Self harm reflections and ramblings.
Updated: Aug 24, 2022
I know about self harm. It's fucking dreadful. But...
Why was I hurting myself like I was?
People with Borderline Personality Disorder sometimes engage in acts of self harm. I was.
These acts of self harm are wide ranging; they’re also dramatic and startling in many cases. Horrible to witness too of course. I owe appologies.
These behaviors include: Blunt force trauma: This type of self harm includes banging one’s head on a hard surface, punching oneself, and using a hammer or other tool to inflict damage and pain to the body. I punched myself black and blue. I just wanted an escape. I was emotionally beyond overloaded with very little empathy around me. Almost none. I didn't have a clue why I was acting out like I was, it was just happening. My fuses were all blown.
Cutting: This is one of the most common and widely known types of self harm that those with BPD engage in. Cutters use a variety of tools such as scissors, razor blades, knives, needles, and broken glass. Scars often result and many people who cut try to cover up their injuries while some people actually try to put them on display. I was ashamed of my scars and cuts. I hid them. A truely hellish stage in my life or should I say, stages. It was almost an involunatary reaction to my broken internal pressure guage. The triggers were killing me. Cutting was my go too escape. Horrid.
Burning: People resorting to this tactic use cigarettes, matches, lighters, and hot objects to burn themselves. They usually only burn a small area each time, but the resulting scars can often occur over a large part of the body. This was not my bag but I have friends that have turned to burning to ease their emotional pain. Gladly, they seem to have reached a better place in life psychologicly also. Burning. Fuck that.
Intentional accidents: Folks who set themselves up for accidents may not look like they’re trying to hurt themselves, but their failure to take even the most basic, reasonable precautions tips you off to their true motives. These people often end up in far more than their share of mishaps and investigation often reveals that they set ladders on obviously unstable ground or fail to use essential safety equipment. I used to shut my eyes when riding motorbikes hoping for a lethal crash. Clearly, it never happened. Proper smashed my leg up though. I also set myself up to get hurt in sports. Pure self punishment. Daft stuff. Daft as fuck.
Miscellaneous self injurious behaviors: These include swallowing harmful objects, inserting objects into body cavities, hair pulling, consuming harmful chemicals, pushing one’s eyeballs, or biting one’s body. I used bite down on my teeth, pushing my upper and lower sets together until it hurt. Again, a punishment and relief behaviour when I was young to escape internal shame and self hatred.
Abuse. Abuse did this to me. Neglect, abuse and shaming. Belittling. No interest in who I am or what makes me tick. Nothing.
I know what you're thinking.
You’re probably wondering what the motivation is for these various acts of self harm that seemingly would result in no gains for the person who does them. The answer to your question is that there is no single motivation for self harm. Both mental health professionals and those with BPD have suggested a variety of possible motivations including;
To distract from emotional pain:
You can’t underestimate the unbearable nature of inner pain experienced by those with BPD. Although the pain from self injurious acts rarely matches the internal, emotional pain, it does pull one’s attention away from the overwhelming emotions for a little while. It certainly was my MO. There was no choice. No concious descission made. It fucking sucks.
To meet other needs:
In most cases, it’s not so much a need for attention as it is a need for basic nurturance and support from others. A cry for help. In some cases, it appears that people engage in self harming acts in order to obtain care and concern when they lack the skills or knowledge for obtaining those needs in healthier ways.
Perhaps to a degree I was crying out for help. No. Not to a degree. I was. I needed empathy and someone to fight my corner with me. That help did not come. Well it did. But not from the person who was in my life at the time. Not at all. This just amplified my condition. Catch 22. Empathy is vital.
To punish themselves:
Sometimes people with BPD appear to harm themselves out of a profound feeling or belief that they deserve punishment and abuse. Sometimes this belief appears to be related to the fact that they were abused as children and believed they deserved the abuse. Thus, they continue the pattern of abuse on themselves, thereby reenacting the abuse over and over again.
To feel better:
When the body is injured, the brain releases a type of pain killer known as endorphins. Endorphins are similar to morphine and reduce pain and distress. Thus paradoxically, one may engage in self harm in order to regulate emotions and feel better. If that motivation sounds bizarre, consider the fact that many of us in England report loving to consume hot to really hot chili peppers in food, in abundance. Why? It seems chili peppers causes a release of endorphins. I believe it.
To feel almost anything other than numbness and emptiness:
Many of those with BPD say that they have a constant feeling of “unrealness.” They say they feel out of it and/or dissociate. Pain feels “real” and allows them to connect to the world for a while. Emptiness is a hellish feeling. Anything is better than sheer desolation.
Again, motivations vary from person to person and some people no doubt have several motivations from the above list. Still others may have motives I have not covered.
Fortunately, there are treatments for self harm that appear to work for many people. These take time and require professional help. Although it’s interesting and often productive to sort out a person’s motivations for self harm, it may not be necessary in all cases to fully understand the motivations for the behavior in order to challenge and change it.
If you've come to my blog looking for answers and what to do next, I will simply say, DBT. Google DBT. Ask your doctor about it. Talk to an accredited Professional councilor about it.
That's the longterm game changer.
Absolutely talk to your doctor though!
Research from mypsychology.com.
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