I feel like there is this subculture out there- the misinformed about mental illness maybe? That the only people who engage in self-injurious behavior especially cutting/scratching is teenagers looking for attention.
I can only speak for myself here, because I am not a therapist (obviously), but I can only speak from my experiences. I scratched as a teen. I did it for the same reasons I do today.
- To punish myself when I do something “bad” (usually brought on by an OCD trigger)
- To get a physical release of whatever chemical in my brain that creates calming. While I am harming myself, I am frantic, I am irritable, I am unhappy, crying, panicked, it is not a pretty sight. But once I am done a calmness comes over me. The pain brings me peace, and almost pleasure.
- To hurt myself because I am angry at myself for something. It may seem like the same as number 1 but it isn’t, it’s more about I binged and I am pissed, or I cried in front of someone- showing weakness.
- When I am mad at someone else. I am not good at expressing my feelings when someone hurts me. I am not able to tell them that I am mad at them.
- When I am frustrated and just can’t take another thing- like yesterday after the incident with big one clocking his friend, the exposure therapy, the hard therapy session, on top of everything else going on this week.
So as you can see it has nothing to do with attention. In fact I almost always wear long sleeves after I have hurt myself so that people don’t see it. I am ashamed for people to see, especially people I respect, and my children. When I do wear short sleeves, I wear a sweater over it.
My self harm is not for anyone but me. I share it here, but there are probably 2 maybe 3 people reading this blog that know who I am and since we are as close as we are in real life (hi hubby) there’s really no hiding it from them.
My husband gets very angry when I self harm. I naively thought that him telling me to stop would get me to stop. And the more reading I do about self harm, ordering someone to stop won’t stop them. The change, and the desire to stop has to come from the person doing the harming. And I am not ready, willing or able to stop at this point. It gives me something that no medication can do, that no talk therapy has done.
I don’t want to always hurt myself, I would like to have better coping skills someday. Someday I would like to remember it as something I did in the past and not something I still have the urge to do. But I don’t know when that will happen.
I thought this article was especially good at covering the topic of self-harm in adults. https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/self-injury/self-harm-in-adults-self-injury-not-limited-to-teens
I self harmed today in the shower. There was no particular “trigger” except maybe that I had to clean the bathroom and the cat boxes in preparation for the fact that we are going to be having company here this weekend. So not only was I triggered for OCD by the cleaning of dirty things, but I am anxious about the play and about the company coming this weekend. What I did to self harm was to take my Arabic Coffee Bath Scrub and scrub it all over my arms where I had scratched yesterday with the keys. It hurt like heck, but I did it anyway. And as much as it hurt I loved it.
Anyway- I just wanted to remind everyone that self-harm isn’t just for teenagers, and it’s not just for attention.