FAQ: Why I Self-Harm

***Trigger Warning: Cutting, Self-Harm, Hospital, ER, Medication***

 

I have been asked no less than 1000 times why I’ve self-harm, like why I do it. And it’s taken me until recently (4.19.16) to be able to answer this question in a way I feel is accurate for me. The answer: because it’s the one thing that I could always count on. It is the one thing that never let me down.

I have/had a routine or some would call a ritual. It includes preparing my tool, the actual act, and then the after/clean up. It’s something, one thing, my brain can focus 100% on for a few minutes. As an autistic person, this is rare…even hard. I feel so much. All the time. Sometimes it just needs to stop. Stop. For 15 minutes. And for 15 minutes I can have a single thought. A single focus. – A lot of people say exercise is a good alternative. For some maybe, for me it is not. For me, and I know for many others who struggle with self-harm, exercise is also a struggle of its own.

The Prep Stage

The prep stage includes new tools every time and rinsing the new tool with water.  (I promised myself before the first time I self-harmed I would only use clean ones each time, and never use one more than a 3-4 times). Then I would get in the shower to actually self-harm. (Only a couple times did I ever not get in the shower to harm and it was the times I ended up cutting super deep on accident: I was in a hurry).

There was a couple times growing up when I forgot my tools in the bathroom after I was done and never once was I caught, but man I was terrified of it. And then when I left home and lived on my own I constantly had several tools in my shower “just in case” is what I told myself. It was my safe guard.

After Self-harm

After I have self-harmed, I then have something to take care of. Something to fix. Something to heal. Something to change. I rinse it in water in the shower. I make sure the cuts stops bleeding. And then go about my shower. After my shower, drying is complicated because I mostly cut on my forearms, (early on I cut my thighs and my stomach, mostly because they were easier to hide). I would dry careful, as not to rip any open. And then I wear long sleeves so no one sees but also to protect them from germs. And I would clean the cuts once a day with warm water in the shower. (Later I did start covering them with gauze and an ace wrap, and treating them with lavender).

Today

It has been almost 3 years since I last self-harmed (32 months and 10 days if you want to be exact). And it’s been hard, I’ve had times where I really struggled to not self-harm. The last 2 ½ months or so my anxiety has increased significantly, because for the first time in my life all of my basic needs are met. For the first time in my life, I am able to not have to live in a dissociative or partly dissociative state all the time. And the last couple weeks have been particularly hard not cutting, so hard I even went to the psych ER (for anyone who knows me personally knows that is not something I am a fan of and use only as a last resort because I have had several bad experiences with it). It was truly life altering though, my fiancé took me and stayed the entire time by my side and spoke and explained things when I couldn’t. Being autistic, it’s hard for me to put things into verbal words sometimes. The ER is a dedicated ER here in Central Texas for psychiatric care and I received fantastic care, the doctor and the social worker really listened to me and what I needed and make sure I was as comfortable as I could be. They gave me a trial prescription to try in the mean time before I could seem my normal doctor, and they gave me awesome resources for therapy. This trip truly changed my life.

 

~Sarah

An open letter of apology

An open letter of apology

 

I am sorry

For all the times I couldn’t protect you

For all the times I took the blame when it wasn’t mine to take

For all the horrible things I thought about you

For all of the times I hurt you

For all the abuse I brought onto you

For all the stupid situations I put you in

For all the unspoken words

For all of the times I left you when things got hard

For all of the times I opened my mouth when I shouldn’t have

For all of the regrets I have

For all of the times I let you down

For all of the times I tried to end the only thing you had

I am sorry

 

An open letter of thanks

Thank you

For persevering

For not giving up on me

For not leaving me

For learning to trust me

Thank you

 

Sincerely,

The one who knows you best

Hell to Paradise

“The path to paradise begins in hell.” ― Dante Alighieri.

I have experienced the path to paradise. Suicide became a legitimate struggle for me when I was 11 years old. I made methodical plans, impulsive attempts, and accidental overdoses. My first attempt at suicide began by taking a handful of pills from my mother’s medicine cabinet. At the time, all I wanted was for the emotional turmoil I lived in to disappear; the pain to vanish. In 5th grade, the news was broken to me; my classmates never had sex before. I hadn’t experienced an ordinary childhood by any means, having sex was normal for me from before I could remember. I always recognized my childhood was not normal, for instance being shot by my mother at 7, or being beaten, starved, and sexually abused and trafficked by my own flesh and blood, my family. It was then, when I realized the sexual, emotional, and physical abuse I incurred was not common.

My best friend Emily, my only friend, committed suicide in 5th grade, after suffering abuse from her parents and being placed in foster care. The day before she was removed from her parents, by Child Protective Services, she asked me, “Has anything ever happened to you before?” I told her no. The next day, I was pulled from class to the principal’s office and questioned about the last time I saw Emily. What happened next changed my life forever; I learned, Emily shot herself the night before. I walked out of the principal’s office. My heart was broken more than ever.

5th grade was when real suicidal ideations began for me, or when I remember becoming conscious of the thoughts. Suicidal feelings were constant from the moment I walked out of my principal’s office, that May morning in 2003. I spent 9 years fighting to save my life from others, in the same turn, I thought of ways I could end my life. Following no less than 25 suicide attempts, my final attempt is an event I honestly don’t remember. My friends told me I jumped out in front of a car. The last thing I remember was volunteering at a homeless youth drop-in shelter and waking up in the hospital. After mental and physical evaluations I was sent home from the hospital. I imagine, when the hospital staff saw my name on the chart, they rolled their eyes.

Coming home from the hospital was the turning point. I decided I needed to die, and this time I would have to do it the right way, so the planning began. My plan was solid, date, time, place, and details to how I would end my own life; how I would commit suicide. I wrote letters to the people I felt would care if I died. This meticulous planning and my death would finally save me from the hell I lived in from the moment I was conceived. It is safe to assume I did not take my own life, as I planned because I am writing this today. — Recently, the man and woman, who promised me help, love, and family disappeared into the abyss, and it brought back some of those old feelings of suicide and wanting to take my own life. However, I decided suicide is not an option any longer and never will be. I am meant to be here. I have purpose, and I am loved.

“I walked through hell in to the paradise I live in today.”

~Sarah Birch