What it is like to Be newly abstinent from self harm...
Posted by amyc
29th Oct 2012

As the days pass by, that you may, like myself be crossing off on a calendar or in a diary, a sense of both pride and unease grow. Has it really been nearly a month since I last self-harmed? I never thought I could last that long. As I think of all the times I ignored urges, or distracted myself through them, I become overwhelmed with “I can do this” feelings, and thoughts of “It’s not that bad, is it?” Then I think back to the reasons behind my self harm, and realise they are all still there lurking in the background they haven’t gone anywhere, and I struggle to understand how I can go on swatting those feelings away forever. I have been urge surfing for a month now, riding on the waves of emotions, trying to weather them and not get struck down by a tidal wave of hellish feelings that lead me to go over the edge, and push me into a self-mutilating behaviour. So far success, but there is always that horrible feeling of dread, that one day that little self-harm monster inside you, will reclaim power and take over your life once more. You should draw strength from your successes though, and also realise that you can make it through the seconds, minutes, hours and days without hurting yourself. You are most definitely worth it, no one deserves to be in pain.
Think of all the new opportunities you will be able to take up if you continue to abstain from self –harming. Maybe you can take up a new leisure activity… Swimming (once you are all healed), cycling, working out, anything you have always wanted to try, but never had the confidence to, because self-harm saps it all out of you.  The less time you spend on figuring out ways of how to destroy yourself, the more time there is for trying to rebuild your life and to enjoy yourself, which in itself makes remaining abstinent much easier. Maybe you want to go back to work, start small think about trying a voluntary job then building up your hours. Now you have more time on your hands, there won’t be any trips to accident and emergency, no late night runs to the chemists in search of bandages, you can reclaim your life. Live as you wish, live a life worth living.
Of course the urges and desires still remain so close to the surface, they are bubbling away underneath your conscious, or even popping up as every second thought inside your head, but it is what you do with them that counts, not whether they are there or not. Remember it’s OK not to be OK, sometimes you have to sit with a feeling, to feel the relief when it has passed. Take note of how you are feeling, sad, angry, confused, hurt, lost, abandoned…how does it really make you feel? Can you feel it in your body? Take the time to think about your emotions and be connected with them, but remember you are not your emotion. Just because you are angry, does not mean you are an angry person, you just happen to be experiencing feelings of anger at that time. You do not have to act out on your emotions, it is OK to feel them, acknowledge them, and let them pass through your body, taking their own natural course, similar to a dark cloud passing through a blue sky, it doesn’t always have to pour with rain, you don’t always have to self-harm your way out of an emotion.
I don’t know whether you do this, but I look at the calendar regularly and even though I know how long I have been abstinent I count over and over. What usually comes to mind is this “Well I’ve done 29 days…But I’m only just twenty two how many days have I got left to go!” It can be very daunting thinking about how hard the future is going to be without your crutch of self-harm by your side. It is easy to disregard how long you have been abstinent for when you realise how much longer you are going to have to work for. That is why it is important to take each day as it comes, and stay in the moment. Try not to let yourself get caught up in thoughts of “I must never self-harm again…How hard is that going to be!?” If you are having an especially bad day, take things hour by hour, even minute by minute to help get yourself through. Remember, if it is the only thing you can hold onto to have compassion for yourself throughout your journey. Moving away from self-harm is not easy, for anyone and the first bit is always the hardest, similar to when you initially give up smoking (if you have ever been a smoker) it gets easier, the longer the period of time has elapsed from your last cigarette. Absence helps make the will power grow stronger I find, particularly in relation to self-harm.
The initial period of moving away from self-harm is often laced with many hopes and aspirations for the future. When you start out in putting an end to your self-harm you will find yourself being driven hard and inspired by all the things you will be able to achieve when self-harm no longer plays a part in your life, however if the days get harder make sure you don’t sacrifice what you want in the future for something you want now. Remember to cling onto the hopes and dreams you had initially even if you feel like you can’t carry on anymore.  Having goals is so important, something to strive towards. Set yourself little goals every day to make yourself feel like you have achieved something, even if it is as simple as washing your hair or cooking your own meal.
Recovering from self-harm and mutilation is not an easy path, but necessary and rewarding. There are both struggles and successes along the journey but it will be worth it in the end to have a life worth living.
As you move away from self-harm, you will have to come across coping strategies that help you get through the overwhelming urges to self-harm. If you can think to yourself about the purpose your self-harm served for you it can help you to decide what coping strategies will help you get you through the temptation to revert to self- harming behaviour. 

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