Guest Post: A Journey Through Self Harm

This post is for people ready to dig deep into a challenging topic. I want to welcome Chelsie from You, Me & Emetophobia, who is ready to share her story about how she overcame self harm. Many bloggers struggle with self harm currently or have struggled with it in the past. I have never experienced it myself, but I am grateful to Chelsie for her honest and ultimately hopeful story. She’s guest-posted for me before, and she has a great blog of her own. Be ready to read a moving story.

In Chelsie’s Words:


The first time I resorted to self harm I was in high school. Or maybe it was middle school. To be honest, I don’t remember and I don’t really try to remember. I guess it’s because, like most people who self harm, I don’t exactly beam with pride over the thought of having done it.

There is no pride in self harm because it’s usually done out of desperation. Desperation to feel something other than emotional pain; desperation to feel in control amidst the chaos they are experiencing externally and internally.

And let me tell you, my life was definitely in chaos. With my parents going through a messy divorce, three consecutively terrible boyfriends (which I was probably too young for anyways), a cancer prognosis for a loved one and a phobia with no name all hitting me at once, it was a perfect storm. Then, when you factor in the already teenage angst that came with puberty, looking back it’s not exactly surprising I resorted to such extreme measures.

But I think there might be a common misconception that only depressed people will self harm, and I think there is also a misconception that people only self harm because they are suicidal. Neither of those were true for me. Of course, I could have probably convinced you I was with all the emo poetry I wrote at three in the morning while listening to HIM and Panic! At The Disco.

No, despite all the wrong in my life and the struggles I endured in my high school years, I never once felt as if I was truly depressed or ever considered taking my own life. I guess that’s because deep down I must have known it could have always been worse, or someone out there could have had it worse than me.

I recently read an article from TheMighty.com titled 39 Messages to People Who Self-Harm, From People Who Have Been There. Despite being seven years self harm free, all of the messages resonated with me. They reminded me that despite all that life had put me through, and despite all the scars I left behind, I am still a person, with valid feelings and tremendous worth.

It’s nice to be reminded about that from time to time, and I think for those of you who currently self harm it’s nice to feel like someone out there hears you and understands you. That being said, I’ve waited a very long time to share my story of recovery. I’ve carried a lot of shame and regret over my past decisions, and I think it’s finally time for me to start letting go of that. I’m going to do that by sharing how I overcame my battle with self harm, and hoping that it can help at least on person see that they can do it too.

Support is vital. It doesn’t have to come in the form of a significant other or a family member, or even a friend. Support can come from within, it can come from a support group on Facebook, it can come from your favorite poetry verse that you have hanging on your wall. Support can come from playing your guitar when you feel the urge, or going out for a walk with your dog. Support doesn’t have to be a physical person; support is anything you use to help you through the urges.

During the first few months, despite heavily leaning on my boyfriend (who is now my husband) I would constantly find other things to do. Activities that required a decent amount of focus and use of my hands always worked best, as it would occupy the mind and reduce the seemingly crushing waves of guilt and shame that would hit me when the urge struck. When my husband wasn’t around, I would sit in my room and breath, and try to find help from within.

I’ll be honest, there will be relapses, but that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up, because chances are it’s been a week, three weeks, a month, six months since you last did it. Pick yourself up, remind yourself why you decided to stop and keep pushing forward. Remember what worked and what didn’t, and tell yourself next time you’ll go a day, a week, a month longer. Power through, and remember that you stopped before, so you can stop again.

And it takes trust to continue pushing on. It’s important to trust yourself, your strength, your courage. Trust your ability to persevere in the face of a relapse. Trust that you will one day be able to forgive yourself, to look at those scars and realize that despite all that you’ve been through, that you healed. You put one foot in front of the other, you climbed that wall, you emerged the other side and then destroyed it piece by piece until you could clearly see the road you came from.

