Coming out about self-injury to the people closest to us is a difficult decision to make. How the other person reacts is bound to have a serious affect on us, be it positive or negative, and so it’s important to think about that first conversation (if possible) before you have it.
Or maybe you aren’t ready to talk yet, but need to get your feelings out somehow. One way of achieving both these things is by writing a letter to the person you want to tell. You never have to send the letter, it’s for your eyes only, but it will provide a route for your emotions and help to clear things up in your head for if you decide to have ‘the’ conversation for real.
Before you start writing, have a think about why you want to ‘come out’ to that person. Everyone is individual and experiencing a unique combination of circumstances, but here are some examples:
- You are tired of suffering in silence and need the support of your loved one;
- You have a holiday coming up and know that your scars may become visible;
- You feel ready to become intimate with your partner but realise he / she will see your scars;
- You need help and can’t deal with things on your own any more. Maybe you want some support or someone to go with you to see your GP;
- Someone else has found out about your self-injury and you are worried your loved one will be told. You would rather it came from you;
- You want to confide in your best friend and let him / her know what’s really going on in your head and how you are dealing with it;
- You want the person to understand how they affect you, and how they’re involved in the way you feel.
Once you start to write, just let yourself go and be honest about how you feel. Remember, this is a dummy letter and nobody need ever read it. You are doing this for your benefit only, and you need to be truthful to yourself. Try not to talk too much about the self-injury itself, but instead focus on the causes and emotional distress behind it. Take the time to think about how you really feel, try to dig a little deeper.
Some things you might want to include in your letter are:
- Real-world reasons why you resort to self-injury (i.e. too much school work, financial problems);
- Emotional reasons why you resort to self-injury (i.e. depression, family arguments, anxiety, identity confusion);
- How long you have been self-injuring and whether it is getting better or worse in your opinion. Think about why you started to self-injure in the first place and whether you now self-injure for different reasons or whether you can now cope better before resorting to self-injury;
- Things that trigger you, including anything involving the person you are telling (such as arguments, invalidation of your feelings, too much criticism etc.);
- What you would like the other person to do to help (i.e. going with you to see you GP, giving you more space and time to yourself, creating a calmer environment for you to live in or providing an ear for you talk to when you feel the urge to self-injure);
- Any support you feel you need but aren’t getting. Do you need your loved one to be more aware of your emotional state or to spend more time with you for example;
- Efforts you are making to move away from self-injury; or
- Reasons why you don’t yet feel ready to move away from self-injury.
Bare in mind that although it’s easy to blame others for our emotional states, we are ultimately in control of our own actions and we make our own decisions. It’s not a good idea to blame others directly for our self-injury, no matter what they may have done. By claiming responsibility for ourselves, we ultimately gain control of our own recovery.
Send us your letters
If you wish, you can send us your dummy letters for publication here on the FirstSigns website. All letters will be published anonymously but please do not use real names or other personally identifiable information within your letters.
Email your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org
We will not keep any record of your email, and will simply publish your letters at www.firstsigns.org.uk/out/letters.html in a matter of days / weeks. Letters may also appear in our Blog and within our Newsletter.
We reserve the right to edit letters submitted which may include removing any graphic, triggering or inappropriate content.