I know it can feel like the end of the world when we slip up and self-harm after all the work we’ve done to stay safe. Will I ever be free of it? Is this an impossible battle? I want to encourage everyone who’s ever fallen down in their efforts to lead healthier lives that it’s a setback but not a true defeat. There’s nothing about it that means you can’t try again. In fact, the more you learn from your mistakes, the greater your odds of success are for the future.
When I’ve messed up, it always takes a while for me to get past the overwhelming disappointment with myself before I’m able to see it as a learning opportunity. I try to recall what set off the intense emotions that led to me deciding to cut. Then I try to get more specific…What did I do, what was I thinking between the time I decided I needed to cut and actually did? If my trigger on that occasion was feeling like a failure for getting a low score on a test, did I accept the idea that I was a failure despite all evidence in my life to the contrary? Why did I choose to believe that how I felt at that moment was more real than all the other things I value about myself and the many good things I have done? If I marched right home and cut myself, were there some roadblocks I could’ve put in my way to give myself more time to change my mind? Like go for a walk until I feel calmer or call a friend? I may not be able to prevent all my relapses, but I can do my best to guard myself against making the same mistakes over and over that led to previous relapses.
If you have enough self-awareness about what sets you off, you’re in a great position to plan ahead and minimize the odds of setbacks. Know what your buttons are and recognize them the moment they’re being pushed. Make it a priority to do for yourself what you need to at that time to stay safe even if it means calling a hotline or admitting your struggle to someone. Remember how much your health and happiness is worth to you and channel as much of that motivation as possible into succeeding next time.
In an odd way, it says something good about you if you’re the kind of person to get really down on yourself for messing up because it means you care about becoming healthier. Not everyone has that drive. There are forums all over the internet filled with people who can’t wait to support and encourage those who want to overcome this. And rest assured that God is not sitting up in the clouds somewhere shaking His head at you because you relapsed again. I think He too sees our setbacks as opportunities to love us where it hurts most. At times where I couldn’t bring myself to try again for my own sake, it was the knowledge that He was there with me in my struggle and not condemning me from a distance that made me want to try again. That’s the kind of grace that surpasses what a friend can do for you…to be alive in your thoughts in the middle of the night helping you find peace when no one else can.