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Clawing My Way Back After a Self-Harm Relapse

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Before yesterday, the last time I self-harmed was 43 weeks and four days ago. Almost a year. That’s a pretty good streak for me compared to my adolescence when the longest I could go was three months. Yet, still every time I relapse, I can’t help but feel like a failure.

I’ve worked so hard to combat the underlying mental illnesses and childhood traumas that fuel this behavior. I’ve been to therapists. I’ve developed coping skills. I’ve learned how to assertively ask for what I need. I’ve downloaded apps to help me calm down and challenge the unrelenting thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness that swarm my brain. I’ve tried medication and stopped medication when its side effects were more trouble than they were worth. I’ve battled, tirelessly, to become a stable-seeming, 30-something mental health professional, wife and mother.

The urge to self-harm has been building for some time, going unnoticed until I was triggered yesterday. I’ve had monthly panic attacks, but I coped. I’ve questioned how much I am loved, but I coped. Then, little by little, I started breaking. I began acting out in destructive ways, ways that hurt people who I care about.

Ultimately, I began to see myself as unlovable and worthless again. I lost hope that I would feel loved and worthwhile again. I ruminated over every mistake I made as I struggled with my emotions. I began to blame myself for struggling and believed I deserved it. I did what I do when I feel this way, and I can’t make it stop. I cut. I still have the urge to continue. Shame does not help with healing.

Yet, I am determined to stop seeing this relapse as a failure. I am determined to start over on a streak of being “clean” and make it last longer than 43 weeks and four days this time. I called my insurance company for a psychiatric referral. I used “I” statements with my husband, asking him to send me encouraging or funny messages while he is out of town. I downloaded a sobriety counter to help me keep track of how long I go without self-harming. I downloaded more coping skills apps and actually used them. I began to draw in my sketchbook.

In time, I’ll be stable again. If you also self-harm, then you should know relapse is not failure. You can claw your way back too. Let’s do it together.

Image via Thinkstock.

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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Originally published: October 22, 2016
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