Warning – this post contains content that may be upsetting or trigger some people. It discusses suicide, self harm, psychological disorders and I share some very personal experiences along with ways to help.
Today is self-harm awareness day. I have posted about my issues with Borderline Personality Disorder before (here and here) and am very pleased to say it is no longer an issue in my life. I have self-harmed. I have a scar on my upper left thigh that I hide. I stabbed myself in the leg when I was 23. I remember wanting what was happening to stop. I looked up, saw the knife and plunged it into my thigh. I felt no pain. I just looked at the knife sticking out of my leg and the blood gushing everywhere. It did stop what was happening. My then husband stopped yelling at me and rushed to bandage it and get me to the hospital. He went from extremely angry at me to worried I’d die.
I remember just looking at the bandage, the blood, my leg and feeling no pain. Just relief the yelling had stopped. A small part of me was hoping I hit my femoral artery. It was a huge concern for the doctors when I arrived too. I was dropped at the entry, hobbled to the front doors, where someone saw me, grabbed a wheel chair which I collapsed into and they rushed me in.
At the hospital the staff assumed domestic violence not self harm. I kept repeating I did it to myself and only after they looked to see I had attempted suicide a few times when younger did they accept it might be self inflicted. This was not a suicide attempt and it is the only time self harm landed me in the hospital.
I used to dig my nails into my skin. I have cut myself. I have scratched until I bled. I sat in a park after another argument with my now ex husband and picked up some broken glass to cut my arm. No one knows the extent of my self harming and thankfully I don’t do it anymore, nor are most of my scars obvious. It’s strange, I rarely felt pain when doing it.
If you have thoughts of self-harm, please get help. I could not have overcome my struggles without my very supportive family, my brilliant therapist who specialises in BPD and some close friends.
There are things you can do to help if you are self harming or having thoughts.
1.) Get help
Seek out a counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist or some sort of professional. You will need a referral from your GP for some services. I was almost 100% sure I had Borderline Personality Disorder (which is rare, most people with BPD are in complete denial and view it as everyone else has a problem.) I sought out a specialist for BPD specifically and got the referral from my GP to see him. The difference between my psychologist, and every other psychiatrist, counsellor or psychologist I had ever seen since I was 14 was huge. If you know your diagnosis, seek out a professional who specialises in it.
2.) Write down things you like about yourself
I set a goal to write a list of 100 things I like about myself. It was hard to complete, but worth it. I kept a copy in my wallet, my car, my home, my diary, different places so I had access to it and when I felt down about myself I could read it and see things that are good about myself.
3.) Make appointments
Making appointments gives you something you have to do or to look forward to. It makes you get out of bed, get ready and do something.
WARNING – what I write next may be difficult and a trigger as it discusses my own suicidal thoughts.
A chance meeting and setting a time to have coffee saved my life less than 12 months ago. March 2013 was very difficult and I just felt I could not go on. I had experienced so much in a short period of time (domestic violence, stalking, robbery, rape, moving home twice with my 2 young daughters), my ex had just breached his AVO again and now I was basically homeless.
I had my suicide planned.
It was a full on weekend and I planned it for the Sunday. I dropped my kids off in Canberra, then was doing the hair and make-up for my friends wedding the next morning, followed by running a workshop 45mins away, then back in another part of Sydney for the wedding. I planned the suicide for the Sunday.
Image by Luminous Still Photography
My kids were at my parents and safe. I would have done everything I needed to for one of my best friends weddings and after that I had nothing planned and felt I had nothing to live for. To be clear, I was ecstatic and excited for my friend and I really looked forward to her wedding. Her wedding was something that had kept me going for a few weeks, as I didn’t want to let her down and stress her out before her big day.
I had nightmares, lived on edge and I was scared out of my mind almost all the time. I felt like I was failing my daughters and unable to keep them safe. I felt trapped, worthless and alone.
On the Friday, after dropping my kids off and causing a massive fight with my parents, I met someone randomly. I won’t go into all the details, but I liked him and he asked me out for coffee for the Sunday when I said I was back in Canberra to get my daughters, and I agreed.
We messaged a bit over the weekend and I decided I’d go to the coffee, see how it went and could kill myself the following week.
That was literally my thought pattern. I was set on the suicide, but it didn’t matter too much if it was this weekend or next.
Me at the wedding. I enjoyed myself, but the suicide thoughts were still there.
I went to the coffee and I had a great time. The guy was sweet and we had a lot in common. We discussed the potential of a relationship as we lived 3 hours apart, but I was trying to move back to Canberra, so we thought we’d see how it went.
