By Aurora Glory
My first memory of self-harm was at the age of 9. I didn’t even know that was what I was doing. I just believed in punishing myself. I believed self-punishment would improve my life. If I hurt myself enough then good things would come. Of course, it didn’t work like that, but by the time I realized, I had developed a habit.
As I hit my teens, the self-harm became more frequent. Daily. And I was discovering more ways in which to do it: Biting, vomiting, scratching, punching, cutting, burning. When my emotions were too much to handle, I self-harmed. The feeling of release was addictive. The calm that self-harm brought after the mighty storm was indescribable.
By my late teens, I had settled on my favourite method. My right thigh was a criss cross of razor cuts and scars. It was my comfort. My secret. My safety net to turn to in times of desperation. And turn to it I did.
In the beginning of my first long term relationship at 21, it was impossible to keep the cuts hidden. For the first time, I saw how my behaviour effected someone else; someone I loved and who loved me. Part of me felt guilt for doing something that upset him. Part of me felt anger that he was trying to take my safety blanket away from me. How dare he comment on them? They were mine. They weren’t for him to question.
Regardless, I tried. I really did try to stop. But I wasn’t doing it for me. I was doing it for him. So, when the relationship broke down 2 years later, the cuts returned.
I don’t know when the turning point came. I don’t know if it was the shame of the marks on my body. Or the fact my son was starting to realize they weren’t being caused by a cat. Or maybe it was the realization that they were getting deeper and my habit was getting more dangerous. But somehow, somewhen, I realized I really did want to stop.
The willpower alone was enough to improve things. But still, every month or so, I turned to the razor. I never reached a point where I felt comfortable throwing away the blades. I needed them… Just in case.
I had 2 years of Dialetical Behavioural Therapy, during which I continued to self-harm. But I took my new-found knowledge with me and months afterwards I started to use mindfulness. I remember the first time it worked. I had a highly emotional phone call with my mum. Usually a guarantee of self-harm. But instead of rushing to my hidden stash of blades I was mindful. I chose an item to focus on. It was a shoe. And I sat and stared and thought about its colours and counted the lace holes and followed the pattern of the sole with my eyes. Until I had calmed down, I thought of nothing but the shoe. After 5 minutes, I knew I could still cut. But I chose not to.
That was over 2 years ago now. And with willpower and self-awareness, I haven’t cut since. Do I still think about it? Of course. Every time I get emotionally distressed I consider it but I decide not to do it. The scars on my leg are barely visible. And I have a sense of pride and control that I never had in the past.
In my experience, it really does take a genuine want to stop. And I don’t judge anyone that doesn’t truly want to, because I didn’t want to either for a long time. I understand how addictive it is.
If you truly do want to stop then you need willpower and self-awareness. It wasn’t until I understood my triggers and questioned my reactions that I was able to break the habit. Everyone is different. I know that when I’m distressed, people make it worse. I know that if I’m getting wound up, I should walk away from whatever is causing it. And the hardest thing I’ve had to learn is acceptance. Accepting when things aren’t fair. Accepting when people are unnecessarily cruel.
I also had a goal. When I hit one year self-harm free, I would get a tattoo to hide my scars. A phoenix. Two years on and I haven’t got it yet. But I will. And the determination that goal gave me was a huge factor in my success.
Self-care is a huge part of self-harm recovery. Whilst I would once cut, I now treat myself with love and care. I have a bubble bath, a nap, my favourite meal. Whatever works for you, do it. Do things that make you happy and calm. Because, the truly sad part of it is, that people that self-harm usually have the biggest hearts. They feel shame and guilt so strongly they feel the need to punish themselves. When what they really deserve is to treat and care for themselves.
Accept that you do feel things more strongly than others. And that’s okay. It only means you need to care for yourself more. It just means you have to work that little bit harder to recover from upset. But it also means that you are stronger. You feel pain they can’t imagine. So, when you don’t feel your strong enough to resist self-harm, remind yourself that you are. You really, truly, are.
And lastly, forgive. Forgive yourself for making mistakes. Forgive yourself for relapsing. Forgive yourself for that awful thing you did or said 10 years ago. You’re human. And every single one of us makes mistakes. We are not perfect. And that is totally, completely okay.
Aurora Glory is a passionate sex and relationship blogger. She is on a mission to bring champagne, strawberries and orgasms to as many relationships as possible. With a website full of free guides, personalised advice and top tips your relationship can go from imperfect, to imperfectly perfect! www.auroraglory.co.uk.