to for a while now. I was on the phone when my friend showed up early. She offered to help me remove a large piece of broken furniture that I have been nagging hub to get out of my living room since JULY. We were able to carry it, but my two greyhounds slipped through the front door in the process. (I did not realize they were out.)

I tried to stop the male from running and grabbed his tag color. We tussled, but he is 70 lbs and managed to slip out of the collar before taking off full force down the street. My friend tried to wrestle the female, but she got away as well.

I spent the next TWO HOURS driving all over the neighborhood calling them, talking the neighbors, and calling the greyhound rescue. After an hour of not finding them, I had a panic attack and just wanted to die. I got back to my house, and a neighbor was there with the female, who had her tags. So, at least I knew one dog was safe.

The greyhound rescue lady showed up right after this with squawkers (devices used to train the greyhounds – all retired racing greyhounds will run toward that sound rapidly). We drove all over the neighborhood with no luck.

Then, the greyhound rescue lady got a call – Somebody rescued my tag-less dog from a location several miles away where he was running in and out of traffic. She took him to a vet, who scanned my dog for a microchip and then had the information to call me. So, he is now home safe.

I, however, was quite shaken. In the course of trying to find the dogs by car, I backed into my friend’s car, which was parked behind me in the driveway, so now I have to pay to fix her car and inconvenience her to deal with it all. I am shaken and just done. I self-injured (head-banging) for the first time in forever, and I still feel like s#$%, so I thought I would blog about it. I can’t say I feel any better yet.

Sometimes I really just hate my life and want to disappear.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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When people hear the phrase “self-injury,” they generally think about people who cut themselves (cutting). However, cutting is only one type of self-injury.

People use numerous other types of self-injury, including…

  • Banging head
  • Breaking bones
  • Burning themselves
  • Picking at skin and/or scabs
  • Pulling out hair and/or eyebrows

Pulling out your hair, including your eyebrows, is not a form of self-injury that I see a lot of discussion about, but this form of self-injury happens much more frequently than you might realize.

People who pull out their hair are self-injuring for the same reasons as others who engage in self-injury: They are managing their emotions. The person feels anxiety or other strong negative emotion. When he or she pulls out hair, the anxiety eases. The person continues to pull out his hair because doing so is an effective way to manage the stress.

Of course, pulling out your hair comes with physical consequences, just like any other form of self-injury does. People who pull out their hair can wind up with bald patches on their head. They might have to pencil in their eyebrows with makeup because they have plucked out all of their eyebrow hairs. Also, once all of the hair has been removed, there is nothing left to manage the repressed emotions.

If you self-injure by pulling out your hair, you are not alone. Many people do this but are afraid or ashamed to talk about it. It really does make logical sense why you do this. Whenever you pull out your hair, you feel a reduction in your overwhelming level of anxiety or other strong emotions.

There are other, more positive, ways to cope with your emotions. The best way is to talk about them. Rather than express yourself physically, try talking about what you are feeling. Write down your feelings in a journal. Allow yourself to cry. As you learn to manage your emotions in other, more positive ways, you will feel less of a compulsive to pull out your hair.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Plant (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Yesterday was a very rough day. I have been waiting a long time to get my son medicated for his Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Hub and I have not been on the same page about this issue from the beginning. The doctor prescribed medication in pill form, which my seven-year-old son is afraid to swallow. Long story short, I could not get him to take the pills, and hub and I wound up in a screaming match with hub “forbidding” me to request another form of medication for our son because we already spent a large amount of money on those pills.

I am sure this is a situation experienced by numerous households all over the world, but my reaction was far more intense than I would imagine most people would react. The problem is that anything involving my kid triggers issues about myself. My husband’s refusal to consider another form of medication (leaving me to try to “force” pills down his throat or forego necessary medication) triggered all of the feelings of hopelessness. It made me feel like I was facing a “Sophie’s Choice” of two unacceptable options. Whenever I feel cornered like this, my need to self-injure by banging my head becomes overwhelming.

Fortunately, this has not happened to me in well over a year. I have become much better about setting boundaries and refusing to let other people run my life. However, for whatever reason, I felt cornered and succombed to the overwhelming urge to self-injure. I was in such a bad place that it was the better alternative to what I wanted to do.

My sister, who also has a history of self-injury, talked me down, and she helped me to see that I do have choices. I withdrew the cost of the medication from my own account (I have a personal account that I fund with my paychecks from writing jobs) and placed it on the table for hub. Now, I will get whatever medication my son needs, and hub cannot complain about the cost because I am paying for it. And if he tries to back me into a corner again, I will come out fighting rather than harm myself again.

I hate that I went to that place again. I hate that I can still be triggered to that very deep, dark place in such a short period of time. I am grateful that I was able to pull out of the nosedive and be okay. I am also grateful that I was able to feel the pain rather than continue to “bang it away.” I probably cried for five hours yesterday, and I feel better for it, although I also feel spent.

It bothers me that I can still be driven to self-injury. It bothers me that the person who mostly has the “power” to trigger this in me is my spouse, who should be my safe place to fall instead of the one making me feel cornered. I have a lot to think about, but for now I am too tired. I just want to recuperate from a very rough day.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Man under palm trees (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Self-injury is a very common aftereffect of childhood abuse. Most people think that self-injury is synonymous with cutting, but the truth is that there is a wide variety of ways to self-injure that do not involve cutting yourself. Here is a small sample of ways that people self-injure:

  • Banging head
  • Breaking bones
  • Burning themselves
  • Cutting themselves
  • Picking at skin and/or scabs
  • Pulling out hair and/or eyebrows

Even biting your fingernails is a minor form of self-injury.

Why do people self-injure? They do it because it is a very effective way to manage pain. I did not say that it is healthy in the long run, but it is quite effective in the short run.

I used to self-injure by banging my head. While that sounds painful (and it was – I gave myself whiplash more than once), I could not feel any physical pain in the moment. What I felt was immediate relief from my very deep emotional pain. Self-injuring provided me with a way to make the emotional pain stop immediately. When I felt like I was free-falling into very deep pain, I knew I could make it stop as if I was flipping a switch.

Unfortunately, there are long-term consequences to self-injuring. I have experienced whiplash and bruised my face, and I did have to feel the pain for several days afterward. I am fortunate that I never did more physical damage to myself.

For those who cut or burn themselves, they wear permanent scars, even after they stop self-injuring. Those who leave scars on themselves often have trouble expressing their pain. Instead, they carve their pain onto their bodies, so their bodies scream their story to the world while they have no voice. As one survivor friend put it, “My abusers’ actions left no marks. I left those on myself.”

People who self-injure are not trying to commit “mini-suicides.” Self-injury is simply a coping tool, albeit a potentially dangerous one. I cringe when I hear about parents or spouses who forbid self-injury and then do spot checks to enforce the rule. People who self-injure are in deep emotional pain, and they are not going to stop until they develop more healthy ways to manage the pain and then heal the underlying pain that is driving the behavior.

Both my sister and I have found a way to stop self-injuring, and you can, too. There are better ways to manage your pain without harming yourself. Self-injuring does not make you a “freak.” Self-injury is a coping tool you are using to manage your pain. The more you can lean on more positive coping tools, the less you will need to lean on self-injury. See Positive Coping Tools for Healing from Childhood Abuse for a list of positive coping tools.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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