Tag Archive: coping mechanisms


Why Self Injure?

I do not know if i can help anyone understand it…. It’s about expression as much as anything. Feeling so overwhelmed that your head is spinning and everything is a blur, all emotions clouded. You try everything else to ease the stress, the tension, the need to explode: writing, singing, blaring loud music until your ears bleed, running outside, doing cartwheels like an idiot, holding ice, shredding paper, everything else you can think of. Still, there is no relief, no outlet. It’s gruesome and horrid, the idea that the only thing which makes you feel alive, sane, is the one thing that could kill you, steal away your breath and it would be an accident. It’s shameful, morose, the way the whole addiction works, and you get this high from it that nothing else gives you. That’s why you do it again, and again. In those moments, as the red river flows, adrenaline surges through your body and it feels almost euphoric. For once, you don’t feel numb. Guilt follows, you know it’s dangerous, wrong, addictive, stupid, but it’s the only way you can express and let out the anger, frustration, stress, depression, anxiety. So you keep going back and the blade becomes a friend. The river flows deeper, into an ocean. The arteries become damaged, and eventually, you go too far. Whether you come back from that abyss, I know not. I only know that fighting against the current of desire, against the impulses, puts it off, but not forever, and then it’s worse than before. So, if it helps, and if delaying that help causes more danger, more damage, why not just do it and get it over with?

dearest little ss,

for so long now, i have avoided looking at you. your eyes, they are mine, the same steel blue. the same pain runs through them into my soul. your freckles, i have them too. those scars, look here. see, feel. they are there, we share the same heart and the same pain. the same memories run through our veins. we are one, you and i.

i am older; i grew up. i can protect you now. i’m sorry that i couldn’t then. i am with you. i can see you. i can feel you. i can hear you. i am listening. take my hand. hold onto me. i will help you out of the darkness. i will guide you, protect you, love you.

precious one, you are not undone. your life has only just begun. look to the stars, look to the sun. i am here, little one.

I had a psychiatric evaluation in 2008 which diagnosed me with major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder. Okay, I accepted the diagnosis, even if I didn’t feel it was all that severe.

Yesterday I met with a second psychiatrist as part of my follow up after being discharged. She confirmed the primary evaluation and prescribed me an antidepressant (Lexapro) to help with the depression and anxiety. I took my first pill yesterday and have felt nauseous since then. I do not know for sure if this is a side effect of the medication, or a delayed reaction to the tylenol pms I took Sunday night. I am hoping it is the Lexapro, and that it will work itself out in the next two weeks. I did put a call into the psychiatrist to make sure that this was anticipated and not something I needed to be seen for.

The official Lexapro website lists the side affects of the drug:

In clinical trials, the most common side effects associated with Lexapro treatment in adults were nausea, insomnia (difficulty sleeping), ejaculation disorder (primarily ejaculation delay), fatigue and drowsiness, increased sweating, decreased libido, and anorgasmia (difficulty achieving orgasm). Side effects in pediatric patients were generally similar to those seen in adults; however, the following additional side effects were commonly reported in pediatric patients: back pain, urinary tract infection, vomiting, and nasal congestion.

These are not all the possible side effects with Lexapro. Please see the Important Risk Information, including boxed warning at the bottom of this page, and the full Prescribing Information.

After meeting with the psychiatrist yesterday, I have better understanding of my mental health issues and feel confident that this new treatment plan will work much better. She made it  clear to me that I cannot work through therapy without being stable and to be stable I need medication. “It’s not an option for you” she said, “some of my patients can choose medication or choose not to take it, but you MUST take it.” So, I’m now officially “medicated” and hoping that this will be effective. I don’t want to be another one of those patients who has to try a dozen different drugs before finding one that works for me. I hate taking pills as it is and am hoping I can remember them.

Because my current counseling office does not provide psychiatric services at a reduced rate, I will be meeting with my therapist to have a closure session and process my transfer of services paperwork. Following that I will have intake processing at the new treatment facility and meet with my psychiatrist, who I met yesterday, for my first counseling session.

My new counselor, Dr. H., is a childhood psychiatrist who generally refers anyone over 18 to one of the male psychiatrists in her office, but because of my history of childhood trauma, she feels that she can help me. If at any point we come to an impasse on her ability to help me, then she will refer me to one of the male psychiatrists in the office who work with adult patients. For now, I feel confident that we are going in the right direction. This way, I can receive my medication and my counseling services at the same place and not have to worry about the demands of transferring charts and updating therapists and such. It will be easier to have all the communication done in the same office and the same agency.

So just wanted to provide an update for those who are following my blog. As always, best wishes on your journey to healing- ss.

I spent the better part of the afternoon in the psychiatric section of the trauma unit. Fun, huh? Not exactly!

It’s a long story and I don’t really feel able to share the details right now. But if you could, hold out some good thoughts for me. I have a meeting in the morning to follow up and hopefully get some medication to overcome this darkness.

