Tips on What to do After Someone You Love Has Cut

~By: Jess Mei


After my latest episode with cutting, I realize that most ‘common folk’ are just not equipped to know what to do, or even how to react to self-harming. I think it is interesting how some people act like they are actually offended when we self-harm. Like ‘how could we put them in that situation’. I do try to look at other people’s points-of-views, so I thought I’d try to give some pointers for loved ones of self-harmers. Please pardon me if I come off sounding like I have an ‘us’ versus ‘everyone else’ mentality. But unless you are a self-harmer – I really don’t think you can understand. This is just generalized advice. First, let me see if I can shed some light on the ‘why’ of it.

1. It’s not about you…its not about us, and its not about suicide, either.
Outsiders need to understand that self-harm doesn’t have anything to do with them…that’s why it is called ‘self’ harm. Most times it isn’t even about us, the self-harmers. Sometimes it is about the pain; sometimes it is about the blood. Sometimes we self-harm to heal another part of ourselves. But it is almost never about suicide. We’re not trying to kill ourselves. Trust me – we already know exactly how to do that. Self-harm isn’t about suicide…even when we’re suicidal.

2. Self-harm is full of symbolism and ritual.

The scarring, the blood, the act of self-harm it self is extremely symbolic for us. Sometimes we’ll even write poetry about it. For me, this symbolism has nothing to do with Satan, God, or anything like that. For example, once I’ve used a particular razor to cut, I’ll cut with it until I feel ‘okay’ again, then I’ll discard that razor. I don’t want to even touch it again. It has served its purpose. Now, that doesn’t stop me from going and getting another one (I purchased a 100 pack of blades) – but I don’t because that self-harming episode is over and I feel okay again.

3. Self-harm usually occurs when we are under a lot of stress and are frustrated.
Sometimes we cut because we want to express frustration but don’t want to express it verbally. The cuts then become like little screams, a way to yell, let out that ‘pressure’, and not have to confront the source of the stress and/or frustration. Sometimes we cut when we feel like we’re not being heard or understood. Whatever the reasons, the underlying cause is a great deal of stress and/or frustration.

Okay, so knowing all this, you as the bystander are supposed to do what exactly?

       

      • Don’t look at us like we’re crazy. This is an addiction and coping mechanism…just like smoking.
      • Don’t jump to conclusions and assume that we’re trying to kill ourselves. Dying a death of a thousand cuts isn’t something we’re interested in.
      • Don’t panic and try to remove our instruments of choice. That makes us feel like a child and when the next time comes up, we’ll find something else to self-harm with. And because we would be self-harming with something less familiar, we risk potential fatal injury.
      • If we want to talk about it, please – please just listen. Don’t try to fix anything.
      • If possible, help to keep the stress levels down.
      • Keep a medical first aid kit handy. Be prepared to take us to the emergency room if the cuts need stitches and be willing to fight with us for humane treatment at the hospital.
      • Don’t crowd…give us some space to regroup.
      • If we have DID, know that this cutting episode may be triggering or may have been a reaction to a trigger.
      • If you see us wearing long-sleeved clothing in the middle of summer, don’t make a big deal about it. More than likely, we are trying to hide our scars.
      • Don’t help us if we don’t ask for it.

      Basically, the best action to take is to just ‘be’ there…follow our lead. We usually find our voices after the self-harm and are able to articulate clearly how we will need your assistance and support.

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      10 Tips to Avoid Self-Harm and Cutting

      ~By: Jess Mei

      I know I can’t be the only one who has to fight the urge to cut. Sometimes, I win; sometimes I end up with a mess to clean up and a few cuts to hide. I can’t make up my mind if the reason I cut is because I just want to feel something, anything – or if I want the release of the blood. Honestly, I think it is both for me. Your reason for self-harm is your own…I can only speak about myself in this as self-harm is just so…..personal. I haven’t cut in a while I’m happy to say, but I get the urge to do so more often than I’d care to admit. I know self-harm is a very strong urge to resist, so here are 10 tips to help resist the urge. Some are tried and true; some I haven’t tried yet but think they might work. I believe that self-harm (particularly cutting) is like cancer – it never goes away, but it can go into remission.

      Before we begin, know the Self-Injurer’s Bill of Rights, so if you end up cutting or self-harming, you know your rights when you are being treated for your injuries. So without further delay:

      1. Get up and move.
      Put your sneakers on and run, jog, run-in-place, do some Pilates, run up and down your staircase at home – just get yourself moving. The endorphins released by physical exercise might help decrease the urge. If you find that after a few minutes, you’re still feeling the urge, push your body physically a little more. Add a shout and some arm waving to whatever you’re doing. What you’re trying to do here is release that build-up of internal pressure…that urge – without self-harming.

