Written by Christie, guest on the February 10, 2010 show on self-injury.
I began self-injuring at age 13, after I felt like I wasn’t understood by anyone and fell into a deep depression. Fights with my parents, having a hard time with school, and general anxiety prompted me to self-injure for the first time, because I felt like it calmed my nerves and alleviated my anger almost instantly. From there, I began using self-injury to respond to almost every emotional situation – be it sad, angry, disappointed, depressed, or general thoughts of self-loathing and body image. I felt like it numbed all of my emotional reactions and I began to depend on it.
I have been diagnosed by mental health professionals with Dysthymic Disorder (chronic depression), Social Anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, Self-Injury (non-suicidal) and EDNOS (Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified). I was not formally given a psychiatric evaluation until 4 years ago. (read: Common Characteristics of the Self-Injurer)
The Effects of Self-Injury
Self-injury has impacted my life in many ways. Due to self-injuring so often during my formative teen years, I never fully learned how to deal with my emotions in a healthy way, and because of that it stunted my personal growth and understanding of my own feelings, and it also affected the way I created personal relationships, because instead of dealing with the outside world I shoved it all back with self-injury and covered up anything remotely uncomfortable. I think this directly contributed to my social anxiety issues and made my underlying depression worse.
My family members and friends have had mixed reactions to my self-injury. I did not reveal my self-injury behaviors to my parents until I was 17, although they may have had their suspicions. Their reaction was guilt, thinking they could have caused it in some way. Generally, my parents do not talk about self-injury, and like to push it under the rug because if it’s not talked about or recognized, it seems like it doesn’t exist. However, they are accepting of my behaviors. My extended family only have very vague limited knowledge of self-injury and my history. My friends all are aware of it, some of them engage in self-injury behaviors as well, and the ones who don’t have known me for 10+ years and are accepting. However, acquaintances are very judgmental so, generally, no one talks about it and I hide it at social events and in public.
I have been able to drastically reduce my urges to self-injure over the past 3-4 years by learning to talk and write about my feelings. In this way, I have become more in touch with the way things make me FEEL, and it is the first time in my life I have allowed myself to experience real emotions, and even cry and let myself be upset.
YouTube has been a huge outlet for me, allowing me to talk to people who understand where I am coming from instead of heading straight for a razor every time I am upset. I am also passionate about writing, so when I get urges to self-injure, I write anything from self-injury urge logs, to blogs, journal entries, songs, poetry or work on one of my novels-in-progress.
I feel that being open to your emotions and getting to the real reasons behind your triggers is the ONLY way to deal with the urges and reduce/stop them. I do not condone or approve of cover up or replacement behaviors such as snapping a rubber band on your wrist or holding ice to your arms, etc.