Writing about self-harm is difficult. It's a sensitive topic that seems as difficult to hear about and deal with as it is to talk about. Many of us who self-harm as a coping mechanism feel like it's our only option in a state of crisis or extreme panic. It's the only thing that works to calm us down. But it's wrong.
Yesterday, after being triggered by someone else's unexpected anxiety, I was compelled by someone close to me to find alternate ways of coping in those situations. Committing in advance to taking steps away from self-destructive behavior may not come naturally at first, but it's worth a shot. Positive coping mechanisms are never going to be the same for everyone, but here's a list of types of activities into which we all can plug in our own variations.
When panic hits:
1. Get yourself outside. Fresh air always helps and movement can as well. Keep walking forward and looking straight ahead. Tell yourself that you'll keep walking until you feel calmer. Walk for miles if you have to and see where you end up. Maybe you'll end up at your favorite coffee shop and reward yourself with a sugary latte. Maybe you'll end up in the middle of a giant open field where you can drop down and stare at the sky. Either way, you took yourself on an adventure away from your distress.
2. Eat something. It's surprising how nourishing yourself when you feel like doing the opposite can have a positive affect. You deserve to be safe as much as you deserve to eat. Don't let anyone or any trigger deprive you of your basic rights.
3. Do something artistic. Of course, we are a knitting company and you might be wondering why this suggestion wasn't first. Often, I myself have to do something active before being able to sit safely still. But once I have recovered a little bit from the most extreme state of my panic by going outside, knitting and my current binge show can keep me stable for the rest of the day. If you're a drawer sketch. If you're a painter paint. If you're a musician, play scales. Do something repetitive that highlights a talent of yours, channeling your feelings into a repetitive but productive motion instead of self-destructive behaviors that may fulfill the same physical outlet, but are bad for you.
4. Text a friend about something else. Again, why wasn't this first? Well I have the bad habit of relying on people - namely significant others - in my panic situation. Expecting someone to be constantly available for your needs doesn't help you and in most cases, it will make you feel even more alone and desperate. However, texting a friend about something completely unrelated to the panic situation can be helpful. Texting is in fact a repetitive, tactile motion and talking about something amusing or interesting that you share with a friend can quickly give you perspective.
5. Talk out loud. This may be the most important point. You need to have talking points handy to be able to say to yourself in a crisis situation. "I don't want to hurt myself" is one. But also remember that nobody, no matter what position they're in within your life, is significant enough to push you into a crisis state. Nothing is important enough to warrant self-harm. If something or someone in your life is pushing you towards self-harm, find a way to remove yourself from that situation. Your health and your self-respect is the biggest asset you will have. Don't let anyone, anything or any perspective on what you "should" do change that. Your priority is and always should be sustaining your health.
It is never too late to take responsibility for your health and your actions. You're always more in control than you think.
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