Dealing with Mental Disorders and Self-Harm

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL MENTAL HEALTH SPECIALIST, PLEASE CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR OWN MENTAL HEALTH.

Now with that being said. I personally deal with a disorder called Bipolar Disorder Type II. Most people when they meet me claim they never would've guessed that I was struggling with this. Mainly because I don't want anyone to realize this. Most of my outwardly emotions have thus been replaced by a persona of happy or shyness, even if I'm feeling something completely opposite from that. I supposed that begin when the disorder first presented when I was thirteen or fourteen. Now I'm not going to go too into my personal experience with discovering I had this disorder, as I've already written about this in my "Bipolar Disorder - What is it and Personal Experience" post. This post will be more focused on how I've managed to handle my disorder so far without the need of medication. Now I'm not saying that you should do this, these are purely things that I've done and had success with. Please consult a doctor about your treatment before changing it on your own, like I did.

Now I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder when I was eighteen after going in myself to get diagnosed as I thought I had this disorder after seeing an interview of Demi Lovato. But this was not when I fully expected the fact that it was okay that I was dealing with this disorder. I thought that once you're diagnosed, that's it and you're magically fixed. No, it's something you constantly have to adjust to. You're not a car in a body shop. You don't just go in, get fixed, and walk away like nothing every happened. It doesn't work like that. It's something you have to constantly work on. Once you expect that it's an on going challenge and not every day is going to be perfect, things get better as long as you make the decision that no matter how far you fall down that you're going to push yourself back up and say, "I'm not done yet."

You don’t know how strong you are, until being strong is the only chance you have.
— Demi Lovato

I remember nights where I found myself angry that being diagnosed didn't resolve my issue. If anything that might two years worth of blood draws and medication adjustments that didn't help to fix the chemical imbalance that I was experiencing. Therapy also was getting me no where as three different therapists tried to convince me I had a horrible childhood and if I cut myself family out then everything would be magically better. And it's really hard when you're talking to therapists, to counter them in my opinion. I personally thought I had a great childhood, sure later in my life my dad became an alcoholic but that has nothing to do with what was going on with my mind.

I finally found help through a doctor on campus. She ended up becoming my medical therapist in a way. She had me meet with her every week and made sure that I was getting better. This included checking to make sure I wasn't cutting, I was getting enough sleep, and that I was taking my medication. She also didn't pressure me into starting to take medication when I admitted to taking myself off it. I didn't feel like my emotions and feelings were my own but what the medication was making me feel. She told me that was common, and that as long as I could manage to stay under control then she wasn't going to suggest putting me back onto the medication unless I stated otherwise. It was the best encouragement I had during that time period. She also helped me with relaxation techniques and other creative alternatives to help me cope such as painting or writing which have since become my main outlet for expression. Every time instead of picking up a blade or something sharp, I pick up a paint brush or pencil  and just take out any rage or depression on that piece of work. Some of the things that came out of these time periods are my favorite pieces as they have meaning to me. More than just just something I was thinking. It was the only way I managed to control my feeling without taking it out on myself, which I hated no matter how addicted I was to it.

Overcoming the Urge

Some other things I found that helped when all I wanted to do was take out my negative feelings towards myself through self-harm were:

  • Writing positive messages on my arms, so when I looked down the next time itching with temptation all I would see are positive messages telling me to be happy. Later these became tattoos with the words: trust, love, faith, and hope. I have one on each wrist but they rotate to become the other word. I put a picture of them down below. The one on top is the one facing me when I look down and the bottom are if you flip them 180 degrees.

These are the tattoos I got on my wrists to help remind me that I was stronger than my mental disorder. They also helped covered the scars from years of self-harm. Now you can hardly see the scars hidden beneath the "Trust/Love" tattoo.

  • Putting an ice cube on my wrists also helped create the numb feeling that I wanted to ultimate achieve as well as a sting to began with.
  • Find some sort of distraction that is not self-harming. Somewhere where you can go where you literally can't do the one thing you're craving. And when you're depressed, I know it's really hard if not impossible to do so. But it helps because it gives your mind something else to get wrapped up in. Sometimes it can be as simple as going somewhere that's physically uncomfortable. Is that sun way to bright? Yes, perfect stay there. Is your butt falling asleep or your back hurting from sitting in that position? Great, don't change that. You'll be so irritated by that, you stop thinking about physically hurting yourself. 
  • Talking to someone out loud about it helps more than you can believe it will. Even if you are talking to yourself. It helps release the pent up tension and helps you relax after a while. It may feel strange or everything inside of you is screaming to stop, but just try to stay calm and make your words make sense. It makes your situation feel clearer and helps settle your breathing as well.
  • Try the butterfly method. It's similar to the positive message one. But for this one you draw a butterfly where you want to harm yourself and a name it after a loved one. Or someone who wants you to get  better. If you cut, the butterfly dies and must be washed off. If the butterfly wears off and you didn't cut, you released a butterfly back into the wild to be free. Not right away but down the line, you're no longer needing the butterflies as you don't get the urge to harm yourself anymore.
  • Wear a rubber band and snap yourself with it every time you want to cut. This will give you that immediate pain you're looking for without the dangerous side effects or scars.

