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Six reasons I stopped cutting myself
This blog was originally published at daisiesandbruises.com - UPDATE the site has been closed.
People keep finding my blog when they’re ready to self-injure but decide to search for help instead of engaging in cutting themselves. My words help them stay safe. I could not be happier about this. Stopping self-injury is one of my proudest achievements.
I tend to get nervous sometimes, worried that I’ll slip back into hurting myself if something really upsetting happens, but every time I hear about someone being helped on my blog I think, “Yes, this is exactly why I need to stay safe!”
My biggest tip in overcoming self-harm is to come up with your own reasons for not hurting yourself. When I was sixteen and had just started cutting myself, people often said to me, “Oh, but think about your wedding day! You don’t want to have scars show then, do you?”
That question made me feel a thousand times worse. For one, I felt unlovable and sick of hiding my pain to please other people. All I could think about when someone said “wedding day” was pleasing my relatives by being pretty in a white dress, instead of being honest about how I was feeling. Plus, I didn’t plan on getting married until I was an adult and that was still years down the road. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to live through the month, let alone into my adult years.
Now that I’m at the age of marrying, I have my own list of reasons why I don’t want to self-injure and my wedding day is not on the list. If I ever get married, I want to marry someone who loves me enough to see past my scars. These tips might have helped me more when I was sixteen.
Why I Stopped Cutting
1. I Need My Arms
Writing and making art are two of my most favourite things on the whole planet. If I couldn’t write anymore or shape paper with my hands, I would be infinitely sadder. The danger of cutting my arms never used to phase me, but now I think about how my life would change if I couldn’t use my arms like I do today. The reality of cutting is that you can damage nerves, tendons, everything under the skin. I don’t want to stop writing or crafting so I don’t cut anymore.
The same goes for any other part of my body. In the moment I might hate myself so much that I don’t care about the damage caused by cutting, but tomorrow, if I’m in pain, it’s going to add stress to me physically and therefore mentally. It’s going to make life harder, not easier. I don’t need life to be any harder.
2. New Scars Make Me Ashamed
I don’t like to worry the people in my life. If my family or friends see new scars on me, they worry. If I see new scars on a friend, I think to myself that my friend had such a bad moment that they felt like they couldn’t reach out to me. Then I worry that they don’t trust me. Then I worry that I can’t trust them if they don’t trust me. It creates barriers in friendships when friends self-harm. That’s not something I want.
3. It Doesn’t Fix the Problem
If I hurt myself, I’m creating more pain instead of dealing with my painful emotions directly. And yes, it fucking hurts to feel painful emotions. I cry, I shake, I get scared. But painful emotions don’t leave a permanent mark on me. They make me feel lousy for a while but they always always pass.
A bad feeling is like bad weather. It literally will pass. When it storms, sure, we get wet and it’s kind of uncomfortable and a little dangerous feeling, but we know that if we hold on for the next few hours we’ll be okay. It doesn’t mean a storm won’t ever come back, but it’s not going to last for the rest of our life.
Yes, whenever I feel awful I am worried that maybe this is the one time that my pain will last just this bad forever. But do you know what I heard from the direction of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Program at Homewood Health Care Center in Guelph, Ontario? She’d worked with survivors of the worst kinds of trauma for over twenty years and not once did she meet a person who cried as long as they feared they would. The body physically can’t cry for more than a few hours, tops. Then it has to rest. And every single person she’d met in that program was worried that they would cry FOREVER. No one ever ever has. Yes, I fear that I’m the only person who ever ever ever might cry forever, but most likely, it isn’t going to happen. If it is, I’m calling up the people at the Guinness Book of World Records and getting fucking famous for it.
4. Self-Harming Makes Me Feel Like My Feelings Don’t Count
I started self-harming as a kid because I was so angry at myself for my feelings being hurt. My feelings seemed so much bigger than everyone else’s and people didn’t understand when I was upset. I hated that about me. I wanted to punish myself so that I didn’t feel hurt anymore. But punishing myself always made me feel even worse.
Now I know that my feelings matter. When I’m upset, it’s because I feel hurt. And do you know what? That counts! Why? Because my feelings are real. Feelings are the realest thing on this planet. If no one around me gets my feelings, it doesn’t make my feelings wrong or bad. We feel things because it’s natural. It’s normal. It’s part of being human.
If I’m around someone who makes me feel ashamed for being human, that isn’t a safe person for me to be around. So now I don’t hang around people who make me ashamed for being human. A lot of the time that means I’m alone, but I’m figuring it out. There are people out there who make me feel amazing for being human. You, my readers, are those people.
5. It Upsets My Dog
Seriously, one of the biggest motivators in staying safe is protecting my little furball named Digby. I don’t even know really if my self-harm upsets his little brain, but I know dogs pick up on emotions. I know they can sense danger and hurt. And if I’m in danger or hurting, my little dog might think that he’s in danger too. I’m his role model, his safety net. I want him to feel safe. So I stay safe.
6. I Don’t Want to Live in a World Where It’s Okay For People to Hurt Themselves
This is my favourite reason not to self-harm. We create our world. Every minute of every day, the choices we make influence other people. Even if we try to hide our self-destructive habits, they have a ripple effect. If we hurt ourselves, then we’re telling all the people around us that it’s okay to self-destruct. I am a role model, even if I’m surrounded by strangers.
You never know who is looking up to you. Every one of us is a role model. And I sure as hell don’t want to teach anyone that it’s okay to self-harm because I love everyone. I love other people more than I love me, but those things are connected. We’re all connected. I can’t hurt myself and then have this double standard where I tell other people that they shouldn’t hurt themselves. Because words aren’t everything. Actions speak much louder than words and people pick up on actions. Even when we try to hide them. I matter, you matter.
So those are my top six reasons that I think about the most when I think about cutting myself. And do you know what’s really cool about not cutting myself? I feel better overall. I really do.
I take my emotions far more seriously when I don’t self-harm. I write them down, I write in my journal, “THIS IS HOW I FEEL TODAY AND THIS MATTERS BECAUSE I SAY SO.” And I write about it and then I can let it go. If I want to go back to this feeling, I can look back on this day in my journal.
But most often, I don’t look back on what I wrote about today in my journal. I don’t look back on the sad stuff because I feel a lot of sadness and I don’t want to feel any more than I have to. I never forget pain but I don’t need to remember every thing that ever hurt me ever. That’s too much for one person. There will be more hurt tomorrow. But right now? Right now I feel okay. I want to keep feeling it.
No matter how many times you’ve hurt yourself, it’s possible to stop the habit. And it’s worth it. You probably won’t understand why it’s so worth it until you try not hurting yourself for a while. That’s the way it works. But it’s SO worth it, I promise. It becomes more worth it every day. You won’t know how good it can be until you try it. You deserve for things to be good.
You’re worth it!
Erin Schulthies is the writer of Daisies and Bruises, a blog about "finding her way one step and one word at a time". After losing most of her youth to severe depression, she decided that since death was no longer an option, she had to find a way to live. This is it.