Note: This piece talks about the author’s experience with and perspective on self-harm in detail. Please use your discretion.
I have an addiction. Not in the way you might think though—I’m addicted to hurting myself. This is a controversial statement though because many people who self-harm don’t like that label. I prefer it because it helps reduce the stigma around the term “addiction,” and for me, self-harm feels like one.
When you hear the word “addiction,” your brain probably thinks of drugs and alcohol. But why? Addiction is defined as “a strong inclination to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly.” That sums up fairly well my struggle with self-harm. I know I shouldn’t do it because it’s harmful, but I repeatedly get the urge to.
I started self-harming around 15 years old—the same age I was when I came to realize that I had been sexually abused. I used self-harm to cope with the abuse I witnessed and experienced growing up. And while I can go for periods of time without hurting myself, when things get overwhelming I struggle with resorting back to it.
Self-harm is not the same as being suicidal. I am not suicidal and I actually self-harm to “deal with” life and to keep myself alive. That might sound counterintuitive, but that’s how my brain works. I have been suicidal before and the feelings that came with it were very similar to wanting to self-harm. The difference, however, is that self-harm is, for me, a means to keep living.
In those moments, I don’t want to die, but I don’t know how to live either.
I do not like hurting myself. I hate the scars it leaves. I hate my siblings asking me what happened. I hate that my friends want to help but can only do so much. If I could I would just stop—but it’s not that easy. It takes work, hard work, and unless you have been there, it’s difficult to fully comprehend. I have been trying to stop self-harming. I have done so by reaching out to someone before I do it. But it seems like nothing can completely override the urges (yet). That’s why I see it as an addiction. I continue to choose it even when it hurts myself and my loved ones.
The thing is though, it takes time to replace harmful habits with good ones.
I’ve tried various coping methods. None are perfect, but here’s what I’ve found:
- Pushing the urge off by talking to a friend helps curb it.
- Not keeping it a secret when I relapse helps me put a stop to the spiral faster.
- Having emotional support from friends and family is essential.
This might not be the happy ending you are or I am hoping for though. I wish I could say that I am “cured” and don’t struggle. But the truth is the urges are there and one single moment can send me spiraling back into the cycle.
Life turns difficult. Medication stops working and mood swings grow in severity. The PTSD and anxiety return in full swing. And sometimes that’s when I start self-harming again. To stay alive. To cope.
At the present moment, I have strung together a month of days without self-harm. The feeling of freedom is strong, and in the depths of my struggle, I do sometimes forget this feeling. Sometimes I forget about hope.
So in those instances, when the urges “win,” I will readjust and head back toward the place where I can get ahead of the habit of self-harm. I will do my best to change directions, knowing it’s possible and knowing that I am worth the effort it requires. There are kinder ways to cope and as I get better at seeking support—recovery becomes more of a reality.
You are worthy of love and grace, from others and yourself. You are enough, here and now. If you’re dealing with self-injury or self-harm, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].
I must say your stories give some of us hope to keep on keeping on. At times, it’s not easy going through the day, but your posts help me to give it one more try, knowing I am not alone… and so I thought I share a book which may help others too dealing with addictions…
JUDSON BREWER – The craving mind – from cigarettes to smart-phones to love – why we get hooked & how we can break bad habits
I’ve never been able to put to words about why I still self harm. But you phrased it perfectly I do it because I don’t want to die because I want to live but I don’t know how to without doing this. Thank you for writing this I have never felt more understood in my life and I hope we both can find a way to end this spiral. Thank you for this.
Thank you for sharing your story. Godspeed♥️♥️♥️
Mary R Miller
I appreciate your vulnerability. And I can relate so much to your journey.
I have been struggling a lot lately with self-harm. I haven’t done it in years, but things are so rough right now I’m craving it. Admittedly, I’m kind of disappointed in myself. I thought I had made it through I’m thinking you never really do though.
Please release that disappointment. When things get difficult, our minds search for ways to cope. Even old, harmful ways. Your awareness of this makes a big difference, too.
I felt this and as a teen I thoroughly was addicted to the entire process. The prep excited me, the act relieved tension and even the healing process was all part of it.
I self-harm when my feelings overwhelm me and I can’t release them quickly enough. I rarely self-harm when I’m suicidal, but I’m also rather void of emotion at those points as well.
I recently relapsed. I hadn’t since I was 16 or 17 … I’m in my late 40s now. It was shocking because I hadn’t planned to hurt myself.
The fact that it came out of nowhere, was calming in a way I’d not experienced, and lacked the build up I use to crave, almost had me wanting to call it something other than relapse.
It’s how I cope
Thank you for finding the courage to share. 20+ years of being free from self-harm is huge. And relapsing recently doesn’t change your efforts. Relapse happens. And yes, while it is a form of coping, we do hope you can move from self-harm to something that extends kindness and care to your body and brain. There are other ways. Regardless, we are so glad you’re here. That is not an easy feat.
Reading this story was like reading something I wrote myself. It was like I was writing those exact words. I’ve been there and I know the struggle is real. It’s always taking one day at a time.
It is like you wrote my story. I was abused. I don’t want to die – though I have tried to end my life, but some days living is painful. Self-injuring is like releasing all of the pressure building inside me. I can feel it drain out and in an odd way, it gives me life.
thank you for writing this, i feel a lot less alone
This helped a bit I keep doing it and it get worse I do it deeper and more I hate the marks/scars too and also hate that my friend wanna help too.
Thank you for finding the courage to share where you’re at. We know it’s hard to ask for help and to even allow people in to even help. But please know that you deserve to know healing and recovery. If you’d like to share more, we are here to listen without judgment. You can email us at [email protected] whenever.
Thank you for writing this story. Makes me feel like I’m not alone or crazy for “wanting” to do this self harm.
This has opened my mind to the fact that it IS an addiction it was so good to read something that finally gives me answers
i’ve never found a way to describe a way i feel, this story helped me get the way i feel exactly.
I self harm alot and I want it to stop can I get someone to help me
Thank you for finding the courage to share this and to ask for help. Would you email our team at [email protected] + [email protected] so we can learn more about your experiences, offer you encouragement, and connect you to some resources? If you feel this is in need of immediate assistance, please text TWLOHA to 741741 to get connected to a trained Crisis Text Line Counselor. It’s free and available 24/7.
We are beyond grateful you’re here and that you’re asking for help.
Never have a read something so validating and comforting at the same time. Thank you for this. I don’t feel alone
You are not alone & extremely strong
I completely understand how you feel. I used to say that I would do it “to feel alive”. I have been able to deal with the desire by reminding myself of stupid things like breathing, playing with Legos, and sometimes even taking some agression out in the gym or in my garage with a hammer to wood. I hope you find peace and just take one day on at a time!