Read this first
We know what it feels like to want to self-injure right now – what do you think?
You could choose to click away, but I hope you’ll stay and see this through with me a while longer.
If you’re reading this then I imagine you might be feeling so overwhelmed and distressed that you think hurting yourself is the only way to make it stop. I don’t know what things are going on in your life to led you to feeling so desperate, but I do know what it feels like when the urge to self-injure is so strong that you can’t think of anything else. So I’m asking you to stay with me a while, as though I’m there with you, and I’ll try to help you through this.
Before you click away, no, I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t self-injure. I’m just asking you to wait with me a short while before making that decision. Just a few minutes and then you’re free to do whatever you need. How are you feeling right now? Are you telling me I don’t understand? You’re right; I’m not in your head and I can only imagine the pain you’re in. But I’ve been somewhere similar. And I’ve relied on hurting myself in order to cope. So we have that in common, don’t we? Even if that’s the *only* thing we have in common, it’s something to build on, yeah?
You’re still with me, and that’s great, because it shows me you’re determined and still fighting this terrible urge. I’m sure you don’t feel strong. You might be crying, you might benumb, you might be full of rage. You might feel that you have nothing left inside. But you *are* strong because you’re still holding on. You’re still reading and you haven’t yet given in to the urge. What would you like to do now? You’re in control and I won’t tell you what to do. You could choose to click away, but I hope you’ll stay and see this through with me a while longer.
Will you be kind to yourself right now, and give yourself a little more time?
How is your breathing? If you put your left hand on your chest, and your right hand just under your rib cage, which hand moves when you breathe? If it’s your left hand, or both, then you aren’t breathing deeply enough. Will you take a few deep breaths with me now? In a second, please close your eyes and then take a deep breath in, then slowly breathe out again. You can repeat it if you wish, it’s up to you. Are you just 1% calmer?Has your heart rate slowed just a tiny bit? You might want to take a few more breaths. If you’re done with the breathing then please read on; I’m still with you.
Have you heard about surfing the urge? The urge to self-injure is like any other emotion. It’s a like a wave that builds in strength. But eventually that strength starts to fade, and if you can ride it out, you might just be able to cope without hurting yourself. Or if you do hurt yourself, it may be less severely. You may not have noticed yet, but even by reading thisyou’re taking energy away from that wave. See, you’re doing so well already.
Am I patronising you? Do you think I’m an idiot? That’s OK, I don’t mind. There are a lot of things I don’t know. But one thing I have learnt is that self-injury isn’t the *only* way of coping with distress. You might not be in the right frame of mind to think about alternatives right now. Self-injury isquick isn’t it? It works and it works fast. That’s the hold it has over us. But perhaps we enable it to have that hold because we don’t give ourselves the *time* for anything else.
How much time do you give yourself? I don’t know you, but as you’re in so much distress you must care a great deal about things. I imagine you might give a lot of your time to other people and other things. Will you be kind to yourselfright now, and give yourself a little more time? Will you stay with me a while longer?
You’ve read so much already, and some minutes have gone by. Are you getting tired of me? Maybe a few more deep breaths will help; if only to stop me yacking away for a few seconds.
Imagine if you hadn’t starting reading this? What would you have done in the last few minutes? But you’ve chosen to stay with me instead. What apowerful choice that was. You really have taken control. What’s changed for you now?These minutes haven’t been wasted. Emotions can only stay so incredibly intense for a certain amount of time. Are yours fading a little now, or is that just because you’re bored of me? It’s OK. It doesn’t matter if I’m boring you, so long as you’re calming down a little I’m happy. Are you up for a couple more minutes of reading? You’ve stayed with me this far, it seems a shame to leave now.
Will you try one of them now, even if it’s just to prove a point that it doesn’t work?!
Excellent, you’ve chosen to stay with me. Thank you. You should be proud of yourself; it would have been easier to click away, wouldn’t it? You really are giving yourself the best chance of getting through this.
I’m hoping that by now you’ve calmed down enough to be open to a couple of suggestions. Will you humour me and give them a try? Come on, we’ve come this far together and I’m not going to ask you to do anything that I haven’t tried myself. Here are a few ideas:
- Grab a pen and paper and express how you’re feeling, either with words or pictures or doodles. If you can’t find the words for your pain, try expressing how you’d *like* to feel instead.
- Put on some music, something uplifting with a high tempo, and either sing or dance. I know you don’t *feel* like doing this, but the brain really can be influenced by music, so try fooling it into believing that you feel like singing and dancing. If nothing else, it will use up some energy, and take it away from that emotional wave we talked about before.
- Clean or tidy something. You could choose a whole room, a tiny cupboard, or just your immediate surrounding area. Or organise your books or CDs. It doesn’t matter *what* you do, it’s just a distraction.