After the Urge has Passed

Now saying that getting through the first episode with minimal to no damage is amazing. But at some point there will be another one. So preparing for that is key. Some things that you can do are the following:

  • Remove any objects you used before to self harm from your immediate area. If you aren't able to completely get rid of them, try just to make them difficult to get to or give them to someone else. I know how hard of a time I had when I tried to get rid of my items even after I hadn't cut for a year. It was a safety blanket in a way. But I felt ten times better once it was gone.
  • Reward yourself for making it through the day. These can be any form you want, but try to make it something you can look back on and say look how strong I am. I've made it this far I can keep going.
  • Get professional help. It's not a bad thing to admit you need help. We can't be strong all the time so pretending to be strong is not going to help you in the end. So please seek help from a professional.
  • Identify anything that triggers you to cut. You don't need to completely remove that from your help, but it helps warn you before you get to the place where you feel like there's no way out of the corner. And work on making it so that item doesn't cause a trigger, which basically just means deal with the thing that causing it. For me, it was negative thoughts I got after talking with my father when he was drunk. I had to learn how not to take it personally and to let it go, so it wouldn't bite me in the end as it used to.
  • Pretend your looking at your younger self or best friend. What would you say to them? Would you tell them the same things you're telling yourself? No. You would try to talk them out of it. If you can say that for them, why is it so difficult to admit it to yourself?
You can’t spend the rest of your life being afraid of people rejecting you. You have to start by not rejecting yourself. You don’t deserve it.
— My Mad Fat Diary

Staying strong

As I've said before the main things you need to do are: get professional help, learn to love yourself, find something else to take up your time that's positive and you find some enjoyment in, and change your environment. And by changing environments, I do not mean what one of my old therapists told me. I mean do something with your life and surround yourself with positive people that support you no matter what you're going through.

Need someone to talk to?

I'm here for you. Feel free to send me a message on any of my social media sites or to my email and I will be there for you with words of encouragement. If you don't want to reach out to me and need someone to talk to, there are plenty of hotlines that will listen to everything you have to say. I tried to find all the hotlines I could so regardless of where you are, here's a number (If I'm missing any please comment them down below so we can help everyone we possibly can).

  • Depression Hotline: 1-630-482-9696
  • Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-8433

  • Self Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

  • LifeLine: 1-800-273-8255

  • Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

  • Eating Disorders Hotline: 1-847-831-3438

  • Rape and Sexual Assault: 1-800-656-4673

  • Grief Support: 1-650-321-5272

  • Runaway: 1-800-843-5200, 1-800-843-5678, 1-800-621-4000

  • Argentina: 800 5555 5522 

  • Australia: 1800 799 338

  • Austria: 800 5555 5522

  • Belgium: 800 5555 5522

  • Brazil: 0800 891 7391

  • Canada: 866 246 9224

  • China: 800 5555 5522

  • Colombia: 800 5555 5522

  • Costa Rica: 00 800 5555 5522

  • Denmark: 00 800 5555 5522

  • Finland: 800 5555 5522

  • Germany: 800 5555 5522

  • Hong Kong: 800 5555 5522

  • Hungary: 800 5555 5522

  • India: 000 800 1006 614

  • Ireland (Republic of): 800 5555 5522

  • Israel: 800 5555 5522

  • Italy: 800 5555 5522

  • Japan: 800 5555 5522

  • Luxembourg: 800 5555 5522

  • Malaysia: 800 5555 5522

  • Mexico: 001 800 514 3716

  • Netherlands: 800 5555 5522

  • New Zealand: 800 5555 5522

  • Norway: 800 5555 5522

  • Philippines: 800 5555 5522

  • Portugal: 800 5555 5522

  • Russia: 810 800 2643 1012

  • Singapore: 800 5555 5522

  • South Africa: 800 5555 5522

  • South Korea: 800 5555 5522

  • Spain: 800 5555 5522

  • Sweden: 800 5555 5522

  • Switzerland: 800 5555 5522 (143)

  • Taiwan: 800 5555 5522

  • Thailand: 800 5555 5522 

  • Turkey: 1-800-288-8372

  • UK: 08457 90 90 90

- Mae Polzine