Valerie runs an amazing blog over at More than Skin Deep (formerly known as hope in healing). Her goals, and the goals of her brilliant blog, to bring encouragement to those struggling with addictions in SI, Depression, and Anxiety; bring awareness to family, friends and loved ones of those struggling with these addictions; and offer help to those willing to take the journey to personal freedom.
Tips for Supporting Your Loved One Who Struggles With Self-Harm by Valerie Schauf
I want to give a huge shout out to Inspired Advocates for inviting me to write a guest blog, as well as for their support for my blog, More Than Skin Deep. It is a huge privilege for me to be able to partner up with them in help spreading the word about self harm awareness, which is an issue that is near and dear to my heart.
A little background on me, when I was in my late teens I began down the slippery slope of self harming. At first, I would self harm a few times a week as a way to “cope” with feeling numb, I struggled with feeling any sort of feelings other than numb and depressed. I self harmed because it made me feel in a twisted sort of way that I was alive, I could feel pain, I could see blood, I could experience something with feeling. It quickly progressed into a horrible coping skill and I found myself harming myself several times a day. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. I went to therapy, as well as a psychiatrist. Medication never helped much, my therapist threatened to put me in the psychiatric ward at the local hospital as my self harming became alarmingly deeper. I went on and off trying to stop self harming, I would stop for a few months and then fall back into it. Meanwhile I struggled with eating, either starving myself or binge eating. My studies at college suffered, I had a hard time dealing with anxiety during class. I was in a constant state of flux, emotionally up and down, and I believed the only thing that could regulate my emotions was by cutting or burning myself. Fast forward a few years, it was my senior year of college, only by God’s grace had I not been kicked out or flunked out, and the turning point for me is still quite vivid in my memory. I hated my life, I despised the way I looked, I was terrified of graduating college and having no job and no where to go, the scars on my body were very apparent and I wore long sleeves year round. A few weeks into the school year, I quit my job, I debated whether or not I wanted to graduate with the degree I had been working towards for the past 4 years, and I felt completely hopeless. I remember curling up in the front seat of my car and crying, “God, you better do something or I won’t make it, I won’t live, I’ll die if you don’t do something.”
A month later, I walked into the church where my family attended and my life was radically changed by Jesus’ love and grace. I was able to feel love, and feel as if I could give love again, I wanted to live again. I threw away everything I could find that I had used to harm myself, and I walked away from it.
I can’t tell you that it wasn’t a struggle in the coming days, it was. I can’t tell you that I never slipped up, I did. I can’t tell you that it was a perfect ride, and that I didn’t have to work through piles and piles of negative thinking patters, wrong self perception and all that lovely mess. I had to work hard to overcome the addiction to self harm, I had to try new things, I had to give myself grace, I had to be okay with opening up to others and sharing my struggles with them. But I was willing, I was desperate to live, I was desperate to have a life that I looked forward to living, and it was worth it. It was worth the sweat, the tears, the sleepless nights, I am here and I’m alive, it was worth it.