Thoughts on Self-Harm

Trigger Warning: Self-Harm

Therapy continues…we’re still seeing K. once a week and going to group once per month.  Yesterday, we couldn’t shake some intense feelings.  We did DID symptom management skills like grounding and a couple “past vs. present” ‘s for different parts.  But, we just couldn’t control the intensity and dissociation.  So, we called K., and she had us come in for an emergency session.

We talked about some things I’ve told her before, and we talked about some things I’ve never told her before.

As a result, I’m having a ton of increase in urges to self-harm.  Most of it has been impulses to harm and thoughts/plans, but not actions.

So, let me talk about Alex.  Alex is a teen part, who was mostly present during the body’s ages of 15-18.  During that time, she often engaged in self-harm.  Most she cut the skin but she also sometimes hit/bruised the body.

Why does Alex self harm?  Alex had to do a lot of talking in counseling with our then-counselor, Andrea, but she eventually learned why. This was huge not just for her, but for us as a system to better understand Alex and what she went through.  At the time the body was ages 15-18, we had no escape from the trauma and re-traumatization of not being believed by family, school teachers, and child protective workers.  Feelings of loneliness and and depression were so severe that cutting became one of the few outlets that worked to relieve some of the intensity.

As Alex began to trust Andrea, self-injury took on a new meaning.  It became one of the few ways she could communicate to Andrea tha inner turmoils she was constantly surviving.  It also became a way of communicating she needed help.

I think this is important to note, because although the behavior of cutting remained the same, the why evolved over time.

Next, we have a child part (unsure of who exactly), but this part will sometimes intentionally bang their head, pick/scratch cuticles until they bleed and bite nails until they bleed.

For this child, we are still learning the why.  This seems to have to do with impulsivity and an obsessive need to hurt the body.  There is definitely focus for this part on the creation of physical pain.  Once the pain has been created (or the bleeding started), she then can hyperfocus on that physical response instead of the (unknown) emotion that triggered the impulsivity.

I’m starting to realize that we (several adult parts) also engage in self harm indirectly. What we mean by this is we do things that aren’t intentionally self harming (like Alex and the unnamed child part). Unfortunately the actions do end up causing harm to the body.  For example, Carrie and Beth engage in substance use.  Vickie gets into risky sexual situations with men.  Nel doesn’t eat enough food or sometimes eats too much of a food that is worth little to no nutrition (e.g. chocolate for breakfast–for 5 days straight).

Lastly, I’m beginning to understand that there is programming associated with some of my tendencies of self harm.  This is a very overwhelming and scary thing to realize.  I’m not sure what to make of it.  Every time I seem to realize this (or remember I have realized this before), I blank out, lose the memory, or lose a couple hours.  See, even me trying to put it into words now seems difficult to do.

Until next time…

“Each falling apart eventually brings a coming together.” -Mina (co-fronter part)

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