      2. Scream.
      Yes, that’s right – scream. Throw your head back and let ‘er rip. Scream out all that internal pressure, scream out your pain – scream, scream, scream! This works best (of course) if you’re alone. I scream sometimes in the car when I’m driving. I try not to do it at a stop light (cause the people in the cars next to you will think you’re nuts), but honestly – since you’ll probably never see those people again, who cares what they think?

      3. Write in your journal.
      If you have a journal, use it. Write out the feelings that can’t be expressed verbally. Even being numb is a feeling. What would things be like for you if you could feel? When you allow yourself to feel, it is too painful to deal with so you’d rather face physical pain than emotional – I get it; but can you face the emotional pain by writing some of all of it down? Do you cry? Write about it. Allow the others to come out and write as well. Just for a few minutes, open yourself up on paper. Let it out. Sometimes when I do this, I’ll burn the written words after wards…just too personal – even for myself. Be careful with this one, though. Sometimes, others inside will really resent your writing things down and may give you massive headaches.

      4. Arts and Crafts.
      Here lately, I’ve been playing around with crocheting and knitting not only to fight the urge to cut, but also as a stress reliever. Some times I need to crochet a bit before I can post to this blog because the mere fact that I’ve created this blogspot in and of itself is sometimes very triggering for me. You don’t have to be creative or even particularly artistic to do crafts. Get yourself a ‘how-to’ on a craft you’d like to learn and dive in. If you already have experience – pull out your materials and have fun. Singing a song you enjoy can also help.

      5. Call a friend or your therapist.
      Phone a friend and gossip, or talk about the latest fashions. Men, call and talk about sports or whatever you and your friend has in common that isn’t related at all to self-harm. Go meet up for a cup o’ coffee or something. Going to see a movie would work as well. Be comfortable enough with this friend that if you need to walk out on a movie that is triggering, you can do so without it being a big deal.

      6. Watch some comedy.

      It is true that laughter is the best medicine. Laughter also releases endorphins that might help with relieving some of the internal pressure. When I’m feeling depressed I’ll seek out comedy. When I feel like cutting, I do the same thing. And I stay away from my razor blades. I use them to arch my eyebrows (no hate mail please…plucking takes too long). I also use them for cutting, so although most times they are used to keep my uni brow under control, I’m not kidding myself about them, either.

      7. Interact with your pet.
      Pets are wonderful for giving unconditional love. I used to wrap my arms around my dog’s neck and just hug her. She’d lick my arm or hand and just stand there leaning into me until I let her go. Find comfort in your pet. Play with her, give her a tickle. Show her the love you don’t feel at the time and she’s pay it forward to you tenfold.

      8. Pray, meditate and positive affirmations.
      I don’t know your religious bend, or even if you are spiritual, but sometimes prayer and meditation can help relief the urge to cut and self-harm. I used to walk a labyrinth sometimes during my lunch hour when I worked. It helped to calm the system and decreased the urge to cut. You can create a labyrinth in your home on the floor without putting a pattern down. Just take slow, purposeful steps in whichever pattern you find smoothing. Breath in deeply as your heel makes contact with the floor and exhale when the ball of your foot makes contact with the floor. Alternate and just continue to deep breath.

      9. Create a contract with yourself (selves).
      Draw up a written contact that you sign and commit yourself to that creates a reward system for not self-harming and cutting. For example, create a time line reward system that says, ‘if you go without cutting or self-harm for 3 months, you will reward yourself with a $50.00 spending spree to Victoria Secret’. With the time line reward system, the longer you go without cutting, the larger the reward. Perhaps your 1 year anniversary of not cutting or self-harm could be a trip to the Bahamas. Be creative with this, but make it something that’s realistic to your budget and personal living situation.

      10. Instead of a razor, use a red marker.
      Or some body paint. Take a non permanent red marker, and put the same marks on your body that you would have with the razor. For me, sometimes I just need to see the blood – you know? With a marker, you can draw blood WITHOUT drawing blood. And once the urge passes, you can just watch that ‘pain’ away and feel okay in knowing that you don’t have new scars forming on your body.

      One final note. If you do end up cutting, don’t think you can’t start over and try some of these tips again. Just find something that works AT THAT MOMENT so that you don’t self-harm or cut and be willing to switch it up and be creative.

      PS: These tips were co-written with my Partner. 🙂

      {{{{{{{{{{{ HUGS }}}}}}}}}}}}