We can’t be there in person to help and support you in a moment of crisis, but there are other options available to you if you can’t turn to someone you trust. By giving us your postcode (or one nearby to where you are right now) we can let you know about services in your area. Remember: this moment will pass; you won’t always feel the way you do right now.
If in doubt always call 999.
You can also sign up to Alumina, our online support for mental health and wellbeing here:
Last week at drop in was ‘relaxation week’. What’s drop in and why was it relaxation week we hear you ask? Well, drop in is basically what we call our after school club for young people. Every week night from 3.30pm until 6pm, young people from Schools all across Luton come and hangout here at the Youthscape building as soon as the bell rings for their final class. When they arrive, they usually head straight for the PlayStations, the pool table or to buy themselves a milkshake or a toast (!) but that’s not all there is to do.
Every week, we have a different theme a drop in. The idea of each theme is to offer advice and to encourage young people to reflect on what that theme means to them and their life. To do this, we often set up activities and games based around that theme. For relaxation week, we were specifically looking at:
One of the activities we invited our young people to take part in order to explore what the word ‘relaxation’ actually meant, was collaging. If you search in a thesaurus, you’ll find that there are lots of words and phrases that mean ‘to relax’. ‘Unwind’, ‘loosen up’, ‘calm’, ‘sit back’ and ‘feel at home’ are just some examples. Can you think of anymore?
Using these words and phrases, we asked young people to pick the one that resonated with them the most, and to create an image or collage that visually represented how they interpreted it. Here’s how they got on…
👆 Some chose to create images that related to their lives specifically, by drawing their house or showing how they relax by sleeping.
👆Others made images that were very literal of the phrase they were trying to represent.
👆And some were a lot more abstract and emotive.
Whatever 'relaxation' means to you, make sure your taking time to look after yourself. This week, it's half term here across the Schools in Luton. We really hope our young people found this relaxation activity helpful as they prepared to take a break from their studies. If you wanted to try this activity at home, all you need is some bits of coloured and patterned card, some glue and some scissors. What does relaxation mean to you? 😊
I don’t know about you, but having patience is something I really struggle with. A quick Google definition search brings up that the word ‘Patience’ means ‘the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious’ and the example given is "You can find bargains if you have the patience to sift through the rubbish."
You know that saying ‘all good things come to those who wait’? Well that’s all well and good, but how do I know how long I should wait?
Life can sometimes feel like a bit of a waiting game. When we’re young and at school, we wait for the Christmas holidays and then the summer holidays, and as we get older we wait for the end of school, the end of college and then the end of university. Once we start work, we wait for the pay rises, promotions and job changes; and in our personal lives we wait to buy our first car, our first flat, to meet someone, and to hopefully buy our forever home.
But not all of these things are a given and that’s where my struggle to have patience comes in. If I don’t know something is guaranteed to happen - what if I end up wasting my life waiting for it?
When you suffer from anxiety, having patience can seem impossible. My anxiety is often caused by my constant catastrophizing and endless ‘what if…?’ questions that I allow to spin around and round in my mind… “what if I never get a promotion?”, “what if I never move out of my mum’s house?” and “what if I never meet anyone?”. These are completely irrational thoughts as they aren’t based on any fact!
But irrational thoughts often cause us to act irrationally. So, instead of having patience, I regularly lose my temper and blame the people I love for the fact that I’m not where I want to be in life. Whilst behaving this way always feels good at the time, in the long run it actually makes me feel bad about myself and brings me no closer to answering those “what if…” questions.
Perhaps the key to finding patience and knowing how long to wait is to simply change the question. Instead of worrying ‘what if I never get a promotion?’, I should change the question to become ‘what if I don’t get a promotion in the next five years?’. By putting a realistic time frame on it, this not only helps me to feel positive about it potentially happening, but it also helps me to feel in control of how long I should wait, which then in turn, encourages me to be patient.
