What to do when a loved one self-harms

A Comic for People Who Don't Know What to Do When a Loved One Self-Harms

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Approaching a loved one about your struggles with self-harm can be one of the scariest things a person has to do. Likewise, when someone approaches you about their self-harm, you might be equally as intimidated, unsure of actions to take or how to react.

If you want a simple way to show your loved ones what they can do, look no further. Marzi, a comic known for her Introvert Doodle series, created a simple comic that shows the dos and don’ts of talking to your loved one about self-harm.

Pass it on:

Comic that shows what to do when a loved one self-harms.

DON’T:

– Be dismissive.

– Totally freak out.

– Promise to keep it a secret.

– Treat them differently. They’re still the same person you know and love.

DO: 

– Calmly assess the situation.

– Listen.

– Seek professional help (even minor injuries equals major red flag).

– Offer love and support.

You can find Marzi’s book, “Introvert Doodles,” here.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

Image via Introvert Doodles

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18 Important Tweets to Pass Along on Self-Injury Awareness Day

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On Self-Injury Awareness Day — March 1 — many people who are in recovery from self-harm and people who are still struggling with it every day, talk about a topic often kept hidden under long-sleeve shirts and shame. But there’s nothing shameful about self-harm, and people who are still hiding should know recovery is possible and that they’re allowed to speak about their pain.

To show there is hope for people who self-harm, we collected some tweets that offer support, tips for people who are trying to stop and a whole lot of love.

Here are some of our favorites:

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If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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What You Can Say If You See My Self-Harm Scars

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I gave up on trying to hide the scars on my body a few months ago. After struggling with self-harm for eight years, I said, “screw it” and stopped wearing bracelets or watches that I didn’t care about only for the purpose of hiding my wrist. I wore a broken FitBit for nearly a year just to cover up some old scars. It was scary. I didn’t want people to know this part of my life; I didn’t want to have to explain myself to anyone.

But that’s the thing: I don’t have to explain myself. When you’re out and about and you encounter someone who’s baring scars, you don’t have to say anything. Please, for the love of God, do not ask “why” they do/did it. Please don’t ask if it hurt. And please don’t make any sort of “cutting” motion when having a structured conversation about mental health and self-harm (you’d be surprised the things people have said/done). You never know if this is the first day the person decided to not cover anything up or if the night before, they were curled up on their bathroom floor fighting the urge to break a three-year streak. Just because I’m comfortable showing my scars, doesn’t mean I’m comfortable talking about them.

With the different seasons comes the anxiety-induced decision to show or not show a certain amount of skin. Winter is safe because jackets and long pants are necessary, and I get cold easily. But when summer arrives, I could spend an entire morning reassuring myself that I do, in fact, look OK in this bikini and no one will point and laugh at my scars when I go to the pool later that day.

If a friend comes to you, after knowing them all winter long, and says they’re afraid to go to the beach with you this summer, be supportive. Telling people about your struggle with self-harm is intimate and scary because you never know what their reaction will be. If you want to ask your friend questions, make sure it’s OK that you talk about it; please don’t assume they want to even after telling you about it. It’s OK to have questions, and it’s OK for your friend to say they’d rather not discuss it, they just needed you to know.

I still struggle with self-harm quite a bit, and I’d love to say it’s been a long time since I’ve harmed, but it hasn’t. Right now it’s still fairly chilly where I live, but I won’t be able to hide forever. There have been times when my jacket sleeve slipped up and coworkers have caught a glimpse into a personal part of my life. I can see their faces when they notice fresh cuts, and I can tell they want to say something but don’t. I can tell when they’re being a little nicer than usual, but what gets me is when they stop and ask if I’m OK. Not just a, “Hey, how are you? Good? Good” and that’s it. They look straight into my eyes and ask how I’m doing, how I’ve been feeling. They don’t ask questions, they don’t freak out, they just make sure I’m going to be OK. And that’s all I could ever ask for.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Jupiter images

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What I Wish My 16-Year-Old Self Had Realized About Self-Harm and Depression

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I was going through a pile of old things I wrote at 16, and one of them was about my struggle with self-harm and depression.

I started inflicting pain on myself back in high school, but it got particularly worse when I went to college. What used to be once in two months gradually became a regular habit. I used to fully grasp my reasons behind each relapse, but then I started having episodes when I wasn’t even sure why I was doing it or why I felt so upset.

I was only able to hide it for so long. My friends started to notice the scars on my forearm. I couldn’t explain what I didn’t completely understand then, and I was forced to deal with being judged by by the people whom I almost hoped would at least try to understand.

I remember having had a friend who laughed when he found out about my problem. He said I was “overreacting” and that I only did what I did to get attention for myself. What I wanted to tell him was that I struggled with anxiety often, and I struggled so badly to just fit in and be accepted.

That type of comment was something I had to deal with more often than I had hoped. I surely wish I had the guts to tell everyone upfront how wrong they were.

