Setting the Record Straight – Self Harm

I woke in the early hours last night and couldn’t get back to sleep; something I wrote on my blog post yesterday was bothering me: I had written about Lizzie’s incident of self harm & how I judge myself harshly about my daughter having access to sharps. I really need to qualify this.

When someone self harms, in whatever form, as a parent or carer, a partner, spouse or even child, you can remove all known risks from the environment but if that person is determined enough, they will find a way.

My daughter used to take non-prescription meds, such as paracetamol, sometimes as a form of self harm, sometimes with other intent, until we removed them all from the home. We bought a “fail safe” lockable medicine box for essential prescription meds, and hid it. One of her overdoses was when I was sat in a chemotherapy waiting room with my husband: she had searched the house, found the box and broken into it. She took all my chemo related medication. When we took to hiding these in the car, she would buy her own paracetamol at the local shops over a period of days, weeks, until another overdose prompted me to demand the local shop stop selling to her or we would report them to the police: obviously we had no idea she was buying them before the overdose.

So with no meds in the house (God help anyone else here of they get a headache!), we had removed the risk right? Lizzie would find other ways to self harm. Obviously we removed all sharps but with a 17 year old girl and an 18 year old boy who need to shave, an 11 year old who needs to sharpen her pencils and parents who open tins of food, she will always find a way, regardless of how apt we have all become at hiding stuff and using alternatives. One disposable razor (which are absolutely banned in this house), was purchased by one of my teenagers, was found buried in a bin by another, was then hidden for disposal later on, was next found our youngest, was hidden again and was eventually found by me in a picnic basket. That bloody razor had been hidden 4 times by my children for fear of Lizzie even knowing it was in the house! And if there are no sharps, then shoe laces, hair bands, pieces of wool pulled from blankets, become ligatures. And if all else fails, there’s always the shops or friends houses….

Do you get my point??

Don’t get me wrong, my daughter is not unusual. She is also not hell bent on constant self harm, not right now. To the contrary she has been doing so well not to lately. But here comes the really controversial part: self harm is not always about punishment, in fact it rarely is. I’m no expert and I can only talk from our own experiences, but self harm is a coping mechanism. Of course it’s not a desirable way to cope with heightened emotions but isn’t coping better than not coping? Self harm can be a release of all those pent up emotions that the sufferer cannot handle any longer, doesn’t want to escalate or just has a need to purge them. So when my daughter self harms, my heart breaks just a little bit more to see not just what she has done to her beautiful body but also to know how much pain she is in inside, to have to physically draw those feelings out. But sometimes I also feel relief. Yes relief. At least she IS dealing with the emotions and not bottling them up until they become too overwhelming. Because when that happens, we are too far down the road; when that happens, her urge to not want to live tips the scales of not wanting to die.

We are fighting this awful pattern and Lizzie is a true warrior; I am so proud of my little girl for not giving in.

I don’t care about being judged by others, not any more….I just had an overwhelming urge to explain an almost flippant comment, because the story behind it matters; it really matters.

Stay strong x

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