Self Injury - Mothering Forums
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Mental Health > Self Injury
rowantree's Avatar rowantree 09:17 PM 04-23-2005
This hasnt really been covered in this mantal health forum yet, so Im braving the waters. This post is as much for me as it is for anyone who HAS EVER done this. Please come talk help and heal together,

Im coming at this at a really good place right now, no dire circumstances or anything. I have been off of hurting myself for the most part ever since getting good psychiatric care (as opposed to crappy care which is NOT helpful). My concern today is that DH and I have been fighting off and on for a few days (washing machines and tearing down roofs and paying the bills- normal stuff) but today he hurt my feelings really bad in front of our friends. I cant really get over it for some reason.......but I digress, while I was sobbing uncontrollably I started pinching myself, quite a bit. That was less disturbing than realizing that it really calmed me down allot. WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT!!!!!! not fair not fair not fair. Every thing has been going so well. Now Im all tempted cause I remember how much that release would help me when I was all crazy. Im stable enough right now to not feel out of control of myself, but the thoughts are still there, and I kkinda want to deal with it WHILE IM STABLE reather than waiting for my next down fall.

so thats my rant, any commiseration, war stories, helpful hints on getting pain out of your mind?

: : :

Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 02:04 AM 04-24-2005
I started self-injuring (mostly cutting) when I was 14; tried to quit ever since I was 17 and the last time I did I was 22. So it's been a little over 4 years for me. Of course, this is only for cutting/burning type injury; there have been times where I've hit or scratched myself and did not make marks.

I could go on and on about this topic, but for now I'll just join the thread!
rowantree's Avatar rowantree 03:04 AM 04-24-2005
Originally Posted by Greaseball
Of course, this is only for cutting/burning type injury; there have been times where I've hit or scratched myself and did not make marks
Its funny that you mentioned the burning, this is something that came upon me today~I was overwhelmed by the sight of a pack of matches today- thats new. My main injury of choice has always been hitting myself in the head, for a year or so i never thought it was anything like cutting or other types of self injury. Then I started cutting and I saw the simiarities. I never injured myself until I was 27 years old. This is not like most cases I hear about, most girls are younger-then growing out of it-, but my bipolar didnt surface unti 25, brought about by PPD from my 2nd pregnancy in 18 months.
thankd for your reply. good to know we're not alone.
neveryoumindthere's Avatar neveryoumindthere 03:18 AM 04-24-2005
just want to subscribe right now if that's ok......
LilithParker's Avatar LilithParker 10:48 AM 04-24-2005
One of my boyfriends became a cutter to deal with the stress of his family. A year or two later, he met me. I expressed my concern about and disapproval of his methods, and offered an alternative... if he wants to feel physical pain to help him deal with his emotions, he can come over and I'll get out my "toys". This accomplishes two things... it forces him to pay attention to his feelings and his actions so he'll call me before he starts hurting himself, and it lets him feel the physical pain in a controlled way... I'm the one causing it, and I can prevent serious injury that he might have done to himself were I not there.

Now, instead of becoming introverted, isolating himself, and getting out the blades or the lighter, he comes to me. Usually he'll just ask me to hurt him, and afterwards, when he's more relaxed, he can tell me what the problem was. He's getting better about talking about the problem before I hurt him, though, which is great... we can talk about other ways of dealing with it and only use pain if he needs it.

to all of you who are going through this. I wish I could give more meaningful advice than "find yourself a caring sadist."
kirei's Avatar kirei 11:38 AM 04-24-2005
I'm a cutter... since 16. I have obvious scars on my arms that will never go away. I haven't really cut in a while... I sort of switched to doing things that won't leave a mark (mostly hitting my head, or arms & legs). It's been very difficult to control because I have a LOT of stress in my life, and it doesn't seem to be letting up.

Surprisingly enough... I couldn't stop cutting when I TRIED... but now it seems I just don't think about it as much. Maybe I AM growing out of it.... I don't know. I just don't do it as often anymore.