He messaged me “Good morning beautiful” or something like that every single morning. It might sound silly, but those little messages and talking with him helped me through a very dark moment in my life. He doesn’t even know it. I never told him. Through conversations with him I was inspired to change my life direction, write and be involved in other things and I developed new passions.
I don’t know if I would have followed through with a suicide. I loved my daughters and they were my whole reason for living. I had suicidal thoughts a lot between October 2012 and March 2013 because of everything I was going through. But I always pushed the thoughts away and I spoke to my psychologist about them. My mother died when I was 15 and in those months I missed her terribly. It was my own pain of missing her that stopped me from killing myself. I didn’t want my daughters to experience the pain I did. I also didn’t want them being raised by their father.
But that weekend, I felt I had nothing and as much as I loved them, I felt I was the worst mother and they would be better off without me. If I didn’t have coffee set for Sunday, I would have killed myself that morning.
4.) Go out and socialise
As hard as it is when you hate yourself, try to go out and do things with other people. Join support groups, get active in your church, join a sporting team, anything. Something that will get you out doing things regularly with other people can help a lot.
BUT if you are introverted, instead of going in big groups, try and make time for yourself, but also try some one on one time with those close to you. Don’t force yourself into big groups if this causes anxiety.
Don’t over do it, but exercise helps activate parts of the brain and releases chemicals to make you feel good. Exercise improves your body which helps you feel better about yourself. I have found running and pole dancing to be my two favourite exercises. Running is great for stress relief and clearing my head, I know a few of my family members do this too. Pole dancing I found very empowering, it toned my body faster than any exercise I have ever done and the other women in the class were fun, supportive and having the class each week gave me something to do and to look forward to.
Regular meditation clears your mind, soothes you and as you get better at doing it, it is something you can do when you feel overwhelmed but can’t physically go anywhere or do anything else.
Meditation is not just sitting there thinking nothing. You can do guided meditations, listen to music, just sit in nature and appreciate the beauty.
When things were really bad I tried to cultivate and attitude of gratitude. I had a gratitude diary where I wrote daily one thing I was grateful for. I created gratitude lists about the horrible things that happened and the good that came from them.
8.) Take care of yourself
Personal grooming plays a large role in how we feel about ourselves. Get up, get showered, dressed, do your hair. keep your nails clean and give yourself a pedicure.
Take time for you and what you enjoy doing. Get a massage, spend an afternoon reading a good book, go swimming, whatever it is that you enjoy, take the time to do it. Also, don’t feel bad about needing time alone. Some people are extroverts, others are introverts, neither is right or wrong.
9.) Get involved
Volunteer and help others – it gives you a sense of purpose, can help you expand your support network and helping others makes you feel good. If you are an extrovert volunteering at events, drop in centres or op shops where you are around a lot of people is great. This year I am doing the CEO Sleepout. If you are an introvert charities still need help with administrative tasks, so you can feel good for helping without feeling overwhelmed by too many people around.
10.) Get some goals
Setting goals and having something to work towards can help distract you. I have my goals written up on my mirror, shower screens and a copy in my wallet as well as online. I have a vision board/motivation wall and a notebook I write my goals and affirmations in. All of these are visual reminders of what I am working towards. But don’t set the goals too high. Make sure they are achievable, start small and work your way up to bigger goals.
Create daily affirmations you repeat to yourself. Write them down and remind yourself of them regularly.
For example “I am a beautiful, smart, funny woman/man” or check out 100 suggestions here.
12.) Know who you are
It takes time to learn about yourself, know who you are and what you want. I did a couple of exercises to work out my values, personal mission statement and spent a lot of time reading self help books, applying what I learned and discussing these with my psychologist.
I strongly urge anyone with self-harm thoughts to reach out, get professional help and let those close to you whom you trust know. I relied heavily on my family during my hard times. I am blessed with a great family. I had my siblings come up and visit at different times and I know I can call on all my family any time I need. I feel very lucky because I know not everyone has the support of their family like I do.
There are organisations like Life Line 13 11 44, Beyond Blue or Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 for those who are younger that will listen, connect you with services and genuinely care.
If you know or suspect someone of being depressed or having these sort of thoughts reach out to them, let them know you care. They might not respond or might tell you they are fine, but still do it. Them knowing you care and are there for them helps even if they don’t show it.
What helps you when you are depressed?
You might also like:
12 tips for happiness
5 tips to help you balance your life
Linking up with Musings of the Misguided.