Author Note: This article is part of a collection from the previously lost Bordering Bears website, and has thus been re-uploaded and archived.
I spent a long time considering how to go about this post, but figured that honesty is the best way forward.
I am a recovering self harmer.
Like any addiction, breaking free of this habit was difficult, and there are still days that I worry that I will be pulled back into my old ways.
My self harm started at age 12 and, currently I am closing in on two years harm-free. With 16 years of addiction in between those times, and now 18 years since it began, this should give you an idea of how difficult it was to break.
I figured that, considering it’s mental health week, it may be useful if I share some things I find helpful when supporting a recovering self-harmer.
These are my opinions as opposed to medical advice.
I am aware that, to a lot of people, self harm is deemed to be attention seeking, crazy, or even childish.
For most addicts, it is none of those things. For me it was a means of coping with overwhelming negative emotion that I felt I could not get out any other way. It also became a form of punishment if I felt I had messed up.
If you impart judgement on the person, it may have several consequences. They may no longer feel like they can turn to you in a time of crisis. Ultimately, this may cause them to rely on self harming more as it will not judge them.
Do your research
It can be very difficult to see your loved one hurting themselves, so I feel it could be a good idea to research what they’re doing. Look into self harm, the causes, the reasons behind it. Get yourself clued up. This way you will be better equipped to support them and also able to look at the behaviour from a clinical point of view.
Get your own support
Supporting someone who self harms can be a very heavy burden. Ensure that you have your own support network and can gain help if you need it. Likewise, you may need to back off from time to time for your own well-being. You cannot help someone if you are drowning yourself.
Make the tough call
Sometimes, the person may beg you to not call a doctor out. I’ve been there, wanting to continue with my destruction. I didn’t want to be stopped.
On many occasions I was. Sometimes by a friend or family member, but other times by a paramedic or police officer. At the time I felt betrayed, but looking back on it I am very grateful.
You may also need to make a tough call for your loved one, and I implore you to do it. If you feel they are truly unsafe, or in crisis and need support, then I believe you should trust your gut instinct.
Maintain hygiene as well as positivity
Throughout my years of self harming, I learned how to maintain hygiene and first aid on myself. If you want to be there to support a person in need, this may involve supporting them after a self-harm relapse too.
It is important not to dwell on the relapse, other than to help them figure out the triggering event and ways to work through it.
Instead, ensure they are clean and don’t require medical attention.
By not focusing on the negative behaviour, they may feel more able to continue on their path of recovery.
As I said before, please remember that these are my opinions on what I found helpful during my recovery journey.
For any medical advice, please speak to a professional.
If you have any suggestions on things that may help someone in recovery, please leave them in the comment section below.
If you, or someone you care about, is in crisis, please remember to check the HELP page for a list of professional contacts.