LilithParker -- That doesn't sound like a very good idea, to me. o.o How are you hurting him? I think he definitely needs some help overcoming it... but I just don't know that YOU hurting him is the best answer. I don't know what else to say, though..
rowantree's Avatar rowantree 01:33 PM 04-24-2005
I thought that sounded like an excellent way to change the habit to something safer, more enjoyable and also helping him opening up verbally. It may not be more healthy than stopping, but change can take time.....
everyones different..
lauraess's Avatar lauraess 01:51 PM 04-24-2005
I am sorry for all of you that suffer continuously with this issue. I am prone to hitting my head but not since i've gone on meds for bipolar. I never realized it was the same basically as cutting until i talked about it a little to the therapist. actually, i started to see it as i looked closely but before that i just thought it was another 'weird' way of mine.
To lilithParker> I think you may be on to something. It sounds like it is working for your boyfriend. If you are speaking of which i think this may help to explain a few things
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 03:22 PM 04-24-2005
I had a therapist who suggested I snap my arms with rubber bands, then trickle some red ink to mimic the experience of cutting. It sort of worked, but there were things about the actual cutting experience that nothing could simulate. One of them, and this might sound gross, but one was picking scabs. If I always had a wound I was working on, I didn't have to create a new one, you know?

I also have lots of marks and have only recently stopped trying to hide them with long sleeves in hot weather, or by lying about them. I used to say I was in a bike accident. But I really want to have laser resurfacing treatments if we can ever afford it.

What I really needed was to get beyond the quick fixes and find out why I was doing it in the first place, and address that need.
kirei's Avatar kirei 04:35 PM 04-24-2005
I guess I did not see that it was meant to be something enjoyable. Did I misunderstand?

I just think that replacing cutting yourself, with letting someone else cut you, sounds like a bad idea. The same for bruising, hitting, etc. I mean... I hit myself. If I had my boyfriend start hitting me instead, wouldn't that seem abusive?

But maybe I got the wrong idea... is there something I'm missing?
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 04:42 PM 04-24-2005
When I'd cut myself, I knew exactly what I was doing and how to not cut too deeply. If someone else was doing it to me, they would not know how to do it right. I also think it's a bad idea...I've never had to go to the ER because of a deep cut. I wouldn't trust someone else to know my own body the way I did.
rowantree's Avatar rowantree 05:12 PM 04-24-2005
Originally Posted by kirei
I guess I did not see that it was meant to be something enjoyable. Did I misunderstand?

I just think that replacing cutting yourself, with letting someone else cut you, sounds like a bad idea. The same for bruising, hitting, etc. I mean... I hit myself. If I had my boyfriend start hitting me instead, wouldn't that seem abusive?

But maybe I got the wrong idea... is there something I'm missing?
My understanding was it was a sexual thrill not her cutting him.
kirei's Avatar kirei 05:14 PM 04-24-2005
I did have to go to the ER for stitches once. Unfortunately, that was basically intentional. I was trying to cut BADLY.

Anyway, that is what I was starting to wonder -- if it was sexual or not. I have nothing to say about that, if it is.
MamaHippo's Avatar MamaHippo 05:17 PM 04-24-2005
I've been wondering when this thread would materialize...

(deep breath)....
I am also a recovered (recovering?) cutter. It started for me while in an abusive relationship at age 16, and continued off and on until it went very bad at age 20-21.I used exacto knives, steak knives, scalpels ( i was a biology major at the time). I have not cut since i joined a group therapy group at the college i went to, and had to account for my skin every week. one of the girls in the group became a lifeling friend, and the only person in my life right now who knows about my cutting. I hid it effectively for a very long time... Now, when i feel bad, i look at my baby and think of how my body cared for him, and i dont feel the desire to destroy it.
A book that was a great help to me in recovery was "A Bright Red Scream" by Marilee Strong. It really goes into the mental/emotional sides of self-injury, so we can better understand what role SI plays for us. Highly recommended.

Hugs to all of you, mamas

SunShineSally's Avatar SunShineSally 05:36 PM 04-24-2005
[QUOTE=Greaseball]I had a therapist who suggested I snap my arms with rubber bands, then trickle some red ink to mimic the experience of cutting. It sort of worked,

