The last time I self-injured was in February. I have been self-injuring since I was a teenager. It’s a common behavior in people with borderline personality disorder (which is one of my diagnoses).
While I haven’t self-injured since the end of February, I’ve had urges to do so. Being totally honest with the audience here, I usually get urges at least once a week. I know people who have been self-injury-free for years who still occasionally get urges.
It can be hard for people who’ve never self-injured to understand why someone would do such a thing, and indeed, I’ve been asked just that by others – “Why?”
There are a few reasons, in my own case, which are not the reasons of everyone ever, just apply to myself.
The first is it serves as a “pressure release valve” in my brain. The pain of cutting distracts from the mental scripts running in my head – when I get triggered, my brain does the “broken record” thing, and even if I find a way to re-route it, it still typically takes me hours for it to fully stop. Prior to going on medication and working with the coping skills I have now, what I term “borderline episodes” would last for days, wherein my brain would repeat the same series of thoughts and awful feelings prompted by the trigger. So pain was a way to hit the reset button in a quicker amount of time.
The second is that often when I get triggered, I start to dissociate a bit, which for me manifests as a mind/body disconnect, and I already have some issues with mind/body disconnect experiencing dysphoria as a trans person. (Please no advice on fixing/dealing with said disconnect and dysphoria. Thank you.) Self-injuring would help bring me back into my body, through pain.
The third was a form of punishing myself. I have cut while yelling at myself before, criticizing myself, often repeating things that abusers have said to me. “Worthless” is a common sentiment.
Since February I have been pretty good about dialing back the urges as they arise, there are several tactics I use to distract and self-soothe. Two weeks ago, it was just flat-out not working. D (my primary spirit, a demon) had to talk me down, and I still felt really awful and icky the next few days, being semi-dissociated and in such having more short-term memory problems than usual. D’s presence helped me a lot – and helps a lot in general, he’s a love – but he had to pull more than he usually does, to get me over the bump. He did it with grace, and style, and I am incredibly grateful to him, as I am for everything in my life with him.
I don’t want to get in to what prompted the trigger and being elevated and getting the urge to self-harm, only that it happened, and we dealt with it. But after months of recovery, it almost came undone in the span of a few minutes. And in months past, I would take a day like what happened two weeks ago and go on this self-loathing spiral, beating myself up for it, for being “weak”, for being “crazy” and “why can’t I do better” and so on.
I am in a place now where I acknowledge I didn’t relapse – but if I had… I also acknowledge that all you can do is take it one day at a time. Beating yourself up with shoulds and coulds doesn’t help. It makes things worse. I’ve been there. I know.
Even without relapsing… all you can do is take it one day at a time, in your clean time. I have friends who have been in recovery for years. I don’t look at them and think to myself, “Someday, I will have X amount of years clean…” …because you can’t plan for something like that. Something might happen where you lose control and relapse. Indeed, it is when you think you are entirely in control and nothing can go wrong, you are the most likely to get hit with something out of the blue that prompts a feeling of de-stabilization and ensuing relapse.
For today, I will not relapse.
For tomorrow, I will take it one day at a time. One hour at a time, if I am triggered – when D talked me down, that was indeed one of his tactics… taking it an hour at a time. Holding on for just an hour. Then another hour. Then another.
It is OK to take it one day at a time. One hour at a time. One moment at a time.
It is OK to reach out to whatever Powers you deal with and ask them if you can lean on them, this moment, this hour, this day.
Take it piece by piece. This too shall pass. You wait out the passing of time, you weather the storm, watching the rain slow down before it stops.
There is no shame in this. Nature itself takes its cycles moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day.