It is gut-wrenchingly hard to give up our stash of items we use to self-harm. We take comfort in knowing if life gets too out of hand, we can always slink back to it without anybody knowing and then do to our bodies what we feel must be done to make things bearable again. Asking us to give up our stash is somewhat similar to asking an alcoholic to give up drinking; self-injury is the only way we know how to deal with the aspects of life that seem too overwhelming to endure. Why would we give up what we find most comforting?
There was a stretch of time where I said I wasn’t going to cut myself but still had my tools for doing so secreted away where no one would find them. I didn’t think I would actually use them. But if push came to shove, I wanted to have the option to. I was trying to give up cutting and was optimistic about my efforts because as long as I wasn’t doing it, that meant I was free, right? Wrong. I hadn’t truly let it go as my highly revered emotional pick-me-up. It was still my last ditch effort to try when everything else I’d done to handle life in healthier ways fell short. My stash constantly reassured me.
It wasn’t until much later that I grew to see it as a blindfold instead of an insurance policy. It was actually concealing more from me than it was giving. I was offered the illusion of a life that felt better (only temporarily) at the expense of realizing there were healthier ways to cope with anxiety/depression that could truly grant me the happier life I craved. My problem was that I had no patience for acquiring skills that would take time to learn when I thought I had something more potent that worked instantly. My cousin had to help me get rid of my stashes several times before I was willing to launch out into the unknown for help. I was very motivated to identify which coping strategies worked best for me and get good at practicing them in therapy before the next major crisis hit. In the long run, exercises that give my arms a good workout really helped along with DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) emotion management skills and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) thought restructuring.
You may not be willing to surrender your stash yet, but ask yourself, “Will I ever be?” I was never ready to give up my stash, never content with the idea. But at some point, life had kicked me in the teeth enough times that I wanted to believe there was a way to get back on my feet without having to bear yet another scar. My hope that I could be happy and healthy grew to outweigh my comfort with cutting. Don’t get me wrong; it’s great if you stop cutting even if you can’t manage to get rid of your stash just yet. However, I would urge you to eventually consider it as one of your next crucial steps in claiming that better life you’ve passionately longed for. It’s frightening, but it’s so worth it…not in the short run but for the rest of your life.