Think you could give it a go? Maybe this will help…
Let’s turn that example from Google into something a bit more relatable:
Here at SelfharmUK we want to help people understand their harming behaviour and explore other ways to cope with life's challenges.
If you get in touch we'll listen to your story and suggest ways to help you move forward ... but somewhere along the line we'll almost always suggest you visit your GP. This can be a really tough thing to do, we know it can be scary, and can mean having to tell your parents too (though not always) but we believe it can be a significant step towards feeling better.
We asked GP David Roberts what you can expect when talking to your doctor about self-harm and whilst this article is only a guide - and not a definitive set of facts - we hope it will help you feel more in control, if and when, you walk into that consulting room...
Why do I have to go to the Doctor?
Self-harming is usually an indication that all is not right. People sometimes do it because it relieves internal tension and stress. It is not a very good way of doing this and like drugs, alcohol and smoking ultimately doesn't do any good. But in the short term it gives a temporary relief from emotional pain. However, it can be a symptom of a more serious mental illness and so your doctor can make sure you get the help you need.
Can I go on my own or do I have to take a parent?
You can legally go to the GP alone aged 16, but doctors can accept that you may be able to make your own decisions about your health (eg contraception) from 14 if they think you understand things and are mature enough to do so. A doctor would want you to involve your parent(s) in your care until you are 16 and are likely to encourage you. They would not give you an injection or carry out an operation, or even do an intimate (embarrassing) examination (physical check) without your parent's permission before you are 16.
How can I get ready for my appointment?
Even if you are under 16 That does not mean that you cannot talk to them about your problems or issues. It is a good idea to think about what you want to say and write the main points down. Lots of people get embarrassed at what they want to say and so don't get to the point. Doctors are busy and don't get embarrassed by what you think or say, so it is better to take a deep breath and say it right at the beginning rather than put it off. They won't mind and it will give them more time to talk to you than if you spend the first five minutes talking about a rash that no one can see because it really isn't there! Think about what you want to get out of the appointment - do you just want to tell someone and get it off your chest, do you want help stopping it, do you want them to refer you on to someone who could give you specialist help? If you tell them what you want then they can work out how best to support you.
What will happen if I say I self harm?
Self harming is quite common and they will have seen other people who do it. So they won't be shocked, but they will be concerned. The biggest concern they would have is that you might want to kill yourself. Not many people who self harm want to do this but doctors have a professional duty to assess the risk of that happening. they are obliged to keep what you say confidential and private between you and them, unless you tell them something that they think might indicate that your health is seriously at risk (or you might be planning to do something that might endanger someone else) - see later - in which case they may be obliged to break your confidence. They should tell you this. They will want to help you, and so if you have plucked up courage to tell them, they will try to find ways to do that.
What will they ask me?
This might include asking some deep questions which you might find embarrassing: don't be though, they're only trying to work out what's making you do this. They'll ask about cutting, taking drugs, overdoses, and other ways you might be tempted to hurt yourself. They may ask you about how you feel (low, depressed, crying, worried, frightened, angry) and how things are at home or school or work. If they feel you trust them they might ask you to come back again to see them, and they might suggest that they refer you on to see a specialist from the CAMH service (people who work most of their time with young people with similar problems). They might encourage you to speak to a counsellor at school, particularly if there is someone there you feel you can talk to. They will want to know why you have come to see them at that time and to find out what help you want them to give you. You may not be able to say this, but if you've thought about it beforehand it will help.
Do they have to tell my parents?
They are obliged in law to protect you and others from actions you might take that might harm you or others. But they need to check how likely your might be to do something you say you want to do so they will question you quite hard. If you are under 16 and they think you are suicidal (or planning a murder!) they will have to tell your parents or other authorities. They will still encourage you to involve your parents as they have legal responsibility for you, but if the risk is low in their view, they will try their best to keep what you say confidential.
Will I have to show them where I have self-harmed?
