Tag Archives: trichotillomania

Self Harm: A Decision?

Please be aware this post will be discussing self harm so some content may be triggering.

There is a lot of thought about whether self harm is a decision or not. I know it’s a highly controversial topic and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. As someone who self harms it can be a difficult thing to consider.

The definition of self harm is deliberately hurting yourself. This suggests that self harm is a choice but how much is that true? When we consider self harm as a symptom of a mental illness is it really a choice?

If you had an illness like cancer would you consider your symptoms your choice? Quite obviously the answer would be no. So is self harm any different? If you ask anyone with self harm about what happens when they need to harm most will say its an uncontrollable urge. It is something they feel forced to do. This is especially common as you go deeper down the self harm hole.

The urge to self harm, for many, is intense. It takes over. It’s hard to think clearly. The urge is made stronger by the fact that many who self harm have low self esteem and don’t feel deserving of care. Whatever has been a trigger will bring up all sorts of feelings that are hard to deal with. Everything can feel overwhelming. Sometimes we are not totally there, maybe dissociated. Then it’s not really a choice is it?

But in some ways it can be a choice. We decide to inflict the harm, don’t we? I honestly don’t know. This is where I’m hugely torn. And why I’m torn is based on how I see others and how I see myself. For others, and this is probably the most important part, I don’t think it is a true choice. There is a lot leading or pushing you in that direction. It is a symptom of an illness so is never a true choice. Then I look at myself and berate myself for choosing to hurt myself in the first place.

I don’t give myself a break on the decision making idea. I blame myself for self harming every time. I blame myself for making that “choice”. I see myself as truly being the reason I’m hurting myself. Even the name makes it seem like that. Especially when medical staff call it deliberate self harm.

And this is where the issue becomes more apparent. We are treated by medical staff, including in mental health teams, who see it as a choice rather than a symptom. Yes I may pick up the blade etc but there is something pushing me to that. I am unwell. My choices are not truly my own always. It’s not an excuse but an explanation. I’ve been told I’ve made the choice to hurt myself. This in a time when I was so distressed I couldn’t see any other choice. So surely it isn’t a true choice?

There is hope with this though and this is where it gets more into the dodgy area of being a choice. Learning through therapy of other ways to cope instead of self harming means we do start to have a choice between self harm or using our new coping methods. I start to see why they say its a choice. They’ve given us other options and we’ve gone for self harm. What they don’t seem to realise is we probably chose their new methods first but it takes time for them to be an effective choice for us. It’s all about time.

So these are just my views on self harm as a choice, I’d love to hear yours. Feel free to connect in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Sunday Night

Please be aware this a personal piece and therefore some of the content may be triggering.

It’s Sunday night. Many people dread it as its the symbol that the working week is ahead. To me that’s not currently an issue but tonight my mood is extremely low. The suicidal thoughts are strong in my mind (I am safe). The voice is loud and I feel isolated. So I’m writing. If you’re reading this good luck as I’ve no idea where this may go. Also sorry as it may get self pitying.

The last few weeks have been hard. Many difficult things have happened and are ongoing. The future is uncertain. As it is for everyone I know. But this makes things hard with my desperate need for control. This makes my mental illness go wild. It sees it as an opportunity to take over even more of my life. It makes me isolate myself. It makes me hurt myself more. It makes me want to no longer exist. The symptoms of depression such as loss of appetite and concentration and difficulty sleeping are back. In my head it is an obvious depressive episode.

I’m also though pushing my way backwards in some ways. I’m trying hard to hide my emotions again which means turning them forever inwards. I’m pushing away the question of how I am and getting others to answer it and forget I never answered. I’m punishing myself in these ways. I’m going back into relationships that are unhealthy. I have no self respect. I have no self worth.

The voice is helping me along with all this. Its a constant torrent of how I should be dead and how much people hate me. It puts doubts in my mind and increases my paranoia. I know people are out to get me or pretending to like me. I understand. I’m unlikeable but they don’t want my death on them and that’s fair. They are lovely people who deserve better than that. They deserve better than me. I’m a burden to them but they are too polite to say it. I’m needy. I’m a pain. I’m selfish.

