Dealing With Relapse: Advice From My Experiences

I made a previous post where I asked my friend Spencer to give her advice on how she deals with relapse. She gave really great advice, and hopefully it helped someone. Here’s my take on my own experiences with relapse, and how to deal with the negativity from others and the negativity that you feed yourself.

Before I begin on advice, I just have a quick rant that I need to get out of the way. I hate feeling so judged by family, friends, and even strangers when they happen to see my cuts. I hate that there’s the assumption that I’m “desperate for attention.” I hate that people think I’m suicidal.  I hate when people stare even if I covered them up. But most of all, I hate that most people don’t realize that self-harm of any kind is an addiction. Instead of treating someone with any kind of addiction as a Leper, you should see if there’s anything you can do to help them get better.
I know it’s hard to know what to do when you see a loved one hurt themselves deliberately, especially when you can’t relate or understand. It’s even harder when I don’t know why I can’t just stop self-injuring.

This post was a little bit hard to make because I had recently relapsed. I hadn’t cut since late December/early January (I don’t remember the date. It was sometime over winter break). Also, I was a little reluctant to post this because I was afraid of what my classmates would think, but after some serious thought I realized it might be better just to get it out in the open.  After I had relapsed a few days ago, there was the usual self-hatred that came with the fact that I had hurt myself again. Then after thinking about this blog, I realized that it wasn’t a set-back so much as it was a small bump in the road.  I figured I could give others the advice that I sometimes fail to give myself in regards to relapse:

First thing’s first:

1. Figure out why you have relapsed. It seems silly, but sometimes actually telling yourself what the problem is can actually help. Maybe your subconscious recognizes the problem, but do you? Are you stressed? Being bullied? Emotional overload? Traumatic event? Depression? Has something triggered you? Loss of hope? A possible hormone imbalance for some reason?  Once you figure out what it is that made you cut, it’s easier for you to think of ways to face that problem.

2. Identify your methods.  If you feel the urge to cut, burn, scratch, pick, etc., sometimes getting rid of the devices can help. While you’re clean, give your scissors, razors, knives, lighters, strangulation methods. etc. to a friend or family member you can trust. Almost always, having the tool out of sight and hidden away out of reach can help you sit back and think about what you are about to do. With the urge not right in front of your face, it’s easier to be rational. For those who self-harm by picking scabs or scratching skin, that can be a little more difficult to overcome, since you can’t get rid of your teeth/fingernails like you can a razor. Since I don’t have personal experience with picking scabs or trichotillomania (pulling out hair), I’m not really sure how to properly address those issues. My advice for those would be to try to find distractions, be it a physical one or mental. I’m sorry if that’s really lame advice, but if you or someone you love has Trich, feel free to contact me as to how to deal with it.

3. Dealing with the after-math. This is the worst part. Dealing with the fact that you just harmed yourself when you were doing so well not to. You hate yourself for doing it, and that self-hatred makes you want to hurt yourself, and it’s a vicious cycle. If you have just relapsed, I would suggest doing what I mentioned in the previous step and hide your tools. Dealing with a relapse isn’t easy, but do not let anyone tell you that you are back to square one. Having lived without self-harm for a period of time (whether a day, a week, a month, or 10 years), you will have learnt ways to cope and live life without self-harming.

Relapsing isn’t pretty stuff.  It can be extremely upsetting to have worked so hard to quit just to find yourself back in a sadly familiar rut.  A very common thought is that it should be time to give up.  Or that relapsing is a sign of being unable to improve or not having strong enough will power.  As guilty as I am myself for having similar thoughts, they are horrendously incorrect.

If you are making an honest effort to quit, that’s admirable itself!  Despite the emotional toll of self-injury, it can become a habit.  Although we can adapt to change, it can be uncomfortable to make that first step out of a comfort zone, even if that comfort is hurting.  If you have at least honestly considered quitting, didn’t self-harm when you felt the desire, or used an alternative, you have already taken a step out of this comfort zone.  And for something of this nature, trying should always be admired. —Empathetic Activist

4. Getting back on track. If you can identify the things that have caused you to relapse in the past, you can train your brain to deal with those issues in a healthy manner. Also, I would reccommend talking to someone. Anyone. A councilor, a parent, a friend, a teacher, or even a pet if you’re not ready to face someone that can talk back to you. Talking to a professional can help a lot (although I hate it, and haven’t benefited from it, that’s not to say it won’t help someone else. I just haven’t found the right therapist yet.)

But most importantly, the main thing that will get you back on track is just taking it day by day.  It sucks, but it’s not the end, and not a sign for you to give up. I always quote MacBeth when I mess up, “What’s done cannot be undone.” It’s in the past, and the only thing you can do now is learn from the experience and grow from it. It’s not going to be easy (it’s actually one of the hardest things I’ve ever done), but it does get better, as cliched as that sounds. Each day you go with out cutting and each day you’re on Earth is something to celebrate. Overcoming self-harm and relapse isn’t about being “done” or quitting, it’s about becoming stronger and learning to cope with behavior that is destructive.

“Part of recovery is relapse. I dust myself off and move forward again.”
–Steve Adler

I will soon be posting about alternatives for self-injury so stay tuned for that!

To anyone reading this, be it the Internet or my classmates: if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me. I will not be embarrassed (and you shouldn’t be either) or mad, but I’d rather you ask me about my issues with self-harm, my depression or anything I have posted about than make assumptions or gossip. Please respect me as I would respect you in this instance. Thanks!

-Brittany

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4 Responses to Dealing With Relapse: Advice From My Experiences

  1. annapyra says:

    Wow! I am completely blown away by your ability to try to help others even as you deal with the same problems yourself. There is some very very helpful advice here. I just recently started a blog to share my story and how I have dealt with self harm. I hope you will check it out. http://annapyra.wordpress.com/

    • Discover Your Recovery says:

      I really appreciate the kind words! Honestly, it’s easier to give advice to others than to follow your own advice, but I try. I really like your blog, and can’t wait to see what you’ll do with it! -Brittany

  2. Pingback: Methods For Stopping Self-Harm | A Self-Harm Recovery Blog

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