I can not beleive that a therapist told you to do that!
I was a cutter from the time I was 13 until I was 18. It took a lot to stop I was in a few hospitals. the last one I was in helped me a lot and I am so thankful to all the people there. The one thereapist had me carry around like something scratchy to rub my fingers on or my arm. It sortta worked but not to well. I don't know if I beleive that people "grow out of it" Because even now sometimes I get that feeling. I always called it "the box" because it felt like I was trapped and nothoing except cutting could get me out. It was almost like I cut myself out of it. But talking about it truely did help but to only people that would listen and not say anything or try and hug me or say "I understand" those people made me want to scream and say ane then butthat is what helpped me and of course the right meds. But I have been lucky after many many many different ones i finally found the right one. BUt once I found out I was pregnant I stopped takeing them and have not been on them since.I have been even better with out them. The most important thing is to have the right therapist whitch is so SO SO SO SO hard to find I don't think I ever found one
Well I always ramble when I say anything
LilithParker's Avatar LilithParker 06:49 PM 04-24-2005
kirei, it is partially a sexual thing. He and I are both into kink, and both switches (we enjoy both inflicting pain and having it inflicted on us), so it was natural for us to use that as an outlet for stress. I don't cut him, but I do use my palm, fingernails, riding crops, medical pinwheel, and various other toys to cause him physical pain. If you're interested in learning more about kink, PM me.
kirei's Avatar kirei 07:42 PM 04-24-2005
Thanks for the clarification.
applejack21's Avatar applejack21 02:39 AM 04-25-2005
I had this on one of my websites I made awhile ago:

This is a list of alternatives to Self Harm that you might like to try instead.

Elastic Band
If you want to experience the pain you get when you Self Harm, try wearing an elastic band around your wrist. Whenever you get the urge to hurt yourself snap it against you wrist.

Ice Cubes
This one is also good if you want to experience the pain of Self Harm. Hold an ice cube in your hand (or several cubes if they are small) until your hand starts hurting. If you need more pain than this provides, you could try squeezing the ice cubes in your hand.

If it's control that you want to experience with Self harm, this might help you. Try and name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can touch and 1 thing you like about yourself.

This is good for expressing anger as well as an alternative to Self Harm. For this you need to make some playdough (red if you are using it for Self Harm). Put the playdough where you want to cut and use a *blunt* knife to cut through it. If you want to use it for anger, the process of making it (kneading the dough etc) will help to express the anger and also by squeezing and punching it, you will be able to express the anger you are feeling.

Marker Pens and Food Colouring
This is good to use if you like the blood of Self Harm. Use a red marker pen or felt tip pen and draw a mark where you would usually cut. Do it the same as you would if you were cutting, so if you do small, angry cuts, do the same with the pen. If you need something more you can add food colouring to the mark you have just made to represent the blood.

Depending on how you are feeling when you get the urge to Self Harm, listening to music can sometimes help... get up and dance along to it or sit and cry... listen to whichever sort of music feels good for you at the time.

Have a Bath or Shower
If you are feeling tense then this is a good one to do. The water and the temperature should ease the feelings of tension and help you to relax.

Talk to a Mate
This is good for however you feel too. If you have an understanding friend that you can trust, then phone them or meet them online or whatever and just let rip. If you are angry then shout and yell at them, if you are sad then cry your eyes out. Just use your friend as a venting ground until you feel better.

Keep a Diary (Journal)
If you don't feel comfortable or able to express how you feel out loud, you might find it helpful to keep a diary and write down how you feel in there... again, let rip. If you are worried about people seeing what you have written then it might help to buy a lockable diary and keep it with you.

Stay in a Public Place
If, like me, you don't feel comfortable harming yourself unless you are on your own, this might help. It will be hard, but staying out in public where there is a crowd of people might stop you from hurting yourself. It won't take away the urges but it might stop you from Self Harming while you are out.

Watch a Film (movie)
If you do this one, be careful which type of film you choose to see. Try and make sure that it won't have anything in it that will trigger you and try and make sure that it will *stop* you from wanting to Self Harm, rather than increase your urges.

Go for a Drive or Ride your Bike
Some friends have told me that this really helps. I haven't tried this method myself, but apparently it does work.

Relaxation/Deep Breathing
If you are feeling panicky or tense then this might help you to relax and get through your urges. There are lots of methods you can use, but a good basic one is to sit comfortably, back straight, close your eyes and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try and fill your lungs as full as possible when you breathe in and empty your lungs as much as you can when you breathe out. Count slowly from 1 to 5 as you breathe in and count back from 5 to 1 when you breathe out... concentrating on your breathing the whole time.

Read a Book
Depending on how you are feeling at the time this might help. If you can find a good book that you can really get into and really enjoy then it might take away the intensity of your urges.

Exercise/Go for a Walk
This is good if you are feeling angry. Try and spend some time at a gym burning off all your feelings while you are there or you could do some sit-ups or press-ups at home. Maybe you could go for a walk. If you go for the walking option, it is usually a good idea to try and walk briskly if you can.

