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How I Would Explain My Self-Harm to Others

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Article updated August 5, 2019.

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.

Trying to explain my self-harm to someone who doesn’t self-harm has always been a struggle for me. But after nearly 11 years of struggling on and off with it, I’ve finally found a way to explain it:

Sometimes I feel too much. I just feel too much. No, I’m not saying that I am physically feeling too much — this is not a matter of the five senses. Rather, it is a matter of my emotions. When I say, “I am feeling too much,” I mean that my emotions are overtaking my mind. I mean that my emotions are spiraling down a negative path. I mean that my emotions are too strong to deal with in that moment and I want to make them stop. Sometimes, I have a very clear picture of what these emotions are and I use the coping strategies I’ve learned to help deal with them. But more often than not, I don’t know what emotion I am experiencing. You see, I’ve blocked myself off from my emotions for such a long time now that it can be hard to identify them anymore. Therefore, I don’t always know how to cope, so I turn to self-harm.

I’ll continue explaining:

The first time I can remember feeling too much was in March of 2006. While I don’t remember exactly what I was feeling too much of, I know that it was overwhelming. It was then that I hurt myself for the first time. Yes, I hurt myself. On purpose.

It may seem counterintuitive to create a physically painful feeling when I am, at the same time, saying that I am feeling too much. But that’s where it actually makes sense to me — the physical feeling relieves the emotional feeling and allows me to feel less. While I do not know when the emotional feelings will stop, I know from experience that once I create a physical pain, the emotional pain goes away. I’m not exactly sure the best way to describe it, but I think a quote from the movie “Short Term Twelve” did a pretty good job when it said, “It’s impossible to worry about anything else when there’s blood coming out of you.” And it’s true. Within seconds of hurting myself, my “too much” becomes much less, until it becomes nothing at all.

When I can get to a point where the self-harm doesn’t physically hurt and the emotions don’t hurt either, then I will finally be at peace with both my body and my mind. I suppose you could say I am numb. It is in that peaceful moment when all my emotions have ceased that I have relief from my “too much.”

So that is why I self-harm. Or at least, why I used to. Thankfully, I can write this and say I am free from self-harm behavior for a while now, which is something I am proud of. Nevertheless, I do still often feel “too much,” but I’m learning to identify what causes that feeling instead of just blocking it out. This is uncharted territory for me, but if there’s one thing I’m learning, it’s that there is hope — hope in that I can one day feel all of the emotions on the enormously large emotional spectrum and not want to to run away from them.

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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Thinkstock photo via Mike Powell

Originally published: July 31, 2017
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