- If you feel like speaking, then call a friend for a quick chat. You don’t have to talk about how you’re feeling or keep them very long – just call and ask them how they’re doing, and see where the conversation leads. If you don’t have anyone to call, then try talking to yourself. Tell yourself how you’re feeling, and then think about how you would answer if it were someone else talking to you. I know, it sounds crazy, but often we’re full of great ideas and advice for others, but we neglect ourselves. Sometimes our own advice is really valuable. What advice would you give someone who’s feeling the same as you do right now?
- Do something kind and beneficial for your body; you could clean your teeth, paint your nails, take a shower, moisturise your skin or have a wank.
Have you picked one? If you think my list is useless and that none of those things could possibly help you, then could you simply write down *why* it’s a crap list and then write your own, better list? You can always send it to me tomorrow!
Remember, I’m here with you now as someone who has some level of understanding of what you’re going through. I’m not a professional who’s got this stuff out of a text book. I’m a real person with personal experience of self-injury. I’m sharing these things with you because although I know they aren’t going to suddenly make it all go away, I do know they can help to give you the time you need. Will you try one of them now, even if it’s just to prove a point that it doesn’t work?! It’s your decision, so take your time and I hope to see you back here in a bit.
You’ve given yourself this time, and in doing so you’ve taken back some control.
Hello again, I’m glad you came back. So how was it? Do you feel any better? Before you scream ‘no’ at me, have a real think about it. Feeling better doesn’t have to mean you feel OK. It might just mean you feel 5% better than you did before. And that might still be awful, but at least we’re moving in the right direction, yeah? Imagine what another 5% might feel like. And then another.
When triggered, our emotions might go from nothing to extreme distress in a matter of seconds. But getting back down again takes a lot longer. The greatest gift you can give yourself right now is time, and any stupid little task that fills that time for you can help. The tasks don’t have to make any sense. I’ve learnt in my own struggles with self-injury that when you’re completely overwhelmed and about to hurt yourself, it’s not so much what you choose to do to distract that helps, but it’s the *time* you give yourself. The longer you can go without hurting yourself, the more chance you’re giving yourself to avoid self-injury altogether.
So what now? Well, I’m hoping that the urge to hurt yourself has at least lessened a little. I’m hoping that by staying with me all this time you have been distracted, even if it’s been by thoughts of how much I *haven’t* helped you! But that’s OK, because even if you choose to still hurt yourself, this time we have spent together is still worth it. You’ve given yourself this time, and in doing so you’ve taken back some control.
I don’t want to just up and leave you now, so I’m going to list some links for you. Some of these are links to the things we’ve been thinking about together, and some are further ideas that might help you avoid self-injury right now. I promise you I’ve tried them all, and sometimes they really do work. Would you like to take a look now and see if they can help you further?
(Try opening these links in a new window or a new tab, so you don’t lose your place with me. ‘Right-click‘ on a link to decide how to open it.)
- Alternatives: www.lifesigns.org.uk/alternatives
- Masturbation: www.lifesigns.org.uk/masturbation
- Surfing the urge: www.lifesigns.org.uk/surfing-the-urge
- 15 minute rule: www.lifesigns.org.uk/15-minutes-rule
- Everything but: www.lifesigns.org.uk/everything-but-rule
Did you see anything that you think you might try? You’ve come this far, and you don’t have anything to lose by giving something else a go. You’re in control; the choice is yours. Take as much time as you need to explore those pages and to try any of the ideas. I’ll still be here when you get back.
Did anything help you? Don’t worry if not, you’ve done your best and nobody can ask more of you than that. You might be too distressed right now to focus; but hopefully the ideas will be seeded in your head, and you might feel more able to try them another time.
Well I guess I’ve taken enough of your time, and perhaps you need to be alone now to reflect on the things we’ve thought about and decide what you’re going to do. I’m not going to say that I hope you’ll choose not to hurt yourself. I nearly did, but I realise you don’t need that pressure. You’ve done enough for me and for yourself by staying here with me and reading all my blabbering words. Whatever choices you make now, the determination you’ve shown so far gives me confidence that you’ll take care of yourself as best you can.
I’d like to thank you for the time you’ve spent with me. I know it would have been easier to ignore me completely, so I really appreciate the choices you have made in seeing this through. Whatever you choose to do now, please know thatyou aren’t alone. There are people, like me and the other volunteers and members of LifeSIGNS, who understand. So if you’d like some support, then please join our Support Forum and meet us all ‘virtually’ for real.
I hope you can recognise the strength you’ve shown during our time together, and continue to build on that strength once you’ve clicked away. Take care of you now.
Self-injury is a coping mechanism. We rely on self-injury because we can’t cope with the emotional distress in our lives. That distress has *causes*, and if we are to move away from self-injury, then as well as finding healthier coping mechanisms, those causes also need to be addressed. Once you’re feeling in a better frame of mind, please consider how you might find some help for the difficulties in your life, how your choices might be affecting your wellbeing, and what positive changes you can make in your life in order to seek health and happiness on a daily basis.