They can't and won't force you (unless they are seriously worried about you being in danger and even then they will ask for advice from someone who specialises in child protection). They will want to assess how bad your injuries are - you might need antibiotics if your cuts are infected, and you might need dressings to protect the wounds.
Remember they aren't easily shocked or embarrassed and really want to help you - showing them the extent of your cutting will help them work out how serious the problem is and how to get you the best help.
Occasionally, but not always, you might need to decide if you need immediate medical help.
It could be that either accidentally, or deliberately, you have harmed yourself and now, you feel scared about the impact of it on your body.
It maybe that you need to dial 999 immediately: is your cut very deep and bleeding near an artery? Is your burn severe? Have you swallowed something? Get someone to call 999 or call it yourself. No one will be cross with you for taking up NHS time; it could save you.
If not 999 then:
Firstly – breathe. Slowly. Get control of your body by getting oxygen to your brain – I know it sounds stupid, but it’s harder to make rational decisions and deal with an emergency if you are in panic mode.
Secondly – if you are bleeding – press down on it firmly. Hold it there. If you need to, tie something above the injured area to stem the bleeping. If it’s a burn – run it under cold water for at least 20 mins, then wrap it in cling film.
Thirdly – if, after 20 mins, you are still bleeding/feel a burning sensation – get to the hospital.
If you are hesitant about what to say write down, or get someone to write down the following for you, so you don’t have to repeat yourself: your full name/school/address/GP/what you have done/how long ago/what you used, drank, swallowed, how long you have been self-harming. Doing this will help you loads and give medics the information they need immediately to know how to treat you.
If you do get taken to hospital, you may feel unwell on the way. Having someone with you will help you.
The article below was written by Mike Jones, a fighter against mental illness stigma. By creating www.schizlife.com, he hopes to shed some light on the symptoms of schizophrenia, how to help someone dealing with it, as well as the stereotypes surrounding this disorder.
A diagnosis of a mental health problem can feel like a ton of bricks has just come pounding down around you. Things might feel overwhelming, almost as if the world is spinning out of control. You might be wondering if things will ever get better. Don't worry, all of this is completely normal. The most important thing to remember is that you really are in control of your life.
1. You are not the only one and your mental health problem does not define you
When you look around, it might seem as if you're the only person dealing with something this difficult. You couldn't be more mistaken. One out of every ten children faces a similar battle. Demi Lovato, Angelina Jolie, Russel Brand, and Kristin Bell have all struggled with mental health issues. It's simply more common than you think. Just because you don't hear your friends talking about it doesn't mean they aren't grappling with their own mental health difficulties.
You're a complex person with unique talents, likes, dislikes, and tastes. Maybe you're creative, a great friend, or an amazing artist. Do you despise tomatoes, love pasta, and adore dogs? Whoever you are, you already were, before learning of your mental health diagnosis. Your gifts and talents are still there. And whatever you love to hate, is too! Your mental illness is just as much a part of you as your gifts, talents, and pet peeves. All of these things together create the amazing person you are, but no single one defines you. Your mental illness is not who you are.
2. Knowing your diagnosis gives you power
A mental health diagnosis names the thoughts and behaviors that have been getting in the way of your goals and dreams. Now you have the opportunity to take control of your life. Knowledge is power. With your diagnosis, you have access to important information and resources that will allow you to determine how to face the obstacles created by your mental health.
You're in the driver's seat now. You get to choose how to address this challenge. On the Be Vocal website, Demi Lovato describes her feelings and the actions she took after finding out about her mental illness. "Getting a diagnosis was kind of a relief. It helped me start to make sense of the harmful things I was doing to cope with what I was experiencing. Now I had no choice but to move forward and learn how to live with it, so I worked with my health care professional and tried different treatment plans until I found what works for me." That worked out pretty well for her!
