March has finally arrived!! I’ve been waiting for what seems like ages for March to finally arrive for grad school admissions decisions, but today I’m writing about something entirely different.
March 1st is self-injury awareness day. As someone who is firmly on the road to recovery from self-harm, I believe that it is extremely important to raise awareness about the issue. For me, the biggest barrier to recovery was the stigmatization associated with the condition. I was so afraid to talk to anyone about my struggles and I feared that I would be locked away in a hospital if I told my doctor or psychologist about the issue.
Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to indirectly let my psychologist know about my struggle with self-injury when she asked me to complete an assessment for other issues which I had come to her about. One of the questions on the assessment asked whether I had ever engaged in self-injurious behavior and in a spur of the moment decision I indicated that I had. At my next session my psychologist asked me about this in hypothetical terms and explained that hypothetically if I was harming myself she would only have to report it if I was a serious risk to myself or others. Essentially, she was telling me that it was okay for me to be honest about it but that she understood the reasons that I would be hesitant to talk about it. This approach to talking about the issue hypothetically first gave me the chance to feel more comfortable talking about the issue which then gave me access to the resources that I needed to recover.
Today I am proud to say that I am 377 days free of self-harm. The road to recovery has been hard and there have been many close calls throughout the past year, but somehow I’ve managed to get through. With each and every passing day that I remain free of self-harm I become more and more certain of my ability to get through the challenges that life throws my way without resorting to injuring myself.
For anyone who is suffering and using self-injury as a way to cope, please know that there are better alternatives and there are people out there who can help you get through this and recover if you take that first step and reach out for help. For those of you who are trying to help someone who uses self-harm to cope please try to be patient and empathetic. Self-harm is an addiction whether you choose to believe it or not. Self-harm actually changes your brain chemistry to associate physical pain with stress relief. If you want to help someone who is injuring themselves do no shame them or get angry at them, it is not their fault. Instead, provide support in any way that you can and let them know that you are there for them when they are ready to seek help.
Obviously signing off with “happy self-injury awareness day!!” is a bit odd, but as someone who is in recovery I truly view this day as a reason to celebrate. Any day that encourages awareness of mental health issues and promotes support for those who are suffering is a good day in my opinion.
So with that in mind, happy self-injury awareness day!