Avoiding Self Injury

I’ve had to restructure most of my life around my resolution not to self-injure.  For a long time, I tried to tell myself it wasn’t necessary…that my willpower would be enough to support me during difficult times.  But I realized the way I was living needed to change when I cut again for the first time after deciding I didn’t want to anymore.  I had so many triggers—images/situations/feelings that increased my urge to cut—around me on a daily basis.  It took a while to get used to the changes I found most helpful but now they’re so engrained in my mind to the point where I react instinctively when I need to guard my thoughts.

I got rid of everything in my room with a sharp edge.  Everything is hung with adhesives or nails I can’t easily pry out.  No pins or tacks.  I designated my car as the safe zone where I could go sit to sort through my troubles without having to worry about grabbing anything nearby in a moment of weakness.  At grocery stores, I glance down aisles to become aware of the kitchen knives’ location so I can intentionally avoid looking at them up close if I need to find something else in that area.  I do the same thing whenever I’m at hardware stores.  Whenever I turn around and suddenly see an item that’s triggering, I press my arms tightly against my torso and quickly walk away.  I found that the sensation of my own body warmth and shirt fabric on my arms takes the edge off a reactive desire to feel something sharp in such instances.  It’s an odd trick I accidentally discovered and am grateful for.  I don’t let myself linger by office supplies in stores or elsewhere either because of my track record with abusing them for self-injury.

I always staple or clamp papers together because I cannot allow paperclips to be in my possession.  I’ve scarred myself with them too many times.  If someone gives me a packet with a paperclip, I immediately remove the clip and throw it in a public trash can I would be too embarrassed to go digging through.  I don’t have a problem being around other people’s paper clips; it’s only when they’re in my possession or for sale in store that I start contemplating them as tools of self-injury.  Whenever a glass breaks, I can sweep up the broken pieces myself but they need to be dumped in the recycle bin outside, not inside where I’m going to be.

I look away whenever a character gets cut in a movie scene.  Otherwise, it has a similar effect to an alcoholic watching someone else drink…a longing to experience it firsthand or vicariously live it through someone else.  I do my best to entirely avoid movies with lots of blood since the sight of it in large quantities triggers me.  I’m an avid computer gamer, so I’ve had to go very far out of my way to avoid gory content for the same reason.  I also have a rule that I have to cover any accidental cuts or scrapes I acquire with bandages so I can’t be visually triggered by it if I’m feeling particularly tempted to self-injure later.

I don’t let myself handle kitchen knives or other sharp equipment for practical use unless I’m feeling confident in my ability to control myself at that moment.  If I’ve had a really rough day and the lure to misuse is too great, I fix something for dinner that doesn’t require chopping.  Sometimes, I’ve had to leave dirty knives in the sink for a couple days before I could safely clean them.  I’m extra conscious of how I’m holding the knife, where my fingers are and taking my time to be extra careful not to accidentally cut myself when preparing food.  On occasion, I’ve asked someone else to use the knife for kitchen prep when necessary.  Learning to ask for help has been embarrassing but I still prefer it to the significant risk of cutting when push comes to shove.  I always ask someone to do whatever I need for me if it involves a pocket/exacto knife or box cutter and I stand away from them when they’re using it.

My general rule of thumb is to minimize my time around any items I’ve used to hurt myself before and avoid items I’m thinking about misusing.  It is particularly important to be safe rather than sorry in this context.  If I can’t remove the item in question, it’s best to remove myself from the room when possible or keep myself at a distance if I must.  Once I learned it was a sign of strength instead of weakness to walk away from something causing me a problem, I felt less ashamed about doing it and found that it was easier to do.

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