Self Harm

Don’t worry. No triggers. I promise. 🙂

A new and lovely friend of mine is dealing with the topic and I know many others do as well. My children and I included. I offered to do a blog post on it because not only do I understand it from my own personal experiences, I’ve watched my children, many friends and my sisters all go through this as well. To add to the issues I faced, it was not me that self harmed, it was a Helper. I eventually found out how to stop this harmful behavior and hope this blog just might help someone else suffering through this issue.

First my theory on self harming. I don’t believe anyone self harms in order to cause themselves pain. I believe it is actually done to help stop pain or to actually just feel something when feelings seem buried too deep to experience. When mental/emotional pain gets to an intolerable place and there seems to way to release it, overriding it with self harming behaviors and focusing on the current harm being done actually makes our minds calm down. The release of endorphins also gives us a bit of a high and we end up feeling better than we did before the self harming happened. This gives our brain a very clear message. “Self harm makes me feel better.”

Since I have DID, this issue can be a lot more confusing because I do not recall the self harm and had no control over it yet the solution is the same no matter who does it to you.
Self harming is a coping mechanism. That is really all it is. Just like any other addictive behavior, it solves a current issue is an unhealthy way. Just because it is unhealthy doesn’t mean it doesn’t work though which is why we all keep doing these things.

So what do you do to stop it? Well, you need to find out what need to are fulfilling by doing it. If it is a Helper/alter/other, you need to find out why they are doing it. What is it that they need or what is it that you need?
To feel calmer?
To reduce extreme stress?
To help with feelings of being overwhelmed?
To cause a new pain so the old pain dulls down?
To be heard?
To be believed?
Once you know why you are doing it, the solution to begin healing yourself is actually rather simple. Don’t take that the wrong way, I know it is hard work but I also know that the path to wellness is not quite as difficult as I once thought it was. It’s just the not owning a map to that path that makes it tough. Thankfully, I was given the map and now I am trying to share it with all of you.

No matter what you do to harm yourself, you first need to rid your home of anything you would normally use for self harm. If it is a common and needed household item then you need to find a way to make it less accessible to you or you can put a note with that item reminding yourself that that tool is NOT intended for self harm and you need to stop yourself now.
Now you need to start finding healthier alternatives. I think making an actual list of things to do instead is very helpful. Print them out, make it look nice and post it in a very easily seen place. It will be totally positive so if anyone sees it, they will just see a wonderful list of uplifting messages. I will put some suggestions at the bottom of this blog. You can choose the ones that you actually find helpful and in time, you will find that these healthier behaviors really can offer you the same high as self harming once did PLUS you can be so proud of yourself for stopping the harming behavior. Remember the 80-20 rule though. Just because you might not be successful every time doesn’t mean that you have failed. It is about reducing the frequency of it and eventually finding the right tools that help you stop completely.
Getting mad with yourself does not help you heal!!!

When you have a Helper that is doing the self harming, the way to deal with it includes another 2 steps. First you must do some (okay, a lot of) inward talking. Even if the harmer won’t talk back to you or they are extremely mad or hurtful to you, just remain calm and continue with your inward talking. In my case, letting my self harmer Polly know that I cared for her, wanted to help ease her pain and wanted her voice to be heard did eventually help her feel cared about and we could start working towards the 2nd extra step.
Step 2 is making a deal with that Helper. In my case, Polly is an angry (furious) teenager with plenty of reasons to hate everything in her world. I can’t blame her for feeling that way but I can let her know that harming us won’t solve her troubles. It took about a year but eventually Polly and I decided that we would get tattoos done on both wrists that would cover the scars from the self harming. She got to have say in the tattoos but the deal was that if I got the tattoos done with her suggestions, she could not cut through them. I am very happy to say that after years of uncontolable self harming behaviors, I have now been 18 months without a self inflicted scratch. THANK YOU POLLY!!!!!!

In the end, Helper or not, you need to figure out what you need and find healthy alternatives. Self harm is not going to solve anything long term no matter how good it feels at the time. You deserve wellness and I want it for you.
Have a great day all!!!

