Tag Archives: cutting

I Confess: I’m Still Cutting Myself

As I wrote last August, I do a form of self-injury, involving squeezing my pores or picking at my skin to the point it bleeds.  I got better at not doing it as often, but last month was a bit stressful, and I started doing it more.

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My first step in breaking this habit is becoming aware of when I’m doing it.  I mostly do it while I’m driving or when I’m writing.

I’ll be driving, doing one errand after another, and stressing out about getting it all done on time, and I’ll rub my fingertips across the skin on my face and start picking at it.  I’ve taken to sitting with my hand under one leg.  Sometimes I put both hands on the wheel and really become aware of what it feels like to have the skin on my hands in contact with the steering wheel.

When I’m writing, I notice the “itch” in my fingertips, wanting to pick at my skin, and I start to pay attention to my breath, trying to make it as slow and deep as possible.

I’ve started filling out a diary card like I used to while I was doing dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).  It helps bring some awareness about my day, how I was feeling, how I reacted to the feelings, and what coping skills I used to manage my feelings.  You can make your own diary card, just keeping track of what happened during the day, how you felt, and what effective strategies you can use to cope.

I’m choosing at this time to manage this behavior on my own, rather than schedule an appointment with my therapist.  This is a very personal choice, and I think there are plenty of situations where a person can benefit from seeing a professional therapist.  For one thing, I have training in skills that can help me.  I just need to practice them.  Writing about it here is a first step in being accountable for it.

A new thing I’m trying is adopting a new behavior.  When I feel the urge to pick at my skin, I’m pressing my fingers together, a bit like an evil mastermind, and stretching them.  It gives me the feeling of connection and wholeness.

A lot of my anxiety stems from not believing in myself.  I fear that I’m going to screw up, do something stupid, hurt someone’s feelings, or just generally epically fail.  Being mindful of my urge to scrape up my skin is a way to remind myself that, “I’m okay.  Everything is okay.”  Certainly life’s not perfect, and there’s a lot of work to do, but adopting an attitude of helplessness will not help me take care of myself, my family, or my community.

This blog isn’t just about building a community, but it’s also about empowering ourselves.  It’s so easy to focus on what we aren’t doing that we wish we were or regretting things we are doing.  It’s important to remember all the ways we are being authentic and the things we do do well.

What strategies do you use to cope when you feel negative emotions?

To find help for self-injury, eating disorders, and other challenges, check out To Write Love on Her Arms.

I Confess: I Cut Myself

I’ve added a link on the “Where to Get Help” page to To Write Love on Her Arms. I first heard about this organization from a fellow patient at the psychiatric ward I stayed in during my second pregnancy. The woman, whom I’ll call Gabi, suffered from anorexia, depression, and anxiety, and she coped by cutting herself. She would cut herself in lines along her leg to comfort herself when she was feeling stressed out. She prided herself that she always sterilized the knife first, so that she wouldn’t get an infection.

Cutting is a form of self-injury. The Mayo Clinic defines self-injury as: “the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It’s typically not meant as a suicide attempt. Rather, self-injury is an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration.”

I’ve never cut myself on purpose, but when I’m really honest about it, I’m self-destructive with my skin. I’m not sure if other people would consider it cutting, but I do damage my arms, my face, and my legs. I don’t like the feel of the bumps under my skin. I have scars from all of these “bump removals.”

I suppose doing things to one’s body, whether it’s eating only 100 calories per day, as Gabi did, or cutting the skin with a knife or with the fingers, is an attempt at feeling in control. It’s certainly a temporary distraction from uncomfortable or negative feelings.

When I kept staring at the blank screen before starting to write this post, I found myself clawing at a scab on my chest. It temporarily eased the frustration of not knowing what to write, worrying that no one will ever care about what I write, and fearing that I will never be a good writer.

I feel ashamed of the scars on my face. I’m almost 40 years old, but my face has more acne scars than when I was a teenager. I blame myself because I eat too much refined sugar. I imagine if I were a vegan yoga fanatic, my skin would be flawless.

I did go to a dermatologist once who prescribed a retinoid cream and a mild antibiotic. I used them for awhile, but they didn’t seem to help.

One of the reasons Gabi was hospitalized was because she noticed her five-year-old daughter was starting to make comments about thinking she was fat and wondering aloud how many calories were in a food she was considering eating. Gabi realized her daughter was picking up on her anxiety about her weight, and she felt like a horrible mother and wanted to commit suicide.

I know that if I want my daughter to have a healthy body image, I have to model it for her. I’m honestly not sure whether I can, but I realize I need to try. She’s only three years old, but she’s already into princesses. I imagine it won’t be long before I’m telling her she’s not allowed to go out of the house until she’s “properly dressed,” and she’s not allowed to wear makeup until she’s 18 (maybe 16).

Every stage of my kids’ childhoods feels like it gets harder. Some things get easier, but I keep finding new baggage of mine I need to unpack and toss.

I found these helpful tips of how to stop hurting myself. I’ve put it in my bookmarks bar in my browser. I’ll publish this post as my first step in “confiding in someone.” I’ll try to look at my skin and think of my daughter. I would never scratch up her skin, I don’t need to do it to mine.

Do you have unhealthy coping mechanisms that you’d like to stop doing or you’ve been able to stop doing?