I always tell myself that when I am hurting the most, that is when I need to reach out. So, with humility and hope for receiving compassion, I am going to share about the last few days.

The last few days I have been seriously struggling with my urges to self-injure. I have an interview for a job coming up mid-week, and I need my arms clear of marks. Since I could not resist the urge or compulsion to cut, I found a new spot, one less visible. The problem is that I cannot get the same relief from it. And I have to make a larger number of cuts to feel any relief at all. So for three days I have been injuring in this new place and last night I became really frustrated with myself.

In my desperation to make my world stop spinning, to feel grounded, to stop the pain in my heart that just wouldn’t quit, I took a large amount of pills and crawled into a bed. I woke up some hours later feeling dizzy and disoriented, but surprisingly not at all ill.

Saturday evening when I began feeling extremely low, I called my therapist and left her a voicemail. I knew that she would not receive it until today, but I reasoned with myself that at least I had attempted to do other things before I gave in to self-destructive behaviors.

I feel very groggy and everything seems to be moving in slow motion. The numbness is unreal. My whole body feels slightly tingly, but my emotions are almost completely absent today. I have a slight headache and am rather irritable.

I finally caved in and ate something. I was trying to avoid it in case I became nauseous, but that side affect is entirely absent from my system thus far. Remarkable really.

So here I am, with my mind barely here and my emotions nearly dead, writing this out. Some might call what I did a cry for help; others might call it a need for attention, but I don’t believe it was either. I believe I was trying to just make the world silent for a few minutes. It worked. I slept last night, almost an entire 6 hours. I’ve only been getting 2-4 hours of sleep a night this past week, so six straight undisturbed hours is a major accomplishment.

One of the things I am doing to help with my awareness of my mental state is to keep a mood chart. It tracks my highest and lowest moods, anxiety and irritability levels, medications, sleeping patterns, and level of functioning throughout the month. Since starting this chart on June 1, 2010, I have already noticed that my depressive state is much more dysfunctional than my heightened state. What I mean by this is that when I am in an elevated mood, I typically do not experience non-functioning days. I am able and zealous about taking care of my home, self, and family, almost to the point of being overbearing and over critical. I am certainly productive and even run myself ragged in those elevated moments.

In contrast, my depressive state leaves me functionless. I find it difficult to shower, take care of my house, tend to my children, and be a good wife to my spouse. I struggle with daily tasks that are seemingly insignificant on  good days but feel insurmountable on bad ones. For example, taking a shower becomes a dreaded chore, and playing with my children exhausts any energy I might have left over from the last time I was in an elevated state. It is as if any movement depletes me of vital life energy on those dark days. I struggle with feeling numb, and yet crying for no apparent reason. I stare at blank computer monitors and tv screens and see nothing but a blurred box. I become a shell, not a life. Depression looms over me like a thick grey cloud threatening rain.

So if the depression renders me useless, how do I find my way out of it? This is one of the things I want to discuss with my therapist at our next session. I know there are things I can do to help myself not feel so depressed, but they all seem to just be distractions and not a real “cure” for getting out of a depressive state. I journal; I write here. I force myself out of the house with my children. I call friends. I make myself do things that bring me joy most of the time in hopes they will stimulate less threatening emotions. I tickle my children because their laughter is contagious. I draw; I scream, I cut. I don’t know if any of this really helps. It does for the moment, but not for the long term.

Perhaps life is about the moment. Taking each moment and overcoming it, enjoying it. Perhaps if I can string together a dozen successful ways to overcome depression and do them all back to back I will steal an hour of joy from my sorrow. It’s just a thought. For this moment, it is all I have. Best wishes on your healing journey. ~ss

Stigma, lies, misinformation, misunderstanding. We deal with these ills every day. The person who suffers from schizophrenia, the man homeless and insane, the self-injurer, the rape victim. But how often do we stop and ask if they need help? How often do we reach out a loving hand or a strong arm to those who feel so alone, isolated? The truth we don’t like to face is that many of us don’t, ever. Sure, there are those in high serving professions like nursing, counseling, and other mental health related fields, but what about the rest of us?

I’ve lost more friends to suicide than I care to share about here. That’s not what this place is for, but I think something needs to be said somewhere. I couldn’t help them any more than I can help myself, but I tried anyway.

I never write anything here for sympathy, so please don’t tell me you’re sorry. Understand, that there are people in the world who need a friend but have no one to ask to fill such a role. Reach out to the hurting, the destitute, the socially unacceptable. Write love.. maybe not on their arms, but on their hearts.

 I write love every day. I write it over my own scars, over my own pain, on  the mirror I gaze into every morning. I’m still fighting this fight. I’m still struggling in this war against my own self-destructive tendencies, but I’m still here. For today, I will be thankful for that. For today, I will reach out to another struggling along side me. For today, I will count the scars on my wrist and remember all the times I didn’t die but could have. For today, existing is enough. Perhaps tomorrow I will find the courage to live.

