***Trigger Warning: Self-Harm***
"It’s been months, but yesterday I felt so on edge and I cut again. I hate that I did that, and I never want to do it again. How do I stop this? How do I feel in control of my life without hurting myself?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Allyee Whaley of The Trevor Project as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
To share the fact that you self-harm isn’t easy, so I deeply admire your decision to be open and honest about what you’re going through right now. You show what an incredibly brave person you are by reaching out for help and support when you’re in such an emotionally hard place. I’m so glad that despite how you’re feeling, you haven’t given up and that you’re fighting—because you’re definitely worth fighting for! It took courage to write in and I’m really glad you chose to get help from Everyone Is Gay.
To start, I would like to commend you for not cutting in months! That is not an easy accomplishment, and it shows what strength and perseverance you have. It can be hard to break any pattern that has been in our lives for a long time. Falling back on old behavior happens to everyone and that doesn’t mean you’ve failed! A long time ago, someone once read me a quote by Mary Pickford that said, “If you have made mistakes, even serious mistakes, you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.” Getting back up again requires strength and bravery, and every time you do, you become a stronger and more confident person.
It might help to know that some people cut as a way of dealing with or managing difficult, painful, or overwhelming emotions. For some, cutting relieves stress or tension. They find that the physical pain of cutting is a distraction from the emotional pain. Others feel that the cutting gives them a feeling of control when things in life or their emotions feel out of control. Still others feel numb or “dead inside” and cutting helps them to feel alive. You may be experiencing some, all, or none of these things. It’s important for you to know that cutting may help you to feel better briefly, but the longer it goes on, the more dangerous it can become as it can cause permanent scars, infections, and serious, sometimes life-threatening medical problems.
If you feel like cutting, there are lots of ways to help yourself feel better without putting yourself at risk. Think about how you feel before and after you cut. If cutting helps to release anger, you might try getting the anger out in another way, like hitting a pillow, stomping around in heavy shoes, putting on a heavy metal song, ripping up an old newspaper, or flattening aluminum cans. If cutting helps you when you’re sad, try different things that help you feel taken care of and comforted. That may include listening to certain songs, calling a friend, or eating a favorite food. If the cutting helps you to feel less numb, do something that creates a sharp physical feeling like putting your hand briefly in ice water or stomping your feet on the ground.
The next thing to know is that you are not alone. I’m going to give you some resources to check out. Try and see if any of them might be a good place to start.
HelpGuide.org: Cutting and Self Harm
HealthyPlace.com: Cutting Help and Treatment
The Butterfly Project
self-injury.net: support community for self-injurers
TeenHelp: Alternatives to self-harm
Keep in mind that many people continue to search, grow, and adjust the way they cope with pain and crisis their whole lives. What works for us one day might not work the next—and that’s completely okay!
It’s also super important to find someone who is understanding and open-minded who can listen and talk to you about what you’re going through. Is there an adult in your life with whom you feel like you connect? It might be a teacher, family member, or someone in another area of your life. Many people find that having a safe space to talk about their feelings can bring clarity to deeply set issues. If you are in the United States and a time comes when you think that speaking to someone might help you fight the urge to cut, or if you are ever feeling like you might hurt yourself, please call The Trevor Project’s 24-Hour Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. The Trevor Project, which is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24, has many other life-affirming resources to help you out when you’re in crisis. To learn more about their services, check outhttp://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/get-help-now.
Above all, remember that you have so many people in your life who care about you and want to support you as you learn and grow in this next chapter of your life!
With love and support,
Everyone Is Gay has started a new project to help parents who have LGBTQ kids: Check out The Parents Project!