I don’t remember exactly when I first decided to harm myself, or what my reasoning was for doing so. But I remember over the first year or two, the urge to self-harm and the severity of what I was doing to myself definitely grew worse. Sort of like being addicted to drugs – you build a tolerance and, over time, the dosage that once gave you exactly what you wanted wasn’t nearly enough to “satisfy” you. Over time, I had to cause more hurt to myself in order to feel the catharsis that I craved.
I also don’t remember any significant point where I decided to stop, though I’m sure there were multiple times I tried. It was probably when it became too hard to lie to my friends and family about why I was covered in cuts and scars, and when the pain it was causing those around me started to outweigh the relief it was giving me.
There have been countless times that I have stopped for periods of days, weeks, months, but generally always end up “relapsing” (if that’s what you want to call it) at some point – whether that be a one off occasion or a period of time where I was doing it regularly again. Needless to say, I found ways of making it far less obvious to others. But after getting into my first proper, long term relationship, my longest period of abstinence started. Another factor that I think stopped me from self-harming is when my girlfriend (at the time) found out that I had cut again, and seeing the look on her face as she looked at, touched, tried to heal my scars. I realised that I was hurting her more than I was hurting myself, and that by internalising my depression I was pushing her away.
During our time together (approx a year and a half) I only hurt myself on a handful of occasions. Naturally when we split up, I “relapsed”. Not for very long, albeit, but stopping after that short period was just as hard as the first time. Pain is like a drug; it helps you to escape from other feelings or situations that you can’t handle – in my case, anyway. There are still times where I feel like the only thing that will help me to deal with the anxiety, rage and sadness inside my head is to lash out on myself.
My way of justifying it is that I’d rather hurt myself than hurt another person, or a wall, or a window or whatever else I may unleash my anger on. But that’s not the way to process your emotions healthily, and now when I get those urges I sometimes do throw things, or cry, or scream. Most times I reach out to a friend or loved one, if I can. Sometimes I do end up giving in to self-harm, as I am human, after all. But sometimes I find the strength to make something beautiful out of it, by writing my feelings down, drawing, or putting on a song I know I can’t resist having a good sing/dance along too. There are always other ways to deal with negative feelings, and the key thing I try to remember is that it’s not me telling myself I’m worthless or a bad person or that I deserve pain, it’s my depression telling me those things. And my depression doesn’t own me; I own it. Or I’m trying to, at least.
Elani is doing a BA in Professional Musicianship (specialty in Guitar) at BIMM Brighton. She likes making music, cooking delicious food and making people laugh.