3. What other people think is not your problem
Having a strong social support network is extremely important when it comes to managing your mental health problem. Don't allow the stigma associated with mental health to convince you to accept a sense of shame and stop reaching out to people. Take responsibility for your own sense of safety. You decide who to talk to, how much to disclose, and under what circumstances.
A random individual's inability to behave rationally says nothing about you and a great deal about them. Understand that your judgement in these matters will never be perfect. That's part of the learning process. Over time it will become easier and you'll get better at learning who to trust, how much to disclose, and under what circumstances you feel comfortable discussing things that make you vulnerable. But never stop building your tribe.
4. You still get to decide who you want to be
Part of growing up, even for teens without mental health struggles, is figuring out how to exist as a unique individual in this world. What kind of person do you want to be? What footprint do you want to leave? Do you want to be someone who lives in fear? Or do you want to rise to the challenge of honoring the entirety of who you are? Do you have the courage to refuse to allow others to treat you in ways lacking in courtesy and respect? Do you know how to set limits while still remaining faithful to your own values?
Dealing with a diagnosis of mental illness forces you to consciously address these questions now instead of later. This gives you an opportunity to walk consciously and with grace into adulthood. Your diagnosis has given you the chance to begin asking and answering the questions that give a life meaning. Find your answers and then systematically implement them in the way you structure your days.
You always have choices. Always. Mental illness does not take away your power. Don't let anyone tell you that it does. You are strong enough to manage this. Ask questions, reach out, make decisions, and shape your own life. How are you going to face this? What's your plan of action? What steps are you going to take to soften the sharp and painful edges of the symptoms of your mental illness so that you stay on top of its ups and downs? No one is saying that this will be easy. But it absolutely can be done.
We have heard it from parents, teachers and librarians countless times in our lives and, sadly, often negatively, in a ‘don’t make any noise’ sense!
How about ‘quiet’ in a positive way? ‘quiet’ said in a soothing, gentle way encourages us to relax, breathe and slow down.
Silence and quiet are things that are hard to achieve – maybe we don’t enjoy our own company; maybe we like to keep busy and have background noise constantly; maybe silence isn’t something we are comfortable with?
If silence isn’t something you feel comfortable with it, try it in small amounts to begin with. Thursday 14th September is National Quiet Day, a day all about encouraging you to find a place that feels safe and comfortable where you can relax (or maybe even fall asleep, as that’s what tends to happen when we find places that are quiet!).
Finding quiet in our noisy, crammed lives is hard. It is a discipline we have to learn to take time to listen to what our feelings are saying, what our thoughts are wanting us to ponder and what our body is trying to tell us about how we are doing physically.
You might find sitting with your own thoughts uncomfortable; perhaps all your thoughts and feelings come flooding into your head? That’s ok – write them down, tackle them one by one and give yourself time to think through each feeling that comes into your thoughts. Acknowledge it. Name the feeling. Validate it in the way you would let a friend know you understand them – give yourself permission to feel.
Perhaps finding your quiet place will allow you to draw or sing your thoughts? Hey, no one needs to see or hear you (that’s the joy of a quiet place!), so if you want to sing, shout, cry or laugh – do!
Perhaps reading will allow you some time to read for pleasure? Read slowly enjoying each paragraph. Find a book you loved as a child and go back to it.
Perhaps learning to breathe slower, deeper so your lungs are filled like a balloon might help you relax your muscles, your brain and anxieties?
Quiet offers us the ability to listen to ourselves. Giving yourself the gift of quiet allows you to give you what you give to some many others: your concentration, your love and your thoughts.
This year, why not use National Quiet Day to find some quiet to be with yourself?
If you already have your very own quiet place - we’d love to see it! This could be anything from that bench that you always find peaceful on your daily dog walk, that patch of grass on top of that hill with the best view near your house, your sofa at home or even that place you always like to sit at your favourite cafe. Send your images to email@example.com and we’ll post the best ones on our Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter on the day in the hope of inspiring others to find their own quiet places.
