The following article is a submission from Sonia.
Trigger warning for mention of self-injury behaviours.
Sonia takes too many tablets, as she explains in this article, and refers to this behaviour as self-poisoning.
Despite self-poisoning having been a part of my life for a long time it was only a few years ago that I came across the term. I’d been looking for information and support but up until then Google had only given me results about suicide.
To me, self-poisoning sits under the umbrella of self-injury but it’s different (for me anyway) because of the risk of irreparable damage as opposed to when I cut. Cutting for me is about distress control and punishment but is ultimately an act of self preservation. Self-poisoning sits somewhere between that and suicidal behaviour. A bit like “I’m not trying to kill myself but don’t really care if that happens”.
The first time I took too many tablets without the intention of killing myself it was just another way of hurting myself. I understood the risk but didn’t care. By this time I’d been self-harming for years and this was just another way of hurting myself. I kept it under control for years but ironically it was when life was more settled that I started doing it again. I didn’t want people at work to know I self-injured and couldn’t bear the thought of worrying all the people who thought I was ‘better’. Self-poisoning let me keep it secret.
For the past 6 years I have gone through periods when I’ve been self-poisoning daily and getting support with this aspect of my self-harm has been hard. For a long time the professionals assumed I was trying to kill myself (despite explaining this wasn’t the case) and if I ever admitted to having taken too many tablets they would call an ambulance or send me for blood tests to check I hadn’t damaged my liver. Now I’m lucky in that my care coordinator understands my reasons for doing it, that he can’t stop me and that it’s not possible to send me to A&E each time it happens. That doesn’t mean he ignores it – and at times I have to agree to stick to certain limits but I’ve had to accept that the professionals have a duty of care and need to manage risk.
I do feel like I’ve had to ‘educate’ the professionals in order to get support but I’m learning too and that’s ok because I can’t possibly be the only one doing this.
Thanks to Sonia for her article.
At LifeSIGNS, we use the terms ‘self-medicating’ and ‘self-poisoning’ for different behaviours, but not everybody does.
Read more about self-injury and self-harm.