Living can be painful. Isolation makes it worse. Being busy is a coping mechanism. Being stagnant is self-defeating. Healing requires effort. Pain requires darkness. Injuries require air and light to mend, and maybe a bit of neosporin. Hiding is exhausting. Blood is red. Depression is black, or “blue like jazz.” Happiness is yellow like a beaming ball of sunshine. My friend is yellow. I am black, well maybe midnight blue, but close enough to black. Knives cut. Glass shreds. Skin scars. Hearts ache. Eyes cry. Lips part. Voices possess the power of silence and sound. Music weaves light and dark, noise and quiet, rhythm and tone. Words hang in the air, thick like molasses, sticky too. Friends disappear and reappear like an illusion at a magic show. Blackness of night morphs to morning’s rosy skies. Scars toughen the soul. Life continues.

No Major Tests Yet- Triggers!

Okay, so it occurred to me late last night as I was crawling in to bed that since Sunday, I have not faced any major tests yet. I have not been overly triggered by my spouse, my children, or any outside circumstances in a few days. But what happens when later tonight I’m feeling anxious about my first counseling session tomorrow? What happens when my spouse says something that makes me feel out of control? Or when I meet my counselor and something triggers me? Then what?

That’s when the hard part comes in. That’s when it’s going to take everything inside of me not to resort to previous ways of coping. That’s when I am going to have to lean on my support system, which still isn’t all that established. It’s NOT going to be easy in those moments. I know they are coming. I am preparing for them, like one might prepare for war, or famine, or a job loss.

How will I cope in those moments? Will I shout, scream, pull my hair? Will I cry as the blade finds familiar paths? Will I sit in a tub of bubbles and watch the candle flame dance as it sears my skin? What will I do? Those are the moments that will show whether I really am ready to move forward. Those are the moments that will either push me one step forward or many steps back. Those moments define my willingness to change. Those moments highlight my strengths and weaknesses.

So, I need a plan, a way to combat the thoughts in my own head. First, I will call someone and talk. Maybe I will write in my journal or draw on my skin. Maybe I will color with my children or listen to some loud bleeding-ear music. Perhaps I will go for a walk or make soap. The point is that I will need to do SOMETHING, something other than injuring myself. Something positive. Something that will bring me hope instead of shame.

This road is not an easy one to walk, and I’m not going to pretend it is. But it will be worth it in the end, to keep on pushing forward towards hope, towards a better life. For me, and for my children, this makes it worth the hardship and pain of healing.

As always, I wish you health and comfort on your own journey towards healing and wholeness. ~SS

Sometimes we struggle to understand why we harm ourselves, but like all compulsive behaviors and addictions, there are pay offs to self-injury. Understanding why we feel the need to self-injure may help us find other ways of coping with our current emotions. Self-injury is an unhealthy coping mechanism, and identifying how we use it to cope may bring insight on healthier coping methods.

Some reasons people self-injure:

  • relief from overwhelming emotional pain (numbness)
  • attempt to express emotions (feeling)
  • “punishment” for “being bad” (shame/guilt)
  • stress release
  • self- control
  • self-soothing

When you, or someone you know, is feeling the need to self-injure, there are things to try first. Some may be more effective than others. Understand that sometimes, we may try all of these things and still have the urge.

A Few Healthier Coping Strategies

  • pick up the phone – call a friend, if there isn’t someone trustworthy, call a local hotline or 1-800-DONT-CUT
  • write, draw, or talk about your emotions, numbness, need for control, anxiety, or stresses.
  • draw or write on yourself instead
  • visit To Write Love On Her Arms to see that you aren’t alone and find resources to help you

The following information is taken from “Help Guide” online and is aimed to be used as a resource only.

“Alternatives to avoid self-harm

If you self-injure to…Deal with anger that you cannot express openly, try working through those feelings by doing something different – running, dancing fast, screaming, punching a pillow, throwing something, ripping something apart

If you hurt yourself in order to…Feel something when you feel numb inside, hold ice cubes in one hand and try to crush them, hold a package of frozen food, take a very cold shower, chew something with a very strong taste (like chili peppers, raw ginger root, or a grapefruit peel), wear an elastic rubber band around your wrist and snap it (in moderation to avoid bruising) when you feel like hurting yourself

If you inflict physical pain to…Calm yourself, try taking a bubble bath, doing deep breathing, writing in a journal, drawing, or doing some yoga

If you self-mutilate to…See blood, try drawing a red ink line where you would usually cut yourself, in combination with the other suggestions above. “

As someone who struggles with this, I understand how difficult it is to overcome. I also know that it won’t happen overnight and takes a really good support system and learning new coping mechanisms. Sometimes, no matter what we do, we will still feel the urge, still need that release. And afterwards, we feel the shame. Each day is another opportunity to try. It’s exhausting, the road is long and difficult, but healing is possible.

Sending my warmest wishes for a brighter future for all who are reading this. Feel free to comment or message me if you need someone to talk to. ~SS