Self-harm and anxiety

I really can't remember if i have previously shared about this. But i have a problem. I hurt myself.

When i speak of self-harm most people first think of cutting. Like you see teenagers do with razors or other sharp things. In my case that's not it. Self-harm can be anything that is hurtful to you. Be it from physical harm like cutting, burning, hair pulling, starving etc... to mental like comparing yourself to others, criticizing yourself and so on. There is so many different forms of self harm, but i want to openly share about mine.
If you think this is ridiculous and disgusting, you are free to leave, right about now.
If you can't handle talking about blood, scars, wounds etc, also feel free to leave. I don't want to be a trigger to someone, or to upset anyone with this.
So warnings aside, this is hard for me to share, it really is. Like very very challenging. I am ashamed, at times disgusted with myself. Like how can i do this to me? What is wrong with me. But i want that people would be more aware of things. More aware of different things that are related to mental health. More aware how to help people or how NOT to help. How it's hard for the person who has self-harm problems to face it.
Well anyway. Let me just say, i hope you understand. I hope you won't criticize me or look at me differently. Well if you do, well i'll just deal with it. I am a child of God and work in progress, a clay in His hands. I am healing and working on this, but it will take time.

So yes. I hurt myself. It's hard to admit. Only this year, at college, at age 30, i realized this. That this thing i do, to myself, is self-harm. That word combination hit me hard. What? How can this be self-harm? I thought, it's just a nervous tick or something... Whatever i said to myself, i couldn't get that out of my head. I. Me. Hurt. Myself. Ouch. The hard reality started to sink in.
What am i talking about? See how hard it is to share? I still haven't told you. Well okay. I know it will be good for me to get it out there. (she hopes...)
I. Me. Mirjam. I pick my skin.

Your mind might be wondering, wait, how, why? When? Why? Why would you do that is the most common question, if i tell anyone.
Well it started very long time ago. I can't even remember when, as a lot of my memories are foggy (another story for another time, maybe). But i do remember that early teenage years i was already doing this. I mostly pick skin on the tip of my thumb and index finger. That part that is on the edge of your nail and skin starts on the top of your fingertip, it often was loose. And surely i couldn't leave it. So i pulled. And more skin edge was loose and i pulled more. Often until everything that was slightly loose was away from that finger. Often until i was bleeding. Often that didn't stop me until all loose skin was off. Which lead to bandaids. And it wasn't just one hand. But both. Left and right hand, index and thumb finger.
I remember my parents trying to stop me. Or asking me to put hands behind myself, or pockets. But it didn't help for long and it is nothing to do with them. I have no idea when it started or how or why. But it was with me. Sure i was ashamed. Surely, i have lied gazillion times why i have my fingers in bandaids AGAIN. "Oh i just hurt myself" (which in some way is true, but most people to that sentence assume cooking or other accident), or actual lie that "oh i was just cooking and... yeah.."... So yeah, i have lied. And i am sorry. I still say that i hurt myself, to this day. And most people are okay with that answer. I think it satisfies their curiosity, and only rare few ask what way did you hurt yourself. I say to that, well i literally did this to myself. Sometimes i explain. Sometimes i get people gringe their face as it's a strange concept to accept, that people hurt themselves. Sometimes i see sympathy. Sometimes pure curiosity. And it's all fine. I'm used to that.

I hate that i do this. I hate that at times i have gone to pick on the sole of my foot. Like recently. My foot is currently in bandaging. Because i hurt myself yesterday. I didn't fall, i didn't trip. I literally hurt myself. It started few weeks ago, well actually longer time. Well so a while ago i was walking barefoot and got blisters. Too hot street surface or something. I limped home. It hurt terribly. Both feet got blisters. Ouch. Imagine walking after that. Not much walking was done. So they started to heal at one point, but several weeks later, skin started to come off. That was few weeks ago. And on one of my foot, i ripped too much and hurt myself badly enough that i had to limp downstairs, occasionally patting the sole of my foot with tissue, so i wouldn't bleed on the stairs. I limped downstairs because there's our medical supplies. I didn't have bandaging in my room. I had to close it off. And it hurt. For days it hurt to walk. And i was exhausted from limping.
So it started to heal. Surely i spoke to therapist (i see therapist regularly) and was confident yeah i can do this. I can beat this and all that. I briefly said to her in the end of one session that maybe moisturizing could help and she randomly hands me hand cream. Wow, such blessing. My confidence lasted, well about 3-4 days or so. Yeah i moisturized, told myself to grab the cream every time i felt the urge to pick. And then i forgot. And then yesterday, it got bad and i ripped off skin from the sole of my foot that was already healing. It started with a small uneven skin piece. It was loose. And my hands couldn't leave it. It isn't intentional. You must understand i don't do this on purpose. Often times i zone out and i tell myself in my head it's wrong and all that. But my hands don't want to stop. So yet again, i hurt the sole of my foot, from the place where it was already healing from last time. And again i limped downstairs to tie some bandaging around my foot.
As that wasn't enough, i felt awful about that and today, i picked at my thumb. Honestly i didn't want to. I want to stop. But i can't. It's not that easy. I tried distractions, but i forget about them. I've tried creams. Even nice smelling ones. At times they help. Especially if they have calming smell.

