Three hundred and sixty-five days…fifty-two weeks…or, as the cast of Rent puts it, “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.” Any way you want to measure it, it all adds up to one year. These numbers all also serve to represent that I have now lived an entire year without self-harm.
Was it easy to stop? In a word, NO! There is still a very small voice that speaks to me any time I feel I am not in control that tells me it is okay to self-harm. I have learned, however, that that voice does not have to have power over my decisions…I do. In changing my relationship with the voice that tells me to self-harm, I was able to 1) disagree with what it had to say and 2) disobey what it was telling me.
Whenever the voice of self-harm speaks to me, urging me to engage in behaviors, I look for evidence of its truth. Spoiler alert! There is never evidence that the voice of self-harm is telling the truth. No matter what trickery, deceit, false promises or fake love the voice of self-harm uses to lure us into behaviors, it is important to know that it is simply not true. Self-harm is never a solution to problems. In fact, self-harm usually ends up creating bigger problems than the one it used to get us to engage in behaviors. It is important to tell the voice of self-harm, “I hear you. I know what you’re saying. But, I WILL NOT engage in the behaviors you are telling me.” Here is another spoiler alert: that will not be easy either. The voice of self-harm will come back with a million and one reasons that we, advocating for our health, are wrong. It is important to remember that no matter how loud, seductive, alluring, etc that voice is, the voice of health is always stronger, smarter and has our best interests at heart. The key to disagreeing with the voice of self-harm is to practice…and then practice…and when we think we are all practiced-out…practice some more. It may sound silly, but actually writing down a conversation between you and the voice of self-harm is very good practice for disagreeing and disobeying.
Recovery is not an “I tried and it didn’t work” kind of deal. Recovery is an “I tried and it didn’t work, so I tried again and again and again until I found something that did work.” That is the disobeying piece of recovery; telling the voice of self-harm that we will not do what it says. It was helpful for me to make a list of activities I could do when disobeying the voice of self-harm; activities that promoted wellness, health, fun and recovery. My list included: photography, writing, coloring (yes, it is perfectly acceptable for adults to use coloring books), taking a walk in the woods, showering, playing with my cats, reading, calling up a friend, or anything else that sounded better at the moment. When one item on my list did not stop the voice of self-harm, I tried another. If that did not stop the voice, I tried another. The very wise, Julie Merryman taught me that there is always one more thing to try; when you think you have exhausted all options and are tempted to give in, there is always one more thing to try. The list of self-harm alternatives is not concrete; it can expand or contract with recovery, interests, passions or anything. The key is to keep the alternatives recovery, health and wellness related…and not to stop when you think you have tried every alternative (there is always one more).
In disagreeing and disobeying the voice of self-harm, or eating disorders, or addiction or whatever voice in our head that does not promote health, happiness, love or acceptance, we are able to regain our lives. In disagreeing and disobeying we are able to take a stand for our recovery and our life. Recovery itself, to me, means life. In practicing and practicing disagreeing and disobeying, I am learning more about myself and regaining more of my life from the negative voices. You can do this too. It will be hard and you will feel as though there are no more options. I am here to tell you that there are. There are always more healthful and appropriate ways to disagree and disobey the voice of self-harm.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.