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During my mental health journey, I have experienced the harmful effects of stigma with regard to learning disabilities and mental illness. In school, students bullied me for being the last person to finish tests. Therefore, I thought I was stupid. The stigma placed upon me by my classmates led me to shame (or stigmatize) myself. Thankfully, I have gained many strategies to stop self-stigma from controlling my life. Here are five techniques I use to stop self-stigma.
"Wow, you look so pretty in that dress." -- Compliments like these are hard to accept when you have anxiety. 
Around this time last year, I decided to cancel my gym membership and practice yoga at home to support my binge eating disorder (BED) recovery. I wanted to try a new way of exercising that would help me lean into my recovery. I'd been experiencing a deep shift of motivation in my recovery, and I was encouraged by my counselor and my partner to try something new. I had a feeling I'd outgrown my gym routine, and I wanted to experience a new way to interact with my body. 
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that I’m someone who can become overwhelmed fairly easily. Sometimes, I think it developed in my adulthood, but maybe it’s just something I never noticed or had the words to identify as a child. Whatever the case, being overwhelmed negatively impacts my mental health, and I want to talk about it to address the stigma around it.
The phrase "clean eating" is often used in wellness circles to denote a preference for natural, organic foods over artificial, processed ingredients. At face value, this is undeniably beneficial. After all, the human body requires essential nutrients to function, many of which come from vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods. It's important to be mindful of this. However, I feel using the word "clean" to talk about eating habits is problematic. In extreme cases, I worry it could even influence eating disorder behaviors. In my humble opinion, clean eating is not healthy—it's a harmful trend with potentially serious consequences.
For those who know me best, I have a strong desire to take responsibility for many things. From making sure everything with a friendly gathering goes exactly as I planned to the time the kids need picking up from their activities. My spouse is no stranger to my anxiety-driven internal scheduler, whom he refers to as my need to control everything. As a victim of verbal abuse, has my anxiety turned into attempts to control everything?
While drinking has been a part of the majority of my life, so have anxiety and depression. I went from sneaking alcohol on the weekends to week-long binge drinking benders. It was a cycle that progressively got worse, and the more I drank, the worse I felt. I would have pity parties and drown in my sorrows and regrets without realizing how damaging this cycle had become. Eventually, the crippling anxiety and symptoms of depression felt so unbearable that I was desperate to try something new. When I decided to start working on healing myself through journaling, therapy, meditation, reading self-help books, etc., I began feeling so grateful for my path and my life. I want to share this to help others in addiction recovery shift their perspective from self-hatred and sadness to gratitude and abundance. 
Until a year ago, I did not equate May with Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM). Flowers, sunshine, summer break, and my birthday most definitely, but not mental health. My battle with depression completely opened my eyes to mental illness and mental health as a whole, and I can confidently say that one month, even one year, dedicated to the topic does not do it justice. But to be fair, it is a hopeful and actionable start.
I’ve been feeling hopeless a lot lately. I have arthritis in my knees, and my schizoaffective disorder is making me feel hopeless about it.
Weddings can be stressful under the best of circumstances. How do you cope when you don't know what to do about self-harm scars on your wedding day?

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Kim Berkley
Hi,

To begin with, I have to emphasize that I am not a doctor of any kind, and am not licensed to do any official dream analysis. However, personally, from what you've said, I would guess your dreams are connected to that "trapped" feeling you've been coping with and a (very natural) desire to be relieved of that feeling. Since you felt better after hurting yourself in your dream, it seems like you associate self-harm with relief, even though you've never hurt yourself.

It's good to recognize this early—it gives you a chance to change that narrative without falling into hurting yourself for real. I would definitely suggest trying some things now, rather than later, to find some healthy ways to cope with your negative feelings that will help you feel better. One thing I've done in the past when I felt trapped in a situation was to sit down and write out every single possible solution, even the ones that seemed farfetched, as long as they were even a little possible. Just seeing that list helped a lot more than I expected. And sometimes the creativity involved helped me see options I didn't recognize before, and sometimes these were the options I chose in the end.

Journaling in general can be helpful too, as well as any kind of creative outlet you might enjoy. Self-care, too—taking good care of your body can improve your mental state more than you might expect. It can also help alleviate sleep disturbances, including nightmares.

If you're struggling with your dreams, or if you start to feel like you're struggling with self-harm urges—or honestly, if you're just struggling in general—consider asking for help. Commenting here is a great first step, but is there someone you can reach out to and talk with? A therapist or counselor might be a good idea, but if not, see if you can think of a close friend or family member who could help you through this. It's not selfish or weak to ask for help; if anything, it's brave. And it can help so much, both now and in the long run.

I hope that helps. If you have further questions, comments, concerns, etc. feel free to reply here or elsewhere on the blog. I'll reply as soon as I'm able.


Sincerely,
Kim

PS: I appreciate the Stranger Things reference in your name. :)
Kim Berkley
Hi Alice,

I'm so glad that you've begun to heal and that your parents at least know of your situation, if not all the details yet. Even so, I can imagine it's difficult to broach a topic like this—I came out about it to my parents when I started writing for this blog, and it was so hard to start talking, even when I knew they would be understanding about it all (and it was all many years behind me at that point).

I think the best place to start is an honest place. Maybe start by bringing up swim camp generally, and then explain to them what you're worried about and why. I am hopeful that if they know already about your self-harm, that they will understand why you're concerned. You may not need to show them your scars at all, unless they ask.

Also, if you need any ideas for cover-up options beyond long swimwear, here are some posts that might help:

https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2022/3/hiding-self-harm-scars-in-swimsuit-season
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2021/9/self-harm-scars-in-the-summer

I hope that helps. Feel free to reply here or elsewhere on the blog if you have any more questions, comments, or concerns. I wish you the best of luck with your recovery, and with swim camp!

Sincerely,
Kim
Kim Berkley
Hi Trin,

I believe this, too. Some people may struggle to understand self-harm if they've never had personal experience with it. But even if they don't understand, part of friendship is being willing to TRY to understand, and to accept, and most of all, to do what you can to help your friends heal when they need to. :)

-Kim
Kim Berkley
Hi,

I apologize for not replying sooner, but in case it's not too late, I wanted you to know: the dark things your mind believes in when you're feeling low aren't necessarily true. Recovery IS possible; it's true for others, and it's true for you. It takes time, and patience, and effort, but it's possible. I have no way of knowing if your death is imminent, but I certainly hope it is not.

And as for your last statement—it's definitely not true. It's likely there is at least one person in your life, probably more, who do care, even if they're bad at showing it. Even if you're unaware of it. But even if that is somehow not the case—and I'd be really surprised if it was—it's still not true. Because I care. And I hope you find the support you need.

Here are a few pages that might help:

https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources
https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/self-injury/self-injury-homepage

And if you have any specific questions, concerns, etc. you'd like to share, I'll be reading. I can't always reply right away, but I will as soon as I can.


Take care,
Kim
Kim Berkley
Hi,

I hope things turned out all right; I'm sorry I wasn't able to reply sooner. Please take good care of your wounds; keep them clean and avoid disturbing them more than necessary to keep them from getting infected and minimize the chances of scarring. Would it be possible to talk to your mom about what you're going through? If not, I hope there is someone else you can reach out to, whether a friend or family member and/or (ideally) a medical professional, to help you through this.

Here's a list of resources, including some hotlines you can call, in case it helps:

https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources

If you have any further questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to share them here or elsewhere on the blog. I hope this helps, even a little.


Sincerely,
Kim