Do Some Housework
Yes, I am serious!! ohmy.gif) Get the vacuum cleaner out and go through the house going over all the floors or do some washing up. Maybe you could scrub the bathroom clean or clean out all the kitchen cupboards.

Go Shopping
My favourite!!! ohmy.gif) Different people like different sorts of shopping. Some enjoy supermarket shopping, some like clothes shopping, some people like going around market stalls... whatever is your favourite way to shop, do it!! It might help to leave your money and credit cards at home though... if you find something you like you can go back for it later. ohmy.gif)
rowantree's Avatar rowantree 10:41 AM 04-27-2005
did anyone see oprah yesterday? They had blips of the show called intervention. One was a cutter- I was always more of a bludgener, i cut, but small - but this poor girl....I couldnt even watch, she was smearing her blood all over herself, it broke my heart. They said 50% of cutters were sexually abused. Anyone want to chime in on that one?
I was sexually abused by my step-father, but not till I was 17 and already sexually active, so I always kind of blamed myself.
neveryoumindthere's Avatar neveryoumindthere 10:48 AM 04-27-2005
i saw it. it was *really* disturbing. i had to keep turning away. it was scary. i have never seen someone go that far.
jmreinke's Avatar jmreinke 10:51 AM 04-27-2005
Originally Posted by rowantree
did anyone see oprah yesterday? They had blips of the show called intervention. One was a cutter- I was always more of a bludgener, i cut, but small - but this poor girl....I couldnt even watch, she was smearing her blood all over herself, it broke my heart. They said 50% of cutters were sexually abused. Anyone want to chime in on that one?
I was sexually abused by my step-father, but not till I was 17 and already sexually active, so I always kind of blamed myself.
I saw it. I'm not a cutter, but I was sexually abused, and I completely understand the urge to cut. (I chose to abuse my body in other ways). The show was very difficult to watch, but also very good.

I was crying through most of that 2nd part though. It was so wonderful to hear her parents apologize to her for not really helping her when she was molested. That's what started the fountain for me. I have longed for that from my parents for 19 years now. Then Oprah said some really wonderful things. What really struck my heart is when she said that it wasn't the sex of the sexual abuse that is so damaging. It is the shame and what the abuse does to you emotionally. This is exactly where my struggle lies right now. The shame and the urge to destroy myself, or to punish myself can be overwhelming at times.

((rowantree)) What happened to you is not your fault. He was still in authority over you, and he made the choice to hurt you and use you. It does not matter what your age was or that you were sexually active (by choice) already. What he did to you was not your choice.

Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 12:30 PM 04-27-2005
I've read that around 60% are sexually abused. I was abused in all sorts of ways...I don't even remember the first time I cut, but when I did it was just like "Oh! Here's what I've been missing!"

The Oprah show sounds good - usually when they have cutters on talk shows they just say "Oh, it's an attention-getting ploy" or suggest all kinds of punitive measures.
Austintherapymom's Avatar Austintherapymom 03:21 PM 04-27-2005
I am a psychotherapist who works with adolescents and their families. I deal with self injury so much, and it's one of the toughest issues to treat. I would love any feedback from you all in how a therapist can best help young women (and an occasional male) with this. I really try not to be on either extreme side (meaning not to overly caretake/nurture or avoid the topic)-- I try to remain neutral and calm when they talk about it, and to not judge or shame them in any way. What I generally do is talk about the feelings and thoughts they were having before the urge to cut came on, and try to help replace some of the distorted or negative thoughts with more accurate ones. One of the hardest things is that the teens often don't really want to quit cutting, it's the parents that want them to. The teens don't often see the longer term consequences of hurting themselves. So I try to help them feel better overall, so the desire to cut isn't as strong, as well as help motivate them to use other coping skills that are less harmful to themselves. What I have found is that it's almost like an addictive behavior and it seems amazingly hard to stop.

Thanks in advance for any insight you can give. I am glad you are all open about talking about this, as I think it helps everyone involved. You all are very brave and strong.
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 04:07 PM 04-27-2005
Hints for Therapists:

1. Don't focus too much on getting them to stop cutting. Cutting is not the worst thing in the world. I've had several addictions to substances and to behaviors a lot more dangerous than cutting, and I've often said cutting saved my life when I was struggling to give up the other addictions. If they want to stop; support them in that. Also support them if they do not want to.

2. Don't threaten to report them to the psych unit. Most cutters know exactly how to cut in a way that is not dangerous. Fear of being sent away just makes them more secretive.

