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Self-Harm Recovery Means Speaking With My Voice Instead of My Body

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The hardest part of stopping self-harming was learning to communicate. When I was self-harming, I didn’t have to use my voice. If I was angry, I would hurt myself. If I was sad, I would hurt myself. Really, if I felt anything, I would hurt myself.

I have always been a people-pleasing person. I didn’t want to make anyone around me upset with my emotions, so I took them out on myself. My mind told me it was easier to hurt myself than to potentially hurt others by speaking up.

But the only way for me to stop using self-harm behaviors as coping was to start talking. At first, it was uncomfortable. Actually, it was awful. I felt my skin crawl when I told someone how I was feeling. I didn’t want to talk and I didn’t want to burden people with how I was feeling.

I started as small as possible with my therapist. She reflected how I felt and made me feel safe, like I could actually communicate in an open manner. I expanded to my family, which came with the need to teach them how to respond. I was able to effectively communicate with them after teaching them what I needed from conversation — just somebody to listen who wouldn’t try to fix how I felt. I’m still working on expanding to my friends because I don’t know how they will respond. The fear of them thinking I’m overemotional has kept me from communicating with them. For a small handful of friends, it has gone incredibly well and I am so grateful. I trust them and their responses to me speaking my mind have been overwhelmingly positive, which makes me feel more comfortable with the idea of speaking up to my other friends.

Not only did I have to learn to share my emotions, I had to learn how to share my opinions. I was so afraid of making people uncomfortable with my opinions and my existence. I started small with that, too. Innocuous opinions about favorite animals and inanimate objects were voiced. I slowly worked up to voicing my opinion on anything I could talk about. I still have fear about it, but the fear has taught me I need to keep talking until I’m more comfortable.

Not having my body “talk” for me has been challenging to say the least. With time, I have learned I am worth speaking for. I have learned my body does not have to carry a burden. It is OK to speak for myself and let my body exist without punishing it. I still struggle with speaking immediately when something happens, but I am getting better at it as I continue to practice. I’m still finding pieces of my voice, and that’s OK. The pieces I have found have allowed me to stop punishing myself for having something to say. They have allowed me to live a more authentic and whole life. They have — in part — allowed me to stop self-harming. For that, I am grateful.

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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Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: January 27, 2017
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