This is hard to understand. I know. It's even hard to understand for me. Not to mention being honest with your fiance about all this. He knows. And yet he still loves me. I don't deserve all that goodness, but i accept this as God's gift to me.
It does make me feel very ashamed. At times i am so mad at myself once i do stop and i see that i am again bleeding mess with skin pieces around me and again need to find a bandaid. I hate that i do this to myself. I have prayed about this. Others have too. And it is a process. Only this year did i really start to realize what i am doing. Previous years, nobody has ever said that it's me hurting myself. And now that i know, i can't ignore this. I want to fix me. I wish i could or knew how. I am sure everyone who has any similar problems, wish they could fix it. But you can't.
At times if i do share this with others, they ask what can they do. It's a rare case, most people just say " feel better" or something like that. Which does nothing to me. *no offense*
But if people ask what can they do for someone hurting themselves.
I can share what you really shouldn't do.
DON'T
criticize. ignore. hide. judge. These are the worst. People judging you. Or telling you that this is bad and just saying you are ----- (insert criticism and insults). Some people ignore the problem. Some people hide and don't deal with it. And a lot of people judge.
What might help:
ask what triggers this.
ask what tools they use and can you throw them out (razors for cutters, or lighters of those who burn etc...).
Find other ways of soothing their soul (massage, ice cubes melting in your hand, drawing on your arms whatever helps. Skin contact is sometimes what they are needing. Maybe even just holding their hands might help. Or hugs. Try it out).
Be constant and don't give up. often people want to help, but when after some time of not hurting, comes a bad day, they quit on you. And that is the worst. People leaving you with your troubles after all sorts of promises to help you or be there for you. *hasn't happened that much to me, but have read about other people's stories*
Talk and be a good listener and try to be understanding. Just ask questions. Find solutions together. google it. Pinterest it. Search on youtube. Whatever it takes. But start reading on that and see if you can suggest things. Do it with love and not with "you must stop and you must do this"... Gentleness is important. So is kindness.

*******
So that was rough. For me to share. That kind of the basics of what i am dealing with.
Besides that, this is often caused by me being nervous, anxious, stressed. Or is it all the same? I don't tell the difference anymore.
There's currently a lot on my mind. And i am learning so much about taking care of me. As an Estonian, we are very hard-working nation. A lot of us would go to work even when we are sick or hurt. Which sounds stupid, but that's how hard working we are. Even though often it causes you to be sick longer, because you don't give yourself rest. And might get others sick too if it's like a cold or virus or something.
This year i have tried to start uprooting that out of me. I need to, yes NEED to, take care of me. If i don't say that i am hurt, sick, tired, unable, broken etc, to well others (be it friends, teachers, co-workers, boss, husband, fiance, boyfriend, mom etc), then how will they know? If i don't take care of me and put on a brave face, then how will the "me" get better? Truth is, it won't. So i need time out if i have slept 4 hours. Or if i have awful side effects from new medicine. Or if i literally am gonna have panic attack when being in the same room with almost 100 people. Or if my foot is wounded and i can barely walk. Whatever the reason, if i don't tell, they won't know. And if they won't know, then you can't really moan about it later. That people were hard on you or something.
My latest favorite quote or saying is:
"Until you ask, the answer will always be NO"
Simple right? You don't ask, then the answer can always be no. But if you do, you can get a yes, or a maybe, or a sure take time off.

Me sharing about mental illness has opened some people up. It has not been easy to share. After all, honesty also means vulnerability. But i am okay with that. If that helps others to start treating mental illness as other sicknesses, then i am okay with that. And i am sad that people don't treat mental illness that way.
Say you broke your arm and can't work. You easily get time off work and nobody tells you to "suck it up" or "think more positively" or whatever else. Right? :D
But if you are facing depression (can't get out of bed, not because you are lazy, but you just can't. And haven't showered in 5 days either), or anxiety (constant worry of everything and guilt if you take time off and what will they think of me and so on and on...) and people don't understand. You don't get time off work. You are still expected to work and just "handle it". And i don't understand that.

I currently battle with GAD (general anxiety disorder). Recent weeks i have had social anxiety, some panic attacks and sensitivity to noise mostly. At times also to smells, light, and some things taste weird. I can't fix it. But i am trying to practice being with people, when i can. And i have no idea yet what work could i do. But i try to take one day at a time. Sometimes even 15 minutes at a time when i have really bad social anxiety with noise sensitivity and i have to eat together with others. Have to, sounds like they force me. No, i force myself. because it's realllllly easy to stay in your room, to isolate yourself, to ignore the problem. But with anxiety, you have to face it. It sure is hard. At times it makes me cry and i have to remember to breathe and not panic.

All this is real life. I am not sharing this to get attention. But more so that people would be understanding towards those who struggle with mental illnesses. That we can't control this. That at times self-harm is an addiction or compulsive disorder and we don't do this on purpose. That medication works differently on different people. That healing is a process. It takes time. There's a lot i wish i could tell the world. This is a start. It's not easy. And there aren't many readers here and i don't seek popularity. But if i can give hope to even one person, that you aren't alone in this. Or help someone be more open to their friends and family about their struggles. Or help friends and family help the person struggling. I think it's worth my effort to share my life.

Be blessed and take care of yourself! <3

Comments

Mirjam, you are an amazing person. You speak of your anxiety and yet you have been all over the world, pretty much on your own! You've overcome one setback after another and now you have a whole new life ahead of you. And you're helping to get out the message about mental illness. That's more than a lot of people do in a lifetime! I am so excited for you for your future with Peter in Australia. God will be with you every step of the way. God bless you both xxx

I do this too, like I just can't leave it alone, skin has to come off or I obsessively pick at pimples or sores. I feel compelled to it. And this habit feels near impossible to break. I'm worse when I'm stressed out or my life is chaos, more then normal. I've never framed it like this, that it is self harm. Thankyou for sharing... my body needs self love, maybe it's time for me to realise this too

Meg, sure is good to realize that you are hurting. And often we don't want to put labels on them, or say things out loud, because that means they are real and scary things. But i am proud of you for sharing with me! Hope you can start to recover as well and get some love and soothing for you! <3 hugs!

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