3. Don't use guilt. Don't tell patients that when they cut themselves, they are cutting their inner child. Don't focus on how disappointed their parents, spouses or children will be. Even if they are religious, don't tell them that their body belongs to god and they don't have a "right" to cut. One therapist told a client, who was a ward of the state, that if she cut herself she could be prosecuted for destruction of state property.

4. Don't use no-harm contracts, where a patient signs a piece of paper "promising" not to cut. They may be a short-term fix but don't address the larger problem.

5. Address the larger problem! Especially if the cutter is a teen, s/he may be currently living in an intolerable situation. And remember, what seems trivial to you may be intolerable to them.

6. Keep in mind that self-injurers often struggle with eating disorders, sexual abuse, and drug addiction. These may need more attention than the cutting.

Any more?
kirei's Avatar kirei 05:32 PM 04-27-2005
Keep in mind that different things work for different people, too. I know that just makes it more difficult... ...but yeah.

I hated when other people would try to make me promise not to cut. It made me feel SO trapped. Think about it.... what is a cutter supposed to do when their feelings get too big to handle, and they're trying to keep a promise to not use the only coping method they have?? It becomes a huge inner struggle. People who cut.. NEED to cut. It is an addiction, and we feel safer because of it. I think that, rather than try to stop the cutting... we need to learn better ways to manage our emotions. You can't make someome promise to stop cutting, without teaching them how to deal with their feelings first.

I think I went off on a tangent! Sorry!!

Oh, also.... you first need to figure out WHY someone is cutting, before you can determine how to help. There seem to be a lot of different reasons. Sometimes its gives a person something else to feel / focus on.... and sometimes people do it for the attention -- they don't know how else to make people see that theyre hurting and need help. Those are very different (but VALID) reasons, and would need to be treated differently.

I don't know if any of that is really what you were asking.... but take from it what you will. I think its great that you're trying to find out more about how you can help. Too many people think they know everything. Heh.

p.s. All of Greaseball's suggestions were great! I agree with it all.
lauraess's Avatar lauraess 11:11 PM 04-27-2005
to the therapist> I am not a cutter, but have gone through periods of head-banging. At those points i was trying to escape the huge feeling of hating myself or else just wanting to hurt myself since i felt i deserved it. Im not sure. I agree it is addictive. I am an addict(recovering) so to me many things can become addictive but something like pain and the downward spiral of negative thinking and behaviors is truly tough to stop. When one has so much pain it's a vicious cycle. I would agree with helping these young people learn coping techniques. Self-esteem, respect, responsibility.. all of that should be addressed in a very comprehensive way. I think if a young person wants to get better they need a real program, not just a weekly appointment.
Okay, HOPe that helped Thanks for coming and relating.
Austintherapymom's Avatar Austintherapymom 12:42 AM 04-28-2005
Thanks everyone, for your input!! I am going to print it out and put it in my self-injury file! I really do agree that making 'cutting' the big problem is not helpful, and that we need to figure out what is going on inside that is causing them to cut. I have tried contracts before, and it doesn't seem to work, and I can understand why now. It really is like an addictive behavior and I agree that it's better than a lot of the other 'addictive' behaviors, so it seems like it will just take time for them to really learn other coping skills that work for them. There is just so many differing 'expert' opinions out there on self injury, that it gets confusing and difficult to know how to best help them. Not that I know how to do that b/c I think that each person is different and each person hurts themselves for different reasons and emotions, and to me the important thing is for them to feel safe to talk about their feelings and thoughts and to not be judged or criticized.

Thanks sooooo much for taking the time to give your input, I really appreciate it. I am still interested in hearing others' opinions if anyone else wants to comment! Take care.
rowantree's Avatar rowantree 10:29 AM 04-28-2005
iwas curious to hear that you all pick your scabs and such. for me one of the biggest parts of cutting is making the wound to 'show' how I hurt inside and then letting it heal. I think thats the part that heals me. every one is so differnet.
Greaseball's Avatar Greaseball 01:46 PM 04-28-2005
For me, sometimes it was about wanting to see blood but not having any "room" for new cuts...or if I was fighting the urge to cut, re-opening an old wound could satisfy that urge.
kirei's Avatar kirei 08:11 PM 04-28-2005
For me, I like the feel that the cuts are there. Like... when theyre new. It's like some weird kind of security blanket.... I don't really know why. It helps me get through the day.
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