You can also follow the hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. #NationalQuietDay
September brings new challenges for many of us – a new term isn’t just back at school or college, it’s all the changes it brings. New classes, new teachers, different people in our classes, a change in timetable, pressured teachers pressuring us to do well, and the hope that this year we will ‘do better’.
What if you don’t need to ‘do better’? what if actually just ‘doing enough’ is good enough this year for you? Pressure to achieve and fear of failure is a big reason why so many of us struggle with our mental health – we are scared that we won’t make the grades, fit in with the right people, that others are better than us, we want to make our family proud and then, sadly, we take it out on ourselves if we think we aren’t ‘doing better’ this year.
So, let’s turn it around this academic year – what if you teach yourself to hear this statement every time you are told about how hard you are going to have to work this academic year: ‘ just do enough, by your own standards’ (this isn’t in any way your ticket to ‘don’t care and just fly by the seat of your pants’!), it’s an instruction to learn something new this year:
Be gentle with yourself. There is only one you.
Good enough might not get you the grades you want but it might just keep you well enough to be able to cope with how you are feeling.
Good enough might just relieve the deep pressure that keeps you awake at night.
Good enough might allow you time to flourish outside of academic pressure and develop new skills on things you are passionate about.
Good enough means that it doesn’t matter how many times you have to ‘start again’, each time is good enough because each day, you are doing good enough.
You are more than ‘good enough’, you really are - whether you believe it not.
As we all start again, have hope that this year, however many times you need to start again in your journey coping with self-harm; it is good enough.
Rebekah Wilson is an Olympic athlete: a physically strong, able bodied woman who is amongst the elite to be able to compete for her country. However, in this interview with BBC news, Rebekah tells what life behind closed doors was like for her; the pressure to achieve; the feel of failure. She talks about recognising she needed help to overcome self-harm as being one of her biggest life challenges.
You can watch Rebekah's interview here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/winter-sports/40738768
If, once you have watched Rebekah’s interview, you would like to get in touch to chat, to find support or to ask a question; please email firstname.lastname@example.org
“ I cut myself to live, not die”: A response to Chester Bennington’s death.
This is a quote from a young person we worked with at SelfharmUK. It is the voice of hundreds of teenagers who are using self-harm to live; self-harm is a coping strategy, for a time, until those thoughts, feelings and pressures become resolved.
For most, it passes – for some quicker than others, for some not until later in life, very occasionally it’s a life-long coping strategy.
Today, Chester Bennington from Linkin Park took his life. A life filled with abuse from a young age which led to drug and alcohol issues, which in turn led to long bouts of depression – the most recent it seems, linked to his friend’s suicide attempt. It makes us all sad – whether we were fans or not – because a gifted, talented and troubled man found life so hard to continue. Because he wasn’t able to share his pain. Because he felt there was no other way. Because he was under such pressure. Because…...we will never know why.
At some many points Chester had choices which he may not have felt he had: who to talk to; where to ask for help; how to get the dark thoughts out in other ways – like his music; to take a break from the public pressure; to stay home and hug his wife and kids; to confront his past…...These were all choices that he possibly didn’t know he had, and now never will.
They are choices that will affect his children, wife, family, friends, neighbours and fans for varying lengths of time: but each will feel pain.
Inner pain is something we all struggle to talk about: the fear of being judged; the fear of everyone’s reaction (over reaction); the consequences of what telling some- one about your dark thoughts might mean; how to find the words and who to tell.
At SelfharmUK – we like to listen; we never ever judge; we are safe people to explore these thoughts and feelings with; we are unshockable (I promise you that!); you can practice what you want to tell your family by telling us first; we will keep in touch with you for as long as your recovery takes; we can discuss your choices with you – especially when it feels like you don’t have any.
Self-harm is about living, not dying.
Very occaisonally we feel the shift from wanting to cope, to wanting to stop coping.