I’m currently convinced I’m going to be arrested. I’m scared about going outside. I’m forcing myself to do it but I’m terrified. I think Lorazepam is going to be my friend. The anxiety is high. I’m sure I’ve done something wrong and it will soon be discovered. I’m watching out on the local police force’s Facebook page for my picture to appear – without liking the page so they cant find me. Every siren makes my heart beat faster. I’m resorting to pulling out my eyebrows to help me cope with the anxiety.

Also I feel I’m not allowed to feel how I do. That people are trying to take the feelings away and rubbish them. To rubbish me for feeling them. I know they seem irrational. I’m not stupid. But I need to work through them myself to see it. I need to be allowed to feel if I can. I don’t want people to ask if it’s logical or question it. I do that myself. Twitter is my place that I allow myself to currently express myself and I really don’t want people pointing out it’s not logical. I just need to express it.

Physically my body feels like its giving up on me. I feel very unwell all the time. I’m waiting on hospital appointments for different things. I think the current count is five different hospital teams aside from the mental health team. I’m pushing my body all the time. I’m walking about 4k a day. I’m doing things around the house. All on little sleep and feeling pretty awful. I want to give up and stay in bed. It’s just not an option. Other forms of self care are falling by the wayside as well.

I’m also finding the thought of asking for help from my mental health team hard as well. I know I’m a drain on services. I’ve been made very aware of this lately with my care coordinator complaining about her high workload and not wanting me as part of that anymore. It doesn’t matter that a month ago I tried to end my life. Or that in September/October I was with the crisis team. Nope. I’m just a burden and what I feel doesn’t matter. And they’ve lied to me as well.

So there are my current thoughts and feelings. My rant. My Sunday night. Hope yours is better.

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Control

This is a personal piece. Please be aware some of the content may be triggering.

Control is the thing I crave most in my life. I’ve known it for a while but it’s taken a while to admit it. A lot of what I do is about trying to retain some control in a life that constantly feels out of control. It’s also about managing the feelings of being out of control. The problem is I’ve gone down what people would call negative routes to deal with this.

The reason I think I need the control is that so many people have taken away any control I should have had. People have taken away control of my body and my life. Little decisions don’t feel like mine to make. My life doesn’t feel like mine.

The things I use to feel in control include self harm and hair pulling. They are not the only things I have used or do use. These are just the most regular. Food has been something I’ve used to feel in control (I do not have an eating disorder nor been diagnosed with one, this was just a period of restriction). Alcohol was another thing until it took control of me. I also feel some of my suicide attempts have been an attempt to be in control of when my life ends among other reasons.

I also can see my need to be in control in other situations. When I sit in a room with others I try to be first in to choose a seat that I feel safe in. I’m constantly early. I plan things meticulously. If I’m creating things I find others input hard to deal with. Relinquishing control on things and allowing others in is hard. I’d much rather do things myself. It’s things I’m trying to work on.

So what are your tips to deal with the need for control? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Shut Up

This is my response to some comments I’ve had and seen other people have. It is my personal opinion. Please be aware some content may be triggering.

“Shut up!” are the words I wanted to say. Someone tried to tell me what I could do even when I expressed how difficult it would be. They totally invalidated my feelings. They totally disregarded my illness. It was like they thought I had a choice over how I felt.

The thing is this is common for people with mental illnesses (and I’m aware it’s the same for those with chronic physical illnesses, especially if they’re invisible, but I don’t really have much experience of this so would not like to comment further on this). People seem to think you are just being difficult. They seem to think it’s a choice. They can’t see how much of a battle these so called “simple” things are to do.

Mental illness can create barriers to doing certain tasks. Getting through these barriers takes a lot of work. Just because you put it in simple terms does not make it any easier. It does not take away the mental, and sometimes physical, blocks. It does not change my feelings. It does not take away my anxiety (or depression, BPD, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc). All it does is frustrate me as I feel misunderstood.

What can be worse is when it is someone who has experienced their own mental illness. You kind of expect some understanding (and most are) but instead you are met with their own standards of what you “should” be able to do with a mental illness. This is so wrong. Everyone with a mental illness is different. It effects people in different ways. What might be an easy task for me, might be the hardest thing for someone else and vice versa. Please don’t hold us all to the same standards.