Lastly, be aware of your triggers. Know what your body feels like when an urge hits, be mindful of items, sounds or pictures that make you feel a certain way or take you back to when you would self harm. For me, I always knew when my body needed to self harm because my wrists would burn. Without fail, the feeling to cut was always preceded by my wrists burning, almost like it was simulating the act of cutting to get me by until I actually could self harm.

I also tried to avoid Secondhand Serenade for a long time because it was almost always the soundtrack to my self harm. It was always playing when I felt my worst, and it triggered those feelings I was trying to conquer. So, for example, if you know listening to Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol reminds you of a bad time, remove it from your playlist for a little while, until you are better prepared to handle the emotions that come with it.

There was a quote I heard the other day from a woman on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that really spoke to me. She had a double mastectomy due to breast cancer, and they were discussing a time when the woman removed her shirt and proudly displayed her scars. Ellen ask the woman why, and she replied:

“It hit me that I have scars because my body healed, and that’s beautiful.”

If your body can heal from the trauma, so can your mind. It will be a long road, but recovery is possible; healing is possible. I have dealt with a lot of negative emotions towards my self harm. I feel a lot of shame, a lot of regret and it never gets easier to talk about. In fact, I usually avoid it but what I’ve learned throughout my time is that holding it in is worse. Not telling someone makes the burden that you feel, whether consciously or subconsciously, heavier.

In fact, sitting down to write this was very, very hard. These are memories I buried deep, purposefully trying to forget them because I didn’t like what I had to do to keep myself sane. I had never even gone as far as writing about it, so as I began this process, for the first time in six years I was overwhelmed with the feeling and urge to self harm (but I didn’t). After a day or two, I came back to this because I knew I had to push through, and I knew I had to do this.

No, actually, I wanted to do this.

I wanted to do this because my battle with self harm was real. The pain I felt was real; the trauma that caused it was real and the scars on my wrist are real. I wanted to do this because like so many others, those scars are a constant reminder that I literally chose to etch every negative emotion on my skin instead of screaming into a pillow or talking it out safely.

But you know what else? My recovery was real too. I may not have struggled with depression or thought about taking my life, but overcoming self harm is a huge feat. The sleepless nights tossing and turning while my wrists burned were real. Learning to not be triggered by seeing knives, scissors or exacto blades was real too. Feeling overflowing pride after hitting one month, six months, two years, four years self harm free was real.

I wanted to do this because like so many others I sat on this emotional burden for so long. Even with my recovery well over, I buried those feelings and sometimes that secret is harder to carry than the actual self harm. Don’t do that to yourself; don’t wait to get the help you rightfully deserve because while there may be no pride in self harm, I’ve learned that there shouldn’t be any shame either.


Chelsie, thank you for your willingness to help others who are struggling with self harm.

If you would like to email Chelsie, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@youmeandemetophobia.com. She says, “I will do my best to respond to you within 48 hours, but if for some reason I cannot get back to you in that time frame, I promise I will always respond as soon as possible. Also, feel free to join our Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.”

If you are interested in guest posting on The Wishing Well, leave me a comment and we’ll touch base. I can’t promise I’ll take every submission, but I am dedicated to sharing stories of recovering from mental illness with honesty, humor and heart.

Image Credit: Image Credit: pinky swear by cherylholt, CC0 Public Domain

 

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Reblogged: That Awesome Time I Ran Out Crying

FINALLY sharing a post by my friend Sharon Yvonne at Curious Queendom. This epic post is just what you need to hear if you’ve ever made a mistake in your life. Oops, guess what, that’s all of us! Sharon Yvonne is strong and she’s got it goin’ on so check out her blog.

Curious Queendom

When I was a kid, well teenager, actually like 2-years ago, I was a serial hider of mistakes/imperfections. You may think that I’m talking about big mistakes, but no, the mistakes were silly, like a-hole-in-my-sock silly. The idea of someone being behind me when I tripped could send me looking over my shoulder every few seconds and scanning the ground for all those devious cracks and rocks.