That’s when we have choices: who to talk to, how to communicate, who won’t judge us, who is ‘safe’.
Or sign up to our online support at email@example.com
You are not alone.
As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, Jo Fitzsimmons shares her thoughts on how you could think about managing your mental health going forward in our latest blog.
Here are 10 things you could do to help manage your mental health:
Physically we are all well, or unwell; it’s easy to spot an unwell person in a queue next to a well person – there are physical signs like runny noses, pale skin, perhaps reduced mobility, sleepless eyes.
What does a person who is unwell emotionally look like?
Nope? No guesses…? That’s because a person can look ‘well’ on the outside but be very unwell in their self esteem, their confidence, their ability to think clearly, to sleep well, have high anxiety which leads to panic attacks, or deep depression. The fact is this: with 7 in 10 young people having poor mental health now, you don’t know if someone is well or not in their thought life.
The recent report on behalf of the government states that young people have the highest levels of poor mental health. Young people aged 18-25 report not being able to think clearly, have positive relationships, feeling like they aren’t able to contribute to society and feel devalued. Wow, what a frightening picture this shows.
Contrast this with people over 55 who have the best mental health and what can we learn:
- Older people feel confident to make new friends and join groups; young people feel nervous about joining a new group for fear of being judged;
- Older people take up new hobbies and activities; young people often can’t afford new hobbies or expensive activities;
- Older people have built up trust worthy groups of friends; young people struggle to know who their ‘real friends’ are rather than those who just ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ their thoughts.
Let’s face it; age does bring experience and knowledge – but can we wait 40 years for teenagers to grow up into confident older people?
So – if you are a young person struggling with your emotional and mental health here are some ideas for you to try in Mental Health Awareness week:
This article was written by a member of the SelfharmUK team, Jo Fitzsimmons. Jo is our Alumina Program Manager and has parented a child who was a self-harmer for many years. She has an acute understanding of the impact self-harm has on not only young people, but their whole family. She hopes you find the below helpful.
All those lovely adverts on tv of families playing board games, watching each other open their presents laughing and smiling, the Christmas films where families realise they love each other more than any present they have ever had….
In my house reality looked like:
Smiling when you got a knocked off Care Bear that was misshapen and looked nothing like the ones my friends had; watching your parents argue by 10 am as the pressure to be nice to each other all day is too much; my missing my Nan who passed away recently but we never mention her; once the presents have been opened we all disperse and meet up 3 hours later to eat too much food (that I hate myself for doing) and then fall asleep watching a crud film….
Sound like yours?
Or Maybe YOU LOVE Christmas?
Perhaps having people around you is a good thing as it makes you smile, gives you chance to see people who you actually like spending time with and you feel you can talk to; maybe the Christmas films take you back to feeling younger and happier…?
Either way – we can’t ignore it…It is Christmas! However we feel about it….
We know for some young people the idea of endless days spent at home with family is hard; perhaps being told you have to see relatives you don’t like causes you anxiety; perhaps you are missing a person you love at Christmas. However you feel, we want to get you through this, so here’s our tips for you:
Surviving Christmas Tips:
May you know Hope this Christmas.
Laura Haddow, Training and Marketing Manger for SelfharmUK, talks openly and honestly about how she supported her ex-partner with self-harm. She talks frankly about how lonely this can feel and ends with some encouraging words for all who may be supporting a loved one with self-harm.
We first met at a festival.
It was July and I was a blue haired 16-year-old girl who sat down next to a long haired (hot) musician guy in a field and unexpectedly became swept up in a summer romance that lasted the next 5 years.
He was the singer/songwriter in a band and so insanely talented. Watching him perform on stage night after night you just couldn’t take your eyes off him, so full of energy and passion in being in the spotlight and doing what he loved.
Life moved fast and before we knew it we had moved in together and got engaged, I was smitten.
I’d never really come across self-harm before so when it first happened I didn’t really know what to feel other than panic.