I know I never seemed like a person struggling with bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, and I was very much aware of that. I always looked happy and confident especially when I was younger, but I have always been battling with depression. I was one of the loudest people, always laughing and talking, and because of that, I get why people used to always doubt I had issues. But depression isn’t like your favorite sweater you wear to show off to the world. It was just like the scars on my forearm I often tried to conceal because I was too ashamed of the fact that I was sick.

I didn’t have many friends I could talk to when I was at my very worst. All of the breakdowns I had, I dealt with on my own. Until now, I’d still find myself lonely and desperately going through my contacts list looking for someone I could possibly talk to. I got to the point where I gave up trying to make people understand.

Soon enough, I reached a new low, when I could no longer identify myself as anything more than my disorder. All I could think of when asked about myself was exactly how people thought of me: the weak girl who had always claimed to be depressed.

It took me so long — years on end — before I realized that sometimes the only opinion that should matter was my own. I was never any of the things people thought of me as, and I feel sorry for myself for ever believing I was.

I am not self-harm.

I am not anxiety.

I am not depression.

I am not bipolar.

I am not borderline.

No, none of those things define who I am. I may not be at my strongest now, but I am not weak. I will get better. I will recover.

Sometimes all we need is one friend who would be willing to understand — and to me, myself is enough.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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Why Changing My Profile Picture Was a Turning Point in My Self-Harm Recovery

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

Hi! My name is Anna and I would like to tell you I have recently updated my profile picture on Facebook. I really like the picture I chose, too. It’s a picture of half of my face – the good side — because let’s be real, we all have our good sides. My hair is down and I have a tiny bit of makeup on and one of those cute little half-smiles that makes you look mysterious but not like you’re trying too hard. I hope you have a visual of the sort of photo I used.

Now, I feel like it’s safe to say lots of people have photos like this they use as their Facebook profile picture, but I think it’s also safe to say mine is one of a kind.

I woke up the morning after I uploaded my new picture to find it had gotten 165 likes and 19 comments – which I should let you know, is not a common response to my profile pictures (however cute they may be!) These comments were incredibly kind and loving and supportive and 100 percent not what I was expecting. I guess now would be the time to let you in on the secret why my photo is one of a kind.

There are two main focuses to my profile picture. The first, obviously, is my face. The second, not so obviously, are the scars you can see on the top of my left arm.

These are not the kind of scars that are easy to ignore. They are big and ugly. They range in size and area. There are lots of them and every one of them has a story. My story.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I have two sisters, an older brother and a sister-in-law. I have two parents who I love very much and who have been my biggest and strongest cheerleaders since the day I was born. I love chocolate milk and my stuffed giraffe, whose name is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I have a crush on Luke Kuechly, who I like to call Kookelly, but not because he’s a famous football player. I like him more for his assumed kindness. I love to cuss. I am outgoing and I’m loud. I’m also shy and quiet and can be reserved. I, like everyone else I know, have two sides to who I am.

There’s the side everyone sees and then there’s the side only I see.

The most visible version of me can make anyone laugh so hard they cry. She knows just how to make you feel special and loved and like you’re the only one in the room. She is happy and she is available.

The not so visible version of me is a little different. This version can be sad. She worries about things that don’t necessarily matter and she can beat herself up because of the smallest mistakes. She may repeatedly tell herself that she’s ugly and fat and worthless. She can be closed off and timid.

Growing up, I never got things as fast as everyone else in school. I have a learning disability that has always made me feel like I’m not as smart as those around me, like I’m always one step behind. The most common word I used to describe myself when I was younger was stupid.

This one thought I had in grade school provided a trickle, which eventually turned into a steady flow of negative assumptions I made about myself. “I’m not smart” turned into “I’m not pretty,” which turned into “I’m too fat,” which became “I’m not likable,” which turned into negative thought into negative thought into negative thought. Bottom line is, I have never been enough for myself.

After a while, these negative thoughts became a heavy load that weighed me down so much I felt like I was suffocating. I had a huge falling out with a close friend who said terrible things about me my freshman year of high school and her words became my reality. I convinced myself the negative feelings towards me from one were the negative feelings from many. I began to believe I didn’t deserve to have good things happen to me and I felt I had no one to go to who would understand how I was feeling. I was anxious about every move I made and scared to draw any attention to myself. But most importantly I was sad. And I was exhausted.

One night when the pressure became too much, I locked myself in the bathroom. I sat there for a while and contemplated what I was about to do. I think part of me knew this was going to shake up my life completely, but the other part of me was just ready for any sort of release, for any sort of relief. I remember after I created my first cut I started to cry and was ashamed of what I had done. I promised to myself to never do it again. But as life goes, shit comes up and promises get broken.

Cutting became my number one release and my scars became a sort of verification to me I was right. I was ugly and I was worthless.

My parents noticed a change in me and rightfully began to worry. They realized I needed help and found a therapist who I saw throughout high school. I was diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder. I started going to group therapy where I got to meet other teens who were experiencing things similar to what I was going through and I started taking medication to help. And things began to get better.

I joined an amazing organization called Playing for Others and I’m proud to say I still work for them today. My experience here completely flipped my world. I learned life-changing lessons about self-worth, acceptance of self and others, the importance of who you are on a day to day basis and I made lifelong friends who showed me what real and true friendship is. I graduated high school and went on to work for an AmeriCorps program called City Year where I got to work in an inner-city school in DC with awesome middle schoolers. And while I wish I could tell you my struggle with depression and self-harm ended, it didn’t. It just became a little more manageable.

