It's not easy to talk about self-injury; especially if you're the self-injurer. Here are some suggestions.
To stop your self-injurious behavior, you have to first realize that you have a problem, and then you have to communicate with others. Relationships, in any form, are extremely important. They are your structure, your foundation. You can get support from them which can help you overcome self-injury. I know it seems difficult to disclose your self-injury to others, but perhaps these tips on how to talk to someone about self-injury will make the process a little easier.
Talking to Someone About Self-Injury
Telling someone you self-injure is not a spur of the moment conversation. It takes careful planning and consideration BEFORE talking to a friend or family member about your self-harm behaviors.
- Locations, Location, Location!
When talking to someone about your self-injury, make sure that you are in a comfortable, safe place. Plan for it. Set aside a lot of time, and make sure the person you're going to be disclosing to has plenty of time to talk as well. It is important that the conversation is not rushed or interrupted by other people. If this means leaving your house and going somewhere more private, do so, but make sure it is a place that you both will feel comfortable talking.
- Express yourself!
Make sure the person that you are talking to understands that you are disclosing this information to them because you trust, love, and want to share every aspect of yourself with them. Also, make it clear from the beginning that you are not looking for pity or using your self-injurious behavior as a manipulative tool. Letting someone know how you feel from the beginning will set a good foundation for your discussion.
- Compassion counts!
Hearing that someone you care about is suffering from self injury can be a shock to many people, especially if they don't understand what self injury is. You need to be understanding of their feelings. They may feel inadequate because they somehow allowed you to do this to yourself.
- Think before you speak!
The way you choose to broach this issue will play a large role in the way the person you are talking to reacts. If you try to use your self-injury as a weapon against them in an argument, you will probably receive a bad reaction - not the sympathetic, understanding reaction that you want.
- Everything in moderation!
If you have been seeing a therapist or counselor about your SI, you might want them to sit in on your discussion. They already understand your behavior and may be able to explain it in a way the other person can understand. If they act as a moderator or intermediary, they may fend off possibly miscommunications or misunderstandings.
- Be prepared!
You've almost certainly dealt with the prejudices people have concerning SI. Many of these prejudices revolve around myths concerning what SI is. Before you begin discussing your self-injurious behavior with this person, gather as much information on it as you can, and be prepared to dispel their preconceived notions about self-injury. Printing up websites or getting pamphlets on the subject can be helpful reading material for the person you are going to talk to.
- Be open!
You wanted them to be understanding and accepting, but they also may need you to be willing to talk more about the self-injury than you had originally intended. Be prepared to answer their questions, even if the questions seem harsh and judgmental. They may ask if you want therapy, what they can do to help you, or why you self injure to begin with. Thinking about these questions, coming up with your own, and answering them before you sit down to talk can help get all your bases covered. Also, be open to their reactions, and let them know that it's okay to discuss their feelings as well as yours during the conversation.
- Less is more!
It's best to let them come to terms with your self-harm through a basic conversation. Don't shock them with the morbid details of emergency room trips or blood getting everywhere. If they are curious about the ways you self injure, try telling them in simple statements. For example, "I make cuts on my arms and legs," "I hit things with my fists," or "I burn myself."
Feel the people out as you go. Disclose, but make sure to keep your wits about you. Do what you think is right. Discuss what you think they can handle.
About the author: Vanessa, is a self-injurer and started the self-injury website, "Blood Red."