Things would suddenly just overwhelm him and this wonderful outwardly happy guy would spiral fast into a very dark place where even I wasn’t allowed in to help.
I didn’t talk to anyone for years about it. It got worse and worse, the anger, the harming, I felt alone and helpless. How do you stop someone you love from hurting themselves? Was it my fault? Why was it getting worse?
I look back at myself then and wish I knew what I know now, I wish the world was as ready and open to talk about self-harm and mental health back then as it is now but it wasn’t, and whatever avenue I took for help ended in a full stop.
Maybe you relate to this? Maybe you’re watching someone you love battling with self-harm and are at a crossroads unsure of what to do or where to go for help. Here’s a few pointers that I hope will help:
You are not alone and you are not to blame I repeat, you are not alone and are not to blame.
You also urgently need support and you mustn’t keep handling this alone without help, it’s too hard and will start having an impact on you- find someone you trust and tell them what is going on.
Talk to your GP for advice
Get resourced with some good information around the subject and ways to support a loved one. SelfharmUK has lots of helpful information pages plus some great resources on the store especially the Parents Guide and book- Self-harm; the path to recovery).
Look after yourself as well as your loved one, it can be incredibly draining supporting someone around this issue so make sure you are taking care of your health too, talk, rest, eat well and ask for extra help when you feel you need it.
Oby Bamidele, a qualified counsellor helps us to think about the best way to reach out and work with young people who are self-harming. She challenges us to think first about ourselves and leaves us with powerful lessons in helping young people to own and explore their pain.
When I started working with young people who self-harm, I was deeply challenged in my thinking and in the way I work. I realised that in order for me to support a self-harmer I had to do the following things.
1) Challenge my own thoughts and feelings about self-harm
2) Stop trying to “fix” the self-harmer’s behaviour
4) Ask questions
5) Be honest and open
As soon as I began to apply the above,
I noticed a vast improvement in the way I worked with my clients. It became about understanding the emotions behind self-harm rather than focusing on self-harming itself. One thing all self-harmers have in common is emotional pain.
Emotional pain can be so intense and it can hurt just like physical pain. With physical pain you can at least pinpoint the source. Not so with emotional pain. Sometimes the busyness of the day can block it away, but soon enough that same old familiar feeling that threatens to drown, condemn and consume you resurfaces. Self-harm itself becomes the outlet to release the emotional pain and find respite, even if just for a little while.
Listening is a major part of the work in self-harm as it allows the self-harmer to process their thoughts and feelings. There is a tendency to block off or suppress inner thoughts and feelings which are too painful to accept or perhaps we feel others will find unacceptable. However, the more you can open up to working through those feelings, the more you can understand.
I encourage my self-harmers to own their pain using the model:
FEEL IT, OWN IT, EXPLORE IT
1) Feel your pain - When you recognise that familiar painful feeling beckoning, allow yourself a few minutes to sit and feel the pain. My emotional pain is my mind’s way of telling me that there are some deep feelings which I need to address. What is the pain you are feeling? Is it hurt, shame, anger, hate, betrayal, jealousy? Do you feel like crying? It helps to speak out what you are feeling. For example, “I feel ashamed” “I feel like crying” “I feel horrible about myself”
2) Own Your Pain – We tend to struggle to own our pain, because it is usually associated with a judgement of ourselves and shows a side of us we don’t want to accept. For example, it might feel really difficult to own feelings of hate, shame or rejection. But the emotion already exists and until we own it we can’t address or begin to understand it.
3) Explore your pain – Once you have been through the process of feeling and owning our pain, you are then able to explore and understand it. Remember that pain is a signal that something is amiss within us. We can use our pain to direct us to the source. What triggered the feelings? What was the experience? What does it say about you? How do you feel about you? What is the way forward?
Working through emotional pain in this way is a powerful self-awareness practice and can really heal painful emotions.
Oby Bamidele (MBACP)