Needless to say, big mistakes and glaring imperfections could break me down completely. I remember, about 3 years ago, I was having the second-to-worst week of my life (yes, I can definitively say that). I was going through a lot. I was lost in my own head 90% of the time. I remember getting lost during conversations and having to guess what my appropriate response should be when the conversation had obviously paused for my input.

Anyway, during this week, there was class…

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Reblogged: Dear Corporate America

I can’t resist reblogging another amazing post today. This one is a letter to Corporate America signed a person living with mental illness. If you have ever struggled with employment due to mental illness, as I have (and even if you haven’t), take a look at this eloquent post from A Journey With You-Living With Schizophrenia.

A Journey With You

Dear Corporate America,

I am writing to you to inform you of my desire to work for your company. Let’s get one thing out of the way first, I have a mental illness. Why do I think you should hire someone with a mental illness? You say that you like people who can think outside of the box and that is a strength you are looking for. Well, those of us with a mental illness can easily and quite naturally think outside of the box. In fact, some of us have even experienced different realities and may be able to put a twist or a spin on that problem you are having that you never even imagined.

You mention that you value creativity. Most people with a mental illness are creative in one form or another. They haven’t proven it yet, but there have been several studies conducted trying to…

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Reblogged: That “Thing”…

Mighty powerful message from my friend M_McKeen at In Silence We Suffer, all in a neat 181 words!

In Silence We Suffer

You know that “thing” you really want to do?

That dream that brings you a moment of joy every time you think about it, but you’re scared of what will happen if you commit to it.

That person you really want to talk to, but you keep putting it off, as you’re worried they’re too busy to talk to you.

That love that you need to express, but you fear that if you did, things would never be the same again.

My advice would be to give it a go. Regret is a horrible thing.

Everyday thousands upon thousands of people all over the world wake up for the last time. Many of whom did not realise. We all have plans for the future. We all think about what our lives will be like when we’re 30, 50 or 80 years of age, but many of us don’t get to…

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Reblogged: Got Hope? (Hint: It looks a lot like weeding…)

Quote

This is one the most powerful pieces of writing I’ve come across in a long time. Leslie of Suicide Survivors writes about finding hope after suicide with unimaginable insight and even beauty. You’ll be glad you decided to read it! Thanks Leslie for permission to reblog.

suicidesurvivors

As a guest-poster, Josh Rivedal also invited me to guest-post on his blog, too.  I feature a ‘teaser’ on his blog (http://www.joshuarivedal.com/blog.html) for today’s story.  Today’s post is about hope lost and eventually, hope regained.

When I was 15, I lost my mom to suicide. Despite the profound loss of my mother, the fallout with some family members afterwards, and the feeling that my world had completely upended, I still had ambition. Even with the sense of betrayal and the long-gnawing fear of possibly ending up like my mom, I felt myself moving forward on a trajectory that whispered softly in my ear: “history is not destiny”. I stuck to my goals: I went to college, I traveled, I found a city in which to live that felt like home (3000 miles away), I went to grad school and became a professional social worker which I’d felt was my calling…

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Guest Post: Intro to Emetophobia

Calling all people who dig mental health blogs! Welcome to my first ever Guest Post! Chelsie’s blog, You, Me & Emetophobia, introduced me to a mental health struggle I had never heard of. Chelsie is in recovery from emetophobia, “the irrational and intense fear of throwing up.” This phobia “attacks you from all angles,” Chelsie says in her “Open Letter to Emets Everywhere.” She writes about her commitment to healing in an honest and personal voice. I find her willingness to share her experience with others moving, and I have no doubt you will find her writing moving also. Please welcome Chelsie!

In Chelsie’s Words:


“Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends but hating to socialize. It’s wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s caring about everything, then caring about nothing. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzingly numb.” – Unknown

Life is full of oxymorons (and regular morons if we’re being honest). Some of them make complete sense, like organized chaos or being alone together. You know exactly what that looks like and feels like, despite the two words being completely opposite. I think oxymorons are put in place to describe situations that seem indescribable – perhaps another oxymoron? But in some instances, I think the universe just has a unique and occasionally cruel sense of humor.