When I came back home after my year with City Year, all the progress I had made in high school seemed to slip away little by little. I began to shut myself off from my family and friends. I didn’t feel like myself anymore and I didn’t really have anyone I could talk to and who could relate to what I was going through. I felt as though I was turning back into all the negative thoughts and things I had and was in high school and that’s when the cutting got really bad. I was lost and someone I did not want to be.

After years of living in constant negativity, sadness, anxiety and fear, I decided enough was enough and I asked for help. I wasn’t living my life the way I wanted to and I wanted to change.

I believe every journey has its difficulties and every journey is unique. My journey is a very visible one. It is marked on my arms and on my legs. On my stomach and even on the tips of my fingers. And while it is easy to be reminded of every negative thought I have ever had about myself everytime I look down at my body, I am also reminded of every positive thing that has come out of having my scars.

My scars remind me I am brave. They remind me I am a survivor of my mental illness. They remind me I am strong and beauty is so much more than skin deep. I have learned there is way more to people than what you can see on the outside.

I am stared at and gawked at often due to the scars on my arms. People whisper about me to their friends and point me out. I am asked regularly what they are and what is wrong with me. Usually I am so afraid to give my answer, I just mumble a response and then walk away.

Now, I would like to steer my story back to the beginning when I told you about my new profile picture. There is one comment in particular I would like to mention left by my friend, Derrick. He said: “Standing in your truth shines the light on your personal power and also acts as a beacon for those struggling to swim to the shore. Your willingness to be a lighthouse, even for a moment, makes you brave indeed (and totally badass!)”

Thank you, Derrick.

Today I am tired of being afraid of what people will think. I am tired of trying to hide my scars and my story from everyone I meet. I am tired of being a part of the stigma that says that people struggling with mental illness should stay quiet and ashamed of what we go through on a day to day basis. I am tired of being told to keep my story to myself.

Today I am wide awake and ready to stand in my truth. I am ready to be the lighthouse someone else may need to swim to shore. My name is Anna and I am beautiful. I am kind and I am funny. I am outgoing and loud. I am smart. I can be quiet and I can be shy. At times I am timid. Sometimes I have bad days, where I feel awful and like it’s just not worth it to go on. But then I am reminded there are two sides of me. Two sides that mesh into one crazy and amazing person.

I would not trade my scars for anything. They are not who I am, but part of a story still being written. This is my honesty project.

Contributor Facebook photo with scars on arm

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via contributor

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Why I'm Finally Sharing My Self-Harm Narrative

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

I don’t talk about my self-harm when I talk about my mental health history. I should, but I don’t. I am more than willing to talk to people about my bipolar II, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder with agoraphobia.

But the idea of talking about my self-harm makes my stomach turn.

I am still buying shorts and dresses and skirts that will cover the brown and pink scars on my thighs. It makes shopping online very hard.

But why is it so hard for me to talk about my self-harm?

My primary method of self-harm was hitting myself. To me it made the most sense, bruises would last for three or four days and no one would question it. When I got angry or upset, it felt like a natural reaction to hit myself. So natural I would have assumed everyone did it.

I have worked really hard to quit cutting and burning, but there are some days I find myself hitting myself again. This is something I should be able to share with the people who care about my mental health.

The first time my mother saw my healed scars, I was sitting on the couch and my skirt slid back to expose them when I wasn’t paying attention. She asked me what they were and I didn’t know what to say so I said scars. She said “I’m sorry.” I think that’s the best response you could hope for from someone when you admit to self-harm.

I think the reason I don’t share myself harm history is because the response I get most often is “why?” and I don’t have an answer. I have a general psychology answer involving pain and serotonin, but I know it’s not the answer you’re looking for.

No answer will satisfy the why question, because I myself do not know why.

When I first began cutting, there was a reason behind each and every cut. I got a D on a math test, my best friend and I fought, my crush didn’t like me back. And I could recognize each one with the distinct memory. But as time progressed and I continued to cut, there was no pattern or rhythm to my cuts anymore.

I myself even had different reasons for self-harming. One night while I was manic I truly believed I was creating a work of art and cutting was my medium. When I burned myself, I was severely depressed and I wanted to know if I could handle the pain of burning. I just wanted to know. None of these things are easy or comfortable to share and if you haven’t lived them, they might not make sense to you.

My self-harm history is likely completely different from someone else’s and I couldn’t comprehend what that person has been through. All I can do is empathize and share my self-harm story.

This was difficult to write, but the more I think about it, it shouldn’t have been. Like most mental illnesses, self-harm is heavily stigmatized and misunderstood. The difference is the misconception those who self-harm are attention-seeking juveniles, but I’m an adult who is only sharing this with the hopes it will make others more comfortable with their recovery or current situation of self-harm.

Because even if it’s ignored or dismissed, self-harm is an important part of the mental health narrative.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

Image via Thinkstock

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