How To Change Self Harming to Self Healing
Dear Selfless Esteem,
I have been cutting myself to stop bad thoughts. I feel better right after I cut myself, but then I feel worse a few hours later. I want to stop this vicious cycle.
Good for you for reaching out for help! That’s so brave of you. 💪
Let’s separate each component of your letter:
- You have been cutting yourself to stop bad thoughts.
- You feel better immediately but feel worse later.
- You want to stop this cycle.
- You called yourself “helpless,” possibly meaning that you feel powerless over this behavior.
Now let’s address each component.
Help for Self-Harming Behavior
You stated you have been cutting yourself to stop bad thoughts. It could be that some of the bad thoughts are self criticism, leading you to self harm. If so, see the post “Defeat Self Criticism” for general tips. But regardless of what type of bad thoughts you’re having, find a competent therapist to help you explore why you’re having these thoughts and how to feel better without cutting. (See the posts, “What is Wise Counsel and Good Therapy?“and “Why You Need a Therapist ASAP.”)
When seeking a therapist, you might want to ask if they are knowledgeable in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, art therapy, and mindfulness. Please see below for a video about the benefit of mindfulness.
Once you find a therapist, collaborate with him to determine what type of services you need (i.e., maybe a short term residential program) and the frequency of services (i.e., how many times per week you will have therapy). The therapist might refer you to a psychiatrist to evaluate if medication could decrease any anxiety and/or depression.
The therapist can facilitate creating a safety plan, consisting of both preventative action steps and reactive actions steps in case you cut again. During this process, the therapist can help you identify your strengths and protective factors, such as a support system. Consider inviting family members, a significant other, and/or a close friend to a therapy session in order to involve them in the safety plan and discuss the best way to support you.
What To Do After Self-Harming
You stated you feel better at first, but then you feel worse a few hours later. If suicidal thoughts surface, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. Another option is to use the chat feature at Lifeline Chat : Lifeline (suicidepreventionlifeline.org) There are also suicide hotlines in each state. Of course if you’re in imminent danger, call 911. For other countries, please see this list of suicide crisis lines.
Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up. Treat yourself with compassion and continue to reach out for help. To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting people, who are struggling with self harming behavior. Selfinjury.com is another possible resource.
Stopping Self Harming
You stated you wanted to stop cutting yourself. If you didn’t cut yourself and chose to use your words instead, what would you say? Write those thoughts and feelings in a journal. Or if you prefer, make a video or audio recording. The following are more alternatives for cutting behavior:
- Text HOME to 741741 to reach a crisis counselor.
- Contact a friend or family member.
- Pamper yourself, i.e., with a comforting warm drink or bath.
- Jump in a pool or the shower to create a sudden, different sensation.
- Exercise to increase endorphins and release dopamine.
- Listen to your favorite songs.
- Watch funny videos.
- Do a random act of kindness.
- Express yourself through art.
- Use guided imagery.
- See the post “6 Effective Ways to Manage Stress” for general tips on decreasing stress.
- You may also be interested in the post, “Mending a Broken Heart: 8 Methods to Ease Your Pain.”
Above all, be patient with yourself as you begin using other coping skills because forming new habits takes time.
From Helpless to Hopeful
Last but not least, know that God loves you no matter what; in fact, He loves you so much that He sent His son to die for you (1 John 4:10). See the posts, “Why Selfless Esteem Is Better Than Self-Esteem,” “The Real Truth About God,” and “How To Pray in 5 Simple Steps” for details about focusing on God and His love.
Because of God’s unconditional love, you can boldly ask Him to help you meditate on positive thoughts (Hebrews 4:16; Philippians 4:8). “We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone” (Psalm 33:20-22 NLT). ♡
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version®. Copyright © 1984 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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