By Lush'el Johnson
***Trigger warnings for self harm***
It’s been 4 weeks since I last punished my own body to release the pain I was in. My last self harm incident was whilst I was a patient on a mental health ward. I confessed and handed in my blade a couple of days later. This took vulnerability and strength.
“Have you got any more?”, they asked.
“No”, I lied.
Why? Why when I was confessing and handing one in did I lie about the other? It’s simple really. Although I was ready to get help and ready to try and stop the daily, sometimes multiple daily self harm, I was not ready to give up the security of being able to hurt myself if needed. Crazy, hey, that holding onto it would give me security and make me feel somehow safe and in control.
Self harm helped me for a long time
The most challenging thing about confronting your own mental health is the vulnerability you have to put yourself into. When you are already feeling incredibly vulnerable it’s almost cruel that increasing that vulnerability may be the only way out. Self harm helped me for a long time. It was both equally a way to express and get out my emotional pain and a way to deal with the numbing sensation depression can bring. Sometimes the pain is too awful to acknowledge but numbness is just as devastating.
A few nights later, following an emotionally fuelled exchange, I went to my room and paced up and down for what felt like ages. I could feel the uncomfortableness of my emotions and there was only one way I knew how to deal with them. I tried to be mindful, but my mind was racing too fast. I couldn’t control my breathing and that nasty, vicious, hurtful brain of mine was back,
“Everyone hates you”
“You don’t deserve happiness”
“You only deserve punishment”
I went to my purse and dislodged my last blade. I held it in my hand and continued to pace once more. If all those things are true, then why am I putting myself through this? Make the choice right now. End it all or give yourself fully over to recovery. Why did you even walk into that surgery and beg for help? If you really want to get better why are you holding onto this?
I handed my last blade in
I left the room and paced the corridors, before heading to the nurses’ office. I paced some more and then knocked. “I want to so badly. This is the last one I swear”, I mumbled as I opened my fist.
That wasn’t my last challenging moment whilst admitted. A week later I was going on leave to see my child receive an award. Yes I have children. Yes they mean the world to me. At the worst moments you feel your very existence is the most damaging thing to them. That may be wrong but sometimes that evil brain is louder than your sensible one. It was another warm day and I wanted to look nice for her. I’d had to hand my razor in on arrival and request it when needed. I hadn’t yet requested it. I knew I was not ready for the temptation. Today however, I felt good. I wanted to wear a dress but my legs looked like they belonged in a zoo. Back to that nurses station.
“Can I use my razor please? I’d like to shave my legs”
“How are you feeling? Any urges to harm yourself? ”
“No” I replied, honestly.
It was hard to ignore the pull to self harm
In the shower however it was hard to ignore the pull. I washed and shaved and then looked at the razor. It was both my enemy and my saviour. I stood, cold, shaking for so long. Then the tears came. Real, wet, intense, free-flowing tears. I was feeling. Feeling so much. Pain, shame, guilt, self-hate. Then the realisation. What if they find out? They won’t give me leave. My daughter had pleaded with me to come. She was so excited. I continued to stare.
“Get rid”, I whispered.
I repeated it over and over until I found the strength. Then I threw it out of the bathroom and hit the panic alarm. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to resist it twice. If it was still lying on my bedroom floor when I got out that would have been it. Staff came running in seconds later.
“I’m OK. I’m not hurt. Just take it. Take it away. Please”, I begged.
Naked, wet, pathetic, pleading. That was me in that moment. But I wasn’t pathetic. I was being strong. Showing and facing your weaknesses takes so much more strength than hiding them.
I’m not giving up fighting it
I never asked to use that razor again. Since I returned home I haven’t had a bath, and if I need to shave I ask my husband to sit in whilst I shower. I have avoided the shop where I used to purchase blades. Do I feel like a child, like an invalid – yes! But I am not pathetic. This is me, accepting help and facing down the negative coping mechanism that has been a part of my life for way too long.
I’ve stopped self harm by using my vulnerability and strength. Raw, needy and vulnerable, but despite all that making me feel useless and weak, I can now accept that it is in fact a strength. It hurts, my gosh it hurts. Way more than a cut ever did. Will I falter? Will I fail at times? Maybe. I’m damn sure though that I’m not giving up fighting it.
It’s not just about self harm – vulnerability and strength
If you’re struggling, ask for help. Keep asking. Beg if you have to. Make it clear to the many people – even professionals – who think it’s just about stopping the self harm, that it’s not. It’s about finding better ways from our vulnerability and strength to deal with the emotion, the pain, the numbness, from a position of both vulnerability and strength. The cuts, burns, scratches, whatever it is, is mainly a problem for those around us, who find it too uncomfortable. Make it clear you need support with what they can’t see.
Reproduced with permission, originally published here