Self Harm

A few people have asked me to write about self-harm, so I'm going to take a stab (haha, get the pun...okay, but seriously. This is a serious topic) at it. I have never self-harmed, but I think I can really relate to it because of my experiences wtith ED. Please let me know if this post makes sense and if it helps.

Self-harm is a serious problem. Many people think that those who self-harm have serious, major issues. Whty would you purposely hurt yourself? Well, there ia lot going in with people who self-harm. I'll start with an ED perspective. Why would I want to purposely starve myself? Didn't I KNOW that not eating would eventually hurt me and kill me? OF COURSE I DID. But I could not stop restricting. It had become like a habit, similar to an addiction. Perhaps I knew that I was hurting my body, but restricting became something that somehow made things easier for me. Let me explain...

When I felt bad, I just ate less. If I was having a bad day and nothing was going right, restricting amde me feel strong. Maybe I could do nothing right, but I COULD not eat. There. That was somehing under my control, something that I could do. And it reallt did make me feel better. I forgot about everything else as I starved. And when I starved, evrything else became easier to deal with. Try not eating for days and days (don't try it, I'm just trying to paint a picture in your mind). How would you feel? Tired. Starving. Stomach pains. Dizzy. Nothing compares to those feelings. So, everything else - stress, homework, people - all those problems become minimal compared to the feeling of starvation.

With self-harm (perhaps cutting), the same thing occurs. It becomes a way of dealing with things. Bad day? Cut. Can't deal with all the craziness in life? Cut. It is similar to an addiction, similar to ED. And once the person begins, they acutally do feel better, Why? Chemicals caled neurotrasnmitters and hormones. Remember how I wrote a while back about how starvation makes the anorexic body produce endorphins, the pain-relieving hormones? Studies show that cutting might do the same to someone who self-harms. (See http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/18/2/78.short). So, someone who cuts may acutally feel 'good' once they cut. It is like a sense of relief.

There are also people who self-harm as a way of punshing themselves. Again, I can relate this to my experiences with ED. I felt so bad about myself - the way I looked, my body, my personality, etc. So, starving myself was punishment for this. I did not deserve to eat like everyone else. I needed to starve to punish myself for being so fat and ugly. Those who self-harm might feel the same. Some do not like how they look, act, etc. So self-harm becomes 'punishment' for this. And sicne now we know that it might acutally make their brains feel better, the person becomes trapped in a never-ending cycle.

Treatment for self-harm is very difficult. Like any addiction or problem it will take time. I'm not a doctor, but I certainly think that someone who self-harms should see a psychiatristand/or doctor. And then the hard, real work comes. You need to STOP. Realize that self-harming is just that: hurting your self, your body. Cutting might make you feel good or take away your anxiety, but it does not take away your problems. Bleeding will not make hard tests go away. It will not change the way you feel about yourself. You need to discover why you cut and learn that these are problerms you need to work on. For example, maybe you cut because you hate yourself. Why do you hate yourself? Do you need to improve your self-esteem? Do you need to learn to love your body?

It is so hard. I know. Stopping the restriction and eating again was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It acutally HURT me to eat again. I cried, I screamed. I did NOT want to eat, for heaven's sake! Why didn't anyone understand? I LIKED NOT EATING. IT WAS EASIER AND IT MADE ME FEEL GOOD! But in reality, it was hurting my body and slowly killing me. And it was such a terrible habit, an addiction. It took the full support of my family, friends, and church to make it through. I did it gradually. I could not go from eating nothing to eating a 12-course meal in one day. But I did increase my eating, even though I did not want to. But I knew that it was the right thing to do. What my body and health needed.

Same goes with cutting or self-harm. STOP! I know it is hard. Believe me, I know. But you are only hurting yourself. Literally and metamorphically. The cuts are hurting yout body, but they arr also making your problem worse. See a medical team for help. They might start therapy with you, and maybe you will need to be hospitalized. It depends on how severe your illness. By the way, it is an illness. Cutting or self-harm is NOT your fault nor does it make you stupid or problmatic. It just means that you suffer from an illness and you deserve to get all the help possible. Recovering from self-harm is possible. It will be hard, no doubr. But you CAN do it. I went from eating almost nothing a day to eating five or six times (and enough) a day. I went from fleeing from food to chewing my meals. I went from severely underweight to weight restored. I went from near death to life again. It is totally possible.

To those who are religious, cutting or self-harm is hurting the body and gift that God gave you. "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Thus, you need to care for this body. God dwells in it and He does not want you to hurt it. You are so precious to God. You are beautiful and special in His loving eyes. Do not hurt yourself by hurting your body. It is hurting God as well.

I hope this helped those who are suffering wtih self-harm, or any other addiction. Part of the wark I di here and with NEDIC is being able to talk to people about many problems, not just ED. And the more I write and speak out, the more I realize that many illnesses, addictions, and problems are related. ED, self-harm, depression, anxiety, OCD, etc. They are NOT our faults, yet they need treatment and help, Anyone who suffers deserves to get help. Help and support is available. But you have to take the first step - the hardest step. It sounds cliche, but it is the truth. Realize and admit that you have a problem. And even though now you might not want to get better or stop the bad habit, somewhere deep inside you, you know that you should stop. You know that you have to get better. And you are not alone. There will be always be people to help you, to support you. And for those who believe in God as I do, God is always there. He is always there to strengthen you, to bring you out of hard times.

"The pain that you have been feeling can not compare to the joy that is coming" (Romans 8:18).

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