*Some parts of this post may be triggering*
I’m still not quite sure how, but I’ve managed to go a whole year now without self-harming. It has been extremely difficult not to at times but I’ve somehow managed to get through those times without taking a blade to my own skin. I can’t promise that I’ll never self-injure again – especially if I go through a long episode of severe depression again – but I can promise that I’ll try not to, to the best of my ability.
The first few weeks of not self-harming were the most difficult. Back then, almost anything could trigger me into wanting to injure myself. October was particularly bad as well, but I think that having access to a S.A.D lamp helped a lot in beating my self-harm habit/ addiction and building my mood. That’s something I don’t think many people realise – self-injury can become very addicting, both biochemically and psychologically. And when you become addicted to it, you have to cut deeper and deeper or more and more extensively to get the same effect (i.e. numbness, a feeling of calm, etc). I’m glad that I managed to stop before the cuts became deep enough to require medical attention.
The urges to self-harm were at times overwhelmingly strong but they have become a lot less intense over time as I’ve tried to find alternatives/ healthier coping mechanisms. I’ll probably write about those in more detail if/when I eventually get round to doing a large post – or a series of them – on what has and hasn’t helped with my various mental health issues. An ice pack was my saviour on a number of occasions. I’d press in down on my forearm or stomach for a long period of time as a healthier/safer alternative to cutting. At those times when I was feeling completely overwhelmed or stressed out or miserable or hopeless, it was…almost nice to just have the overwhelming sensation of cold to focus on to help block out everything that was going on in my mind. It’s perhaps still not the best thing to do, but it’s better than scarring my own skin.
The scars on my thighs are almost completely faded now – apart from a deeper one on my right thigh and a few small ones at the top of my left thigh. Even then, I don’t think – if I’m going swimming, for example – other people would really even notice them. If I’m lucky, they may even eventually fade completely. My left forearm is a different matter. I have about 30+ non-raised, silver scars between my inner elbow and about 3 inches above my wrist. Again, if I’m lucky, those may eventually fade or at least become less noticeable. My two largest, keloid scars will remain for the rest of my life though. They are very noticeable and I always worry about being judged by other people for them if I happen to go swimming or (if I’m on holiday somewhere hot) wear a short-sleeved t-shirt. Although they’re still quite red/pink at the moment, they have improved in appearance. Hopefully they will eventually fade to the same colour as the rest of my skin.
I’ve found that the skin has an amazing ability to heal itself. As I’ve observed my scars gradually heal over time, I’ve wondered if it’s indeed possible for the mind to do the same. And although I hated my scars at first (and still do sometimes), they serve as a constant (and even useful) reminder of the progress that I’ve made over the last year and a bit. If I’m having a really awful day when I feel completely hopeless and that I’m making no progress at all and feel like there’s no point in carrying on, all I have to do is look at my forearm. And then I think “Oh yeah. This is where I was a year ago. Now I can go weeks without self-harm even crossing my mind. I don’t feel so bad that I need to inflict pain upon myself anymore.” They remind me of how I survived when my mind was trying to kill me, and of what I’ve overcome. They remind me that it’s okay to be flawed, to be imperfect, to be me, to be human. Although I’ve got such an incredibly long way to go, my scars remind me of how far I’ve come.