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How Butterflies and the Crisis Text Line Helped Me Not Self-Harm

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

There was a day I was really struggling. I had the strong urge to harm myself, to feel the physical pain that would distract me from the mental pain for a while. It was my way of coping when I didn’t know how to handle a problem. My mind kept turning over and over, telling me how good it would be, even though I knew it would create more problems than it was worth.

I had talked to my counselor earlier in the day and told her I would not harm myself until I saw her the next day, but the urge was still strong. It was getting late in the evening, and I knew I would be unable to sleep as long as I had this in my mind. I knew I needed to talk to someone, but I didn’t want to bother anyone I knew.

It was then I remembered the Crisis Text Line. I had heard about it a while back and thought it might be an option. I sat thinking about it for quite a while, and then I finally typed HOME to 741741 and waited to see what happened.

A message came back to me with a link to coping skills while I waited for someone to be assigned to me. It also asked me what my crisis was. Almost right away, before I even had the chance to look at the coping skills, someone texted back to me. She was kind. She asked me what was going on and told me I was brave to reach out for help. She allowed me to share how I was feeling and made sure I was safe. After going through a couple of ideas to try to help me not harm myself, she told me about The Butterfly Project, an idea I had never heard of before. I don’t know who started this project because it was on an anonymous site, but I love butterflies, so I was interested. There were some rules though.

The Rules:

1. When you feel like you want to harm yourself, take a marker or pen and draw a butterfly wherever the self-harm occurs.

2. Name the butterfly after a loved one, or someone who really wants you to get better.

3. No scrubbing the butterfly off.

4. If you harm yourself before the butterfly is gone, it dies. If you don’t harm yourself, it lives.

5. Another person may draw them on you. These butterflies are extra special. Take good care of them.

6. Even if you don’t self-harm, feel free to draw a butterfly anyways, to show your support.

I am not an artist, but the gal on the Crisis Text Line told me it would add character to my butterflies. This actually brought a little joy to my heart. I could get the feeling of concentration that helped me turn my mind from what I was struggling with, but instead of bad results, I could have something beautiful on me and be reminded of the people who love me and who I love and want to be better for.

So that is what I did. I drew some butterflies on my arm and did not harm myself. I was reminded that beauty can come from pain. I was also reminded there is freedom in choosing life and hope over choosing what is destruction and death. I am thankful I was brave enough to ask for help. I am thankful there was someone I could text in my time of struggle.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Originally published: August 30, 2018
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