In short before you voice that someone can do something (and not in a “you’ve got this” way but in a “you will do this as you are capable” forceful way) think. Why are they saying they can’t do it? What can you do that is a practical way to help? Are they ready to tackle this right now? Maybe ask them these questions. Please don’t invalidate what they are feeling.

If you’ve got any thoughts on this feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Self Harm Scar Etiquette

As it’s summer the weather is warmer and people are starting to reveal more of their body. This brings an anxiety to people who have self harmed, past or present, as they are faced with the choice of covering up (and boiling) or revealing their scars and self harm to the world. Therefore I thought I’d come up with some things that will make it easier for the person with the scars or self harm if you encounter them. Obviously this is just my opinion and others may feel differently.

1. Don’t point it out

This seems obvious to some but not to others. Pointing out scars adds to the self consciousness. We’re already worried what people are thinking without it being obvious that they’re looking at the scars. Also if we are starting to forget about them and enjoy what we’re doing then pointing them out takes away from our enjoyment.

2. Don’t ask us why we did it

Again, this adds to self consciousness. We become aware that you’re really looking and thinking about our self harm or scars. It can make us feel awkward and like we’re being judged. Quite often we don’t know why we self harm or don’t want to discuss it as its obviously something that has caused us great pain. We can easily be taken back to that dark place.

3. Don’t tell us to cover up

First of all why should we cover up? This makes me a little annoyed. I’ve been made to feel ashamed of my scars a long time and this shouldn’t be the case. It’s part of an illness. I have every right to not boil in summer. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable but I also shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable. People who self harm feel enough shame and it takes guts to show your scars, we shouldn’t have that shame added to.

4. Please don’t stare

This can feel awful. I already feel self conscious enough without people staring at me. I had this once on the train and it really fed in to my paranoia. I know it can be hard to look away sometimes but please think of the person you’re staring at.

It takes real bravery to overcome the barriers to have your scars on show. It is revealing yourself to many people, including strangers. It can take a long time to accept your scars are part of you. Shame is a really strong emotion that people who self harm feel and can be added to by other people making ill thought out comments. Please think before you speak.

If you have any other things you feel people should do or not do help you feel comfortable showing scars feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Unconscious Self Harm *Trigger Warning* 

This is a personal piece. Please be trigger aware when reading.

Just lately things have been really tough for me. I have found living extremely difficult and getting through each day is a challenge. Part of my coping strategies has been self harm. Now I have always been open about the fact that I self harm on this blog and with mental health professionals, but I have noticed I am not just harming consciously. There has been a lot of unconscious self harm going on. I therefore thought I would explore this topic about ways I unconsciously self harm to raise awareness. These methods I do not condone and I would never want to tip share so will not go into a lot of detail. Please be careful when reading the following post.

A major way I have been unconsciously self harming is to make myself physically unwell. I have physical health conditions that can be exacerbated. Unconsciously this is what I have been doing by not taking proper care of myself. When depression strikes this is an easy thing to do as you can neglect your physical health in a number of ways unintentionally. This is part of what has happened to me but I have also pushed myself to limits I know I can’t deal with.

Another part of not looking after myself physically has been not taking pain medication so I feel the pain of an injury I have at the moment. This is self harm as I am causing myself pain even though I am unconsciously doing this. I’m also possibly exacerbating the injury by not taking the doctor’s advice.

Another unconscious method of self harm for me is hair pulling (or trichotillomania). I know a lot of people do this consciously but for me it is an unconscious action and I suddenly find myself with a bald patch or missing eyelashes. It is self harm as it causes pain and also, for me, embarrassment which makes me feel worse. I will try to do a fuller blog post on this topic in the future.

The final way I unconsciously self harm is to skin pick (or dermatillomania). I do this without thinking and pull away skin from my arms, chest and face. Quite often I make it bleed and am left feeling sore and even scarring myself. I know some people do this as conscious self harm but for me it is mostly unconscious and I have no idea to what extent I am doing it.

So those are some of the ways I unconsciously self harm. They are things I do without consciously thinking about the damage I may cause myself. They are things I slip into when things are particularly bad. If you find yourself unconsciously (or consciously) self harming there are things you can do to help. Being aware of it is the first step. Then there are alternatives you can try. They may not work straight away. For more information on self harm check out the Mind website.

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