Positive Stress Relieving ideas

1.  Exercise. 

2.  Put on fake tattoos. 

3.  Draw on yourself with washable red marker-then take a shower and wash away your pain.

4. Scribble on sheets of paper.

5.  Write poetry.

6.  Cuddle with a stuffed toy.

7.  Be with other people.

8.  Watch a favorite TV show.

9.  Post on web boards or try answering other people’s posts.

10, Think about how beautiful unscarred skin looks.

11.  Paint your nails a new color or draw something cool on your skin.

12.  Go out to see a movie.

13.  Eat something you can’t resist.

14. Read.

15.  Write a letter to someone. You don’t have to send it .

16. Go into chat rooms to talk.

17.  Call a friend and ask them to come hang out.

18.  Play a musical instrument. A kazoo counts!

19.  Sing.

20.  Look up at the sky, and  find the moon.  Study it.

21. Dance like no one is watching.

22.  Buy a punching  bag (with gloves.  Name it.  Then, have a visit with John/Judy when you need to.

23.  Snap a rubber band  (hair band) on your wrist.

24.  Cover yourself with band-aids where you want to cut.

25.  Go to the zoo and rename the animals.

26.  Let yourself cry, even if it is hard.

27.  Sleep,  only if you are tired.

28.  Do the exact opposite of what you really want to do.

29.  Play with a pet.

30.  Smile to at least 5 people.

31.  Re-organize something like a closet.

32.  Go out and perform one act of kindness.

33. Have a pillow fight with a wall.

34. Do something creative.

35.  Read a positive blog.

36. Watch funny YouTube videos. 

37.  Color your hair.

38.  Listen to music (non-triggering)

39.  Focus on the soothing light from a candle. No touching!

40.  Find someone else you can help.  Do volunteer work.

41.  Meditate.  Track your breathing.

42.  Call up an old friend and catch up.

43.  Work on a website or start a new one.

44.  Have a vivid fantasy love affair with a celebrity.

45.  Go somewhere public.

46.  Bake cookies or another favorite food you like.

47.  Write a blog about how you were going to self harm but didn’t.

48.  Chew gum.

49.  Buy a henna tattoo kit.

50.  Google the year you were born to see what else terrific started that year besides your life. 

51. Rip paper into really small pieces.

52.  Give someone a hug.

53.  Write a  letters or emails.

54.  Say positive affirmations. 

55. Hug a pillow.

56.  Hyper-focus on something like a rock.

57.  Fingerpaint.

58.  Scream as loud as you want.

59.  Play a cell phone game.

60.  Make hot chocolate.

61.  Pop bubble wrap.

62.  Play with play dough.

63.  Count to 100.

64.  Build a pillow fort.

65.  Blow up a balloon and pop it.

66.  Hug yourself.

67.  Write yourself an “I love myself because” letter and keep it.  Read it when you feel down.

68.  Do a puzzle.

69.  Go for a nice long drive, walk, or jog.

70.  Complete something you have been putting off.

71.  Drink a cup of herbal tea.

72.  Fold paper and invent a new origami shape.

73.  Write your memoirs.

74.  Build something.

75.  Take up something new. 

76.  Go hiking.

77.  Take up a new hobby you always dreamed of.

78.  Organize bills, receipts, etc.

79.  Cook a meal.

80.  Go out for ice cream.

81.  Buy a stuffed animal.

82.  Look at pretty things-like flowers or art work.

83.  Take pictures.

84.  Look up some silly information online. Do penguins kiss?

85.  Throw socks against the wall.

86.  Make a list of blessings in your life.

87.  Go to a friend’s house and open up.

88.  Write a thank you note.

89.  Watch an old comedy movie.

90.  Call your therapist or make an appointment with one.

91.  Talk to someone close to you that you trust.

92.  Buy a big ugly stuffed toy and beat it up as needed.

93.  Ride a bicycle.

94.  Clean your house.

95,  Start a garden or water your house plants.