Case and point? Anxiety and depression.

Anxiety is this constant, 100 mile per hour feeling, whereas depression is this numb, no urge to move at all feeling. Together, those emotions create this painfully taxing mental state that has people worried to fail, but no motivation to achieve their dreams. Many people who have anxiety and depression struggle in a generalized way, meaning that they just feel those emotions without any specific pinpoint trigger; they just feel the way they do all the time.

Then, there are people with emetophobia.

Emetophobia is the irrational fear of throwing up. This fear can be specified towards just the sufferer throwing up, someone else throwing up, or struggling with both. This is not to be confused with just not wanting to get sick or being squeamish. This phobia is typically classified as a panic disorder, because many people who struggle with emetophobia experience severe and sudden panic attacks.

The concept of emetophobia is complex in the way that many people don’t understand it. How can someone be afraid of throwing up? To an emet, throwing up is a crueler fate than death, and the emotions that are stirred up by a panic attack are terrible and range all over the emotional spectrum.

Many emets spend their days in a constant state of anxiety, similar to those who struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). They are worried about going out, their children, their friends, their spouses, whether or not that surface is contaminated with a stomach bug, what their sudden stomach ache is, whether that food has expired and will make them sick… that list goes on.

However, when an episode happens, many emets will start with panic and anxiety, and then fall into symptoms of depression. Why? Well, imagine if every time your loved one got sick you ran from them; you left them there alone. Then, even after they feel better, you struggle to hold them, be near them or even stay at the house with them. You think every stomach growl, every moan or awkward pause is a signal that they are sick and you avoid them like they are a literal plague.

After this happening many, many times, you begin to be down on yourself. Why can’t you handle a little stomach bug? What if your child or other family member thinks you don’t care for me? Or that by them being sick they are making you not like them?

While an emet with depression may not feel like they can’t achieve their dreams, they may become stuck. They may begin to feel they will never conquer this phobia, that they are doomed to struggle forever. That, to any emet, is the worst feeling of hopelessness.

We wouldn’t wish this phobia on our worst enemy, because the amount of ways it impacts daily life is too long to explain. And despite being a very common phobia, there is very little research to help licensed professionals accurately treat a complex panic disorder like emetophobia.

I once read a book that was supposed to let you get inside an emet’s head. I picked it up, hoping that it would give me answers to why I was the way I was. It was the first book I had ever found about emetophobia, so I splurged on it. Unfortunately it didn’t live up to my expectations.

In a sense, it did actually let me know some important things, and that was many emets do struggle with depression. The entire book was stories of women who were battling with depression because they just couldn’t handle the constant panic, anxiety and emotional toll that emetophobia was producing.

I also am active in a lot of support groups, and many of them, even if they may not be serious, are constantly saying that they no longer what to live this life. They are tired of fighting against themselves and the unseen, they wish they could end it all. I am not in a position to tell them that how they are feeling is not justified, because I know how hard it is to fight with your own mind every day. However, there are always solutions to problems if you believe you can find them.

Anxiety and depression are serious battles by themselves, but when you have both of them together and have other issues that amplify it it can be even harder. If you are concerned you could be depressed or are considering harming yourself, please seek help. Counseling and the proper medication can help you overcome your fears, worries and depressed state – or at least manage it so it’s not as difficult.

I believe that with the right mindset, anything is possible. Don’t let your mind have control over you any longer – if you want to make change, you CAN change. You just have to take that first step and believe it’s possible.

Until next time, Internet.

If you would like to email Chelsie, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to youmeandemet@gmail.com. She says, “I will do my best to respond to you within 48 hours, but if for some reason I cannot get back to you in that time frame, I promise I will always respond as soon as possible. Also, feel free to join our Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.”

Image Credit: pinky swear by cherylholt, CC0 Public Domain.