The extremely excellent Celeste (who wrote a book review of Wintergirls) has penned an article for us on strategies to use when overcoming self-harm. I know a huge number of individuals dealing with EDs also SH, so hopefully a number of you will find this information useful. Big thanks to Celeste for writing it for us. I found her article extremely insightful, helpful, genuine and non-cliche and I’m sure you will too! Mads. x
* * *
Self harm is almost impossibly difficult to manage, especially in co-morbidity with an eating disorder. We’ve all heard the ‘just snap an elastic band against your wrist’ response to dealing with urges, and probably like me, you’ve found it pretty ineffective. Here are a couple of strategies that I’ve found pretty helpful in getting through tougher days (Madeline also pointed out that this list could easily be used to combat binges so why not give it a whirl if that’s something you struggle with? What do you have to lose?):
- Destroy something with the tool you usually use to SH, like a cardboard box or an (empty) milk carton. Taking out your pent-up emotion on an inanimate object is much better than taking it out on yourself, and often the sheer physicality involved in destroying something can be enough to move past the urge.
- Do something that gets you hands dirty. Bake cookies, or play with an animal. If your hands are full, you can’t SH, and often by involving myself in something for 20 minutes or so I find that the intensity of the urge passes.
- Drink a litre of water. This sounds insane, but hear me out. It’s pretty hard to drink a litre of water straight up, and challenging yourself to get through the litre can sometimes be enough to distract you from the urge. Added bonus: hydration!
- Wait just five more minutes. Remember when you were a little kid and had an itch or needed to pee during a long car trip and your mum would tell you to hold it for “just five more minutes”? Well, the same thing works for SH. If you can hold out for five, you can hold out for ten. If you can hold out for ten, you can hold out for half an hour, etc etc. Breaking down the time into tiny, manageable chunks takes the stress of ongoing resistance out of it, and allows you to focus on the present. Alternatives to this involve: just read to the end of the page, just watch the end of this episode, etc etc. Give yourself a point in the not-too-distant future to get to, and challenge yourself to hold out that long.
- Take a moment for some self care, like a face mask or your skincare routine. This keeps your hands busy, plus it’s a reminder that you do deserve to be cared for, most of all by yourself. Added bonus: healthy skin! Alternatives could be painting your nails or giving yourself a pedicure.
- Grab whatever non-breakable object is closest to you (I suggest books, pens, clean cutlery, or a wallet). Now throw it at something soft (bed, couch, chair) as hard as you can. Go get it. Throw it again. Shout if you need or want to. Continue until your arm gets tired or the urge passes. This works similarly to the first one – taking your pent up feelings out on something inanimate and keeping your hands busy simultaneously. Added bonus: if the thing you’re throwing gets stuck down the back of the couch or chair you have an excuse to clean it out and claim all the change back there for your own.
Finally, if you find the urge too overpowering, or have tried one or more of these strategies and nothing is working, try toning down the severity. Use something less-dangerous than you ordinarily would. Harm reduction is a great way to start recovery from self-harm and can be the first step to a full recovery – don’t feel defeated if you aren’t always able to overcome SH urges, recovery takes time and any step in the right direction is a success to be celebrated!
When it comes to dealing with mental illness, thoughts are just as important as actions. Our day-to-day challenges are just that: challenges. They are not insurmountable. They are not impossible.
Self-talk can be positive or negative and can have a dramatic impact on your relationships with others. They key to developing more positive self-talk is to pay attention and CHALLENGE negative self-talk as it arises.
The following tips for dealing with self-talk come from Support Me & You.
- Write down or talk your negative self-talk. Externalising self-talk can help you be more objective about what you are saying. Thoughts become more manageable and less unrealistic.
- Redirect your thoughts towards someone else: would you think it ok to talk to someone else the way you are talking to yourself?
- Study positive people: how do they react to challenges?
Here are some types of negative thinking to look out for:
- Minimising the positive: e.g. “they only said that because they were being nice,” INSTEAD: accept the compliment.
- Selective thinking: noticing only what went wrong or what you did poorly at INSTEAD try to emphasise your successes, skills and what you did right
- Emotive thinking: misguided statements based on emotions “I’m a terrible friend” INSTEAD consider the facts of the situation and be more objective
- Black and white thinking: e.g. “If I do this wrong I’m a total failure” INSTEAD accept there are shades of grey. Doing poorly in one area doesn’t mean you are a failure in all aspects of your life all the time.
- Overgeneralising refers to taking a single negative and applying it to all aspects of your life “I can’t do ANYTHING right” INSTEAD (as above) consider the facts of the situation and shades of grey.
- Jumping to conclusions: making negative interpretations without considering all the facts, e.g. “She must think I’m a loser” INSTEAD consider the whole situation and consider the facts
- Self-judgement: thinking about yourself in such a way as to set yourself up for failure, and beating yourself up when you fail to live by your own rules. INSTEAD acknowledge that you’re HUMAN, you’re prone to slip-ups and failing to meet standards. Accept that your ‘best’ changes moment to moment, and what is really important is putting in your best effort, whatever that may be (given current circumstances) rather than holding an immutable set of rules
- Name calling: labeling yourself by your flaws or mistakes “I’m hopeless/loser/failure/idiot” INSTEAD treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Would you consider it ok to talk to others the same way you talk to yourself? If not, consider challenging or re-framing these thoughts
Still to come:
- Map out small steps
- Building positive relationships
- Look after yourself
- Be more active
- Accessing support
It’s World Mental Health Day and since this is the field I will have a career in, I figured I should share this information. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate and anyone can be affected. You never know what someone is going through so please be kind to others. Lastly, if you are battling, don’t hesitate to seek help. ❤
Prochaska’s Transtheoretical model of a Behaviour Change
I thought I’d post (a pretty coloured, bubble-writing) version of this model for behaviour change as it’s something that my dietitian has discussed with me many, MANY times.
We use (a way less pretty) version of this to see ‘where I’m at’ in terms of recovery. Knowing what stage I’m at is useful for determining how treatment is going and how we’re going to ‘deal’ with me.
Stages 4-6 are a bit ‘messy. You may not always proceed straight from maintenance to relapse, and relapse can re-enter the cycle at any point: from (1) pre-contemplation to (4) action. Relapse doesn’t necessarily mean you go back to the start.
What’s useful about this diagram as well, is acknowledging the length of time it takes for meaningful behaviour change. The ‘maintenance’ phase isn’t reached for six months after the action phase is started. Minimum.
As someone recovering from an ED this is a helpful reminder for me. Just like I expect perfection in my disorder (and most aspects of my life) we have a tendency to expect perfection in recover too. We expect to be a ‘100% committed ED recovery warrior/soldier’ embracing oatmeal and yoga and ‘yay new bras my boobs are bigger.’
This reminds me that recovery is a long, long, process. And that it’s not necessarily linear. And that’s ok.
Wategos | Byron bay
Photography is my happy place.
Tumblr has exposed us all to a sub-culture where hidden behaviours and ideas can be expressed and explored.
Take for instance a fictional example:
I am sad, I tag something as #sad and look at that page. Suddenly there is an overload of shared experience. These other people are sad too. They…
An August pep talk for anyone returning to school soon. I would also recommend buying a pretty new planner so that you can organize all your responsibilities, I promise it helps loads xx