96.  Re-arrange a room.

97.  Feed the ducks, birds, or squirrels.

98.  Draw or paint with watercolors if you don’t want permanence.

99. Go to a park.

100.  Play jacks or pick up sticks.

101. Color with crayons. There is no age limit!

102.  Memorize a song and sing it.  Then, reflect on it’s message.

103.  Put on boots and stomp.

104.  Stretch.

105.  Find a butterfly  and catch it.

106.  Watch fish.

107.  Come up with names for people you don’t know. He looks like a “Rob” don’t you think?

108.  Go to a public place and people watch.

109.  Make a playlist of your newest favorite songs.

110.  Name all of your stuffed animals.

111.  Go shopping.

112.  Get into your PJ’s and just veg.

113.  Sit in a coffee shop with a good book.

114.  Throw something unbreakable on the ground. HARD!

115.  Go to a a museum or a nifty store with unique items.

116.  Think about your ideal life.  What do you have to do to get there?

117.  Plan an outing for any day in the near future.

118.  Hunt for weird stuff on Ebay.  There are 451,549 results for chocolate!

119.  Alphabetize your books and magazines.

120.  Hunt for your perfect home in the paper or online.

121.  Take up Tai Chi.

122.  Try to make as many words as possible out of your full name

123.  Count ceiling tiles or lights.

124.  Go to the grocery store and buy yourself some flowers.

125.  Search for ridiculous things on the web.

126.  Google yourself. This is seriously cool.

127.  Color co-ordinate your wardrobe.

128.  Do a home tan on yourself.

129.  Take a hot bath and “be” in the moment.

130.  Sort some of your photographs.

131.  Give yourself a pedicure.

132.  Color or scribble over pretty women in magazines.

133.  Plan a dinner party with menus and guest list, then carry it out.

134.  Go through all your old stuff, and donate it.

135.  Take a walk in the woods and breathe the fresh air.

136.  Start a mood journal and write in it every day.  Do patterns surface?

137.  Buy yourself some toys and play like you are 5 years old!

138.  Start to collect some thing.

139.  Take up kick-boxing.

140.  Read a magazine or newspaper.

141.  Sew something.

142.  Buy a cuddly stuffed animal.

143.  Take your own dog, or a friend’s dog for a walk.

144.  Come up with your own fun idea! 🙂

8 responses to “Self Harm

  1. Hi Heather,

    can I point you in the direction of attachment theory and what it teaches us about affect regulation? My girls never did a lot of self-harm stuff, but when they did, I provided them the ‘safe harbor’ for the emotional storm that assailed them and also helped them regulate their emotions until they got to the place where they could do it on their own. Non-sexual physical connection and comforting words were a big key to me helping them thru this. For someone without a partner, I believe a pet large enough to hold tightly onto would be a partial substitute. (And this is a lifelong need of everyone. As my girls have been healing, they have begun to reciprocate and help me when I’m stressed and not coping…)

    Beyond attachment theory, the person with d.i.d. has one other difficulty that non-dissociated people don’t have and that is each person within the network only controls some of the affect regulation skills. So it’s really important that others in the group who have any connection with the one who self-harms surround that one to help. Easier said than done, until the dissociative walls start coming down, but as you proved, not altogether impossible.

    I’m very happy for you and Polly! Congrats on such a long time without selfharming!!!!



    • Thanks Sam!
      Affect regulation is a real struggle for every Helper and I. You are absolutely correct in everything you say. What I shared is all I know so far but I really appreciate you adding your ideas. I know this is something we can all work on. Your girls are very lucky Sam. 🙂


  2. Pingback: The first time and the last time… self harm | Precious Things

  3. Great post! I shared it on my blog with my own thoughts. I love that you have such a long list of alternative strategies 🙂


  4. This is such a great post, thank you so much for sharing all that you have on here, i sure am going to try following your advice 🙂 and well done Polly for not having self harmed for such a long time 🙂


  5. This is brilliant Heather…well done on such a long time of no self harm, well done Polly, too! Love the ideas you came up with. Can I save the list for myself? XX carol anne


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