Knowing the person you adore hurts themselves can seem unbearable
Here’s a story from a long-term partner of a person who self-injures
My SI Story
My experience of Self-Injury
I am a ‘newbie’ to the world of ‘self injury’.
I am not a self injurer. I fell in love with someone who is. I am sharing ‘my feelings’, past and present and some of the conclusions that I have reached. Please understand that this is about ME and how I felt and feel. It is not a sermon on how YOU should or could feel or behave. It is simply ‘my story’.
My introduction to Self-injury
On our second date, my boyfriend told me that he was a self-injurer. My initial reaction was “Hanibel” – RUN! If I had the opportunity to, I would have. Circumstance didn’t allow this. I genuinely thought that he enjoyed ‘cutting people up’ for some type of weird pleasure. Then he explained in a nutshell what SI was to him. My secondary reaction was “nutter” – RUN! I was scared…really scared.
And so, I suddenly found myself involved with SI. I don’t want to be and I would love for it to ‘go away’. I live in hope and look forward to the day when it may no longer be part of my life. In the meantime I continue to be scared. I have learned to hide my fears more effectively, but however suppressed, the fear is still there inside. The feeling never ever goes away, simply moves back and forth within my consciousness.
I really am an everyday kind of person. Nothing freaky, nothing weird, reasonably successful, family, friends, job, home, car – just normal really. After my new boyfriend had told me about his SI, all I wanted to do was dump him! “How could I possibly get involved with anything so freaky”, I told myself. “Stuff like this only happens to other people”. “Everyone will think that I am really desperate for a boyfriend, to get involved with someone like this”.
Initially, I was very cautious that my new boyfriend could use “this SI thing” as a threat in an attempt to manipulate me. Early in our relationship, I feared that a simple debate such as ‘deep pan or thin & crispy’ could ‘trigger’ him to cut. I became over cautious and felt an overwhelming amount of personal responsibility to make sure that he didn’t cut.
Cutting scares the hell out of me. The only thing that I could relate it to is suicide. I now understand that he is not attempting to commit suicide when he cuts. I have learned that he actually does it to try and make himself feel better (although I understand the theory, I do have difficulty empathising with this). It is his way of dealing with the feeling that he gets when the anxiety that he experiences becomes too much.
My BIG fears
I live with the fear that he will accidentally kill himself. He could bleed to death or cut an artery. I try and rationalise this, by knowing that he has been cutting for many years and gone through “stuff” that many people will never have to deal with in their lives. I have reached the conclusion that if he was ‘going to’, he ‘would have’ by now. I can only pray that I am right. I still live in fear. Fear for him and fear for me.
Another big fear, which I had in the past (although the circumstances have now changed), is that SI had been in his life for so long, that he appeared to have no desire to ‘face the enemy’ and try and get some professional help. As I say, this has now changed. I know that has been a huge step for him, although we both play it down. I am very proud at the courage that he demonstrated in an attempt to ‘get better’. Whether it works or not, my admiration for him, is that he is trying.
What I want is for him to get better and stop cutting himself PERIOD.
I don’t understand how he can do this with constant exposure to the ‘Self-injury scene’. If I compare it to alcoholism, it would not be a great idea for a recovering alcoholic to spend hours in a pub or off-licence, would it? I question how a self-injurer may recover when constantly surrounded by other self-injurers for what I perceive to be social purposes? I understand that support for self-injurers is important. Although I am not sure that ‘active self-injurers’ are the best supporters for other self – injurers? I also feel that his efforts to support others are actually to the detriment of his own well-being. I do acknowledge and am very proud of the work that he does for others.
The reality of living With SI
My boyfriend has had three physically ‘cutting’ sessions during our 6 months together. The first time, I dealt with ‘it’ VERY BADLY. The second time just BADLY. The third time, I think I hid the effect that it had on me quite well.
We do talk about SI to a point, but I feel that I am walking on eggshells every time that we discuss it. I fear triggering him. There are so many questions that I want to ask, to satisfy my own curiosity, but also to challenge what he is doing. I am not convinced that his SI is actually an effective coping mechanism for him anymore. I guess we all stick to what we know. It would appear that a good old cry appears to be more effective in reducing his levels of anxiety. Or maybe that’s just what I want to believe?
I find the term ‘self-injury’ to be an irony in itself. I wonder if other people in my situation feel this way too? It’s not just himself that he is injuring – it is me too. There is little ‘self’ about it.
As my knowledge and understanding of SI have increased with time. I don’t ‘focus’ on the cutting as much as I used to. His anxiety and turbulent moods are the things that affect our relationship the most. He can be snappy, irritable, irrational and down right rude. I can be all of these things too. And when I am, the smallest of issues can become major very quickly. I am reasonably tolerant, but have my own limits. We are both aware that we need to work on how we resolve such issues, but have not yet come up with an answer.
I get really worried when he is anxious. He totally isolates himself. I am not sure why this is? I suspect that it is because he has never known anything else in his life? I find it frustrating, quite insulting and hurtful that he shuts me out. This is a major issue for me. The more that he wants to shut me out, the more I want to get in there. I have learned that persistence DOES NOT work. If anything it makes him worse. I am getting better at ‘leaving him alone’ when he wants to be. At the same time, he is my boyfriend and I want to be there for him. I do help him when we are together. So why does he punish himself so?
Who knows what the future holds for any of us. One thing for sure, is that whatever life throws our way, we deal with it – whatever coping mechanism we may chose to use.
Whatever your story is, I wish you luck and hope that my story brings you no harm.
This article may not reflect the opinions of the FirstSigns Organisation or its members.