I have been quiet for the last few weeks, and I apologise for that. I haven’t been doing very well. When I started writing this blog, I promised to share the good and the bad. It is important to me that I write about the REAL effects of living with mental health problems. I must warn you, this post contains triggers regarding self harm that could upset you. Please look away if you feel it will hurt you.
For 10 years, my self harm method of choice was always overdosing. Unfortunately, after a while, your body can’t cope with it any more. Because of that, I have cirrhosis of the liver. Half of it is dead, and it can’t repair itself as the damage was just too much.
Recently, I have been under immense pressure, that was added on to the usual massive dip in mood that happens around April and August each year. Basically, I was feeling helpless and lost. I knew I couldn’t overdose again, because genuinely I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to damage my liver even further. But I still needed a release, so I started cutting.
Yes, it was stupid. I know. But there you have it… that is what happens when you need a release and nothing else works. I should mention that I raided my crisis box and phoned my local crisis team before cutting, and I was very helpfully told to go to bed!! Absolute joke… they are supposed to be the people who help when you are in crisis mode!
My experiences about cutting have in the past has been talking to those that have done it, in an attempt to gain a better understanding of it. I have heard them say watching the blood flow feels like you are letting the bad bits out. I have also heard people say it helps them feel in control, and that the pain helps them feel alive again. I am not sure what my experiences are yet… I just enjoy watching the blood build up.
I never thought I would write a blog like this, and it is a shame I lost the battle with my mind for a little while. But having spoken to various mental health professionals who have said that while cutting is not good, it is better than overdosing considering my liver status. I was given these tips, and I shall pass them on. Before I do, however, I need you to know I don’t condone cutting. I hope you manage to find better ways of coping, and I hope you look at my crisis box post for coping tips. I sincerely hope you never need these tips. But knowing that cutting is NOT a suicide attempt, and is simply a coping technique for when things get bad, means it is better to be safe that sorry.
- Contact a mental health professional. This should ALWAYS be something you do before you self harm in any way. If you don’t have your own mental health nurse or other professional you can talk to, don’t forget there are still people you can talk to. Here are some useful numbers and websites.
- Go through your crisis box. If you haven’t got one, please have a look at this page and create one. If you are stuck, let me know, I have been helping people put them together. These are distraction techniques that can be amazingly helpful!
- Practice mindfulness… tips can be found here, here, here, or in any Google search. It helps calm you down, and brings you back into the present moment.
- If you must cut, keep it safe. Use sterile blades at all times (you can either buy sterile blades, or sterilise the ones you have in sterilising fluid or even putting them in boiling water. If you are using disposable blades, make sure you dispose of them safely. If you are re-using the same blade, be super careful and vigilant about keeping it sterile. That last thing you want to worry about is an infected wound.
- Wash the area you will be cutting AND your hands thoroughly, I use an antibacterial scrub to help. Keeping everything clean reduces the risk of infection.
- Once you have cut, keeping the area clean and dry is essential. If it is a small cut, you can use an antiseptic, but don’t do that in a deeper cut as it will just get into your blood stream and wont work.
- Dress the wound appropriately. Make sure you have a suitable first aid kit with the right size dressings and bandages (if needed). Put the dressing on the cut, and if the blood comes through that dressing put another dressing over the top, and wrap a bandage round it. The bandage should be firmly on, but not tight enough to cut of circulation or be uncomfortable. After twenty minutes or so, you can go back and redress the wound. If it is still bleeding, reapply the bandage. If after a further ten minutes you are still bleeding, it is time to get some help.
- Keep wound closing strips (Steristrips for example) handy, wounds heal quicker if the skin is together (rather than a gaping wound in the middle) and scaring is less evident.
- LEAVE IT ALONE! Once you have cut, leave the wound alone. Don’t keep removing the dressing to stare at it, you will have plenty of time for that later. The more often you remove the dressing the higher the risk of infection.
- If the cut does get infected, seek guidance from your GP. Leaving it to go away on its own can be dangerous, so always get it checked over.
I hope you never need that list. The important thing to remember is that there ARE other ways of coping. Use all the tools you have and maybe this time you wont need to do it. Cutting should never be the first thing you do when you ‘feel the urge’.
I am NOT a medical professional of any kind. My advice should never substitute that of someone qualified. However, should you ever need to talk, if you want some advice, or just a friendly ear, you can contact me at any time. You are not alone, you are strong enough to cope, and you WILL come through this. Just stay safe!