Archive For The “SELF-HARM” Category

My Psychiatrist Says Potato, I Say “Potato”

My Psychiatrist Says Potato, I Say “Potato”

My Psychiatrist Says Potato, I Say "Potato" | >> Click to Read!

TRIGGER WARNING: Possible triggers surrounding eating disorders and body image.

I walked into my recent psychiatry appointment with mixed feelings. I was looking forward to it because I was overdue and my mood had been quite low. Plus, I wanted to talk to him about my lack of concentration and what I thought to be nocturnal seizures. Turns out, he doesn’t think they are seizures at all, but instead related to my sleep paralysis. Relief! I just need to, you know, sleep more often – Please withhold judgment here, I know what I’m supposed to do, but unfortunately I’m not perfect so I don’t always do it… however, that’s a whole different blog post – or is it?

But I Was Also Dreading It Because…

Because I knew. I knew my psychiatrist would notice my weight loss, just enough to trigger my husband’s loving nags of concern. About 15 lbs. total in a year’s time. Which, to me, isn’t a lot given the timeframe. But considering that I wasn’t overweight to begin with (logically I know this) I suppose red flags arise.

Admittedly, my thinking is a wee bit distorted when it comes to food and body image. You may remember the letter I wrote to Food? Pretty pathetic, right? But guess what? I’m not. I’m not pathetic, and neither are you…

I’ve tried to blog about it in more detail numerous times. But each time something within me wouldn’t allow it. It was as though, if I shared it with you, it would be true and real. “It” being what my psychiatrist calls an “eating disorder” and what I call “disordered eating.” I’m still not ready to make the leap to saying that I have an “eating disorder,” but after receiving support from The Sunny Shadow: Bipolar Support Group, I feel empowered. Before I felt weak and ashamed. I’m sure those feelings will resurface, but I now know I have a choice, I don’t have to allow them to stay. I can reframe my thinking.

For years I’ve restricted food, off and on, as a means of coping. But even when I don’t restrict, per se, that obsessive mentality stays with me. It’s the whole reason I started smoking. It’s the reason my wedding dress ended up being too big on my wedding day! But the most humiliating incident yet was in early sobriety. It took place outside my old A.A. home group, just after the meeting let out. It was a HUGE group, so the parking lot was full. An old timer, who I’d mistakenly placed on a pedestal, called me out. The problem was that I wasn’t the only one who’d put him on a pedestal. When he spoke, everyone listened. He said something along the lines of, “What’s wrong with you? Are you sick? Did you go back out?… Are you anorexic or something?!” All the breath left my body. My worst fear had just come true. Not only had someone noticed me, but a whole lot of people noticed me! Literally.

Why would someone be so cruel? If any of those things were true, did he think yelling those questions across a crowded parking lot would benefit me?! He obviously had his own issues to work out that had nothing to do with me. But in the process he shed daylight on my issues, and despite how obvious they may have been to the outside world, I was nowhere ready to acknowledge them myself.

But I don’t know why I was surprised, my sponsor had been pleading with me. As well as my therapist and psychiatrist. Friends asked me if I was sick. I would say, “I’m fine, it’s just stress.” And that seemed to satisfy them. That’s the first time the words “eating disorder” and “anorexia” were uttered by my psychiatrist. But since my therapist called it “disordered eating” I minimized it and definitely did not take any of it as a diagnosis. My therapist suggested that I see a dietician, but as you may have guessed, I didn’t.

As I became more stable in my sobriety and mental health, I gained weight and the intensity of the obsessive thinking softened. But it’s always there.

Time passes, stress waxes and wanes. And as it does, so does my need to restrict.

At my recent psychiatry visit, I brought up the possibility of trying an ADD medication. But he had very valid reasons for why I’m likely having troubles concentrating. “Well, you’ve been depressed, you’re not sleeping enough, you’re under a lot of stress, and you have an eating disorder.” He said it again. And so matter of factly, so nonchalantly… like it’s common knowledge. I left his office feeling deflated. Like he just poked a hole in my very last birthday balloon.

I was in such disarray that it didn’t even occur to me to ask him for an official diagnosis… what type of eating disorder is he implying that I have? I have to call him in a couple of weeks to give him a medication update so I plan on addressing it then. Of course I did a little research. The main differences between the two are frequency and duration. Either way I need to get healthier.

This is likely doing lots of damage to my body. I know my past laxative use has.

And still, I’m not ready to let my faithful “friend” go. It feels like sharing this information, saying it aloud, means just that. And though I know I need to, and I want to want to, a big part of me doesn’t want to. Because “it” comforts me. But I know my future self will thank me for pushing past the discomfort to grow and become healthier.

QUOTE_Masterpiece_Work_in_Progress_pinterest-2My past experiences have reinforced the notion that we have to change for ourselves, no one else. We have to want it. But I have two teenage daughters and they have two eyes, the same as the rest of us. They clearly see that what I’m teaching them is not inline with my actions. Obviously, I carry guilt over this. So I have added motivation.

For too long life has pushed finding a new therapist towards the bottom of my list, it’s now time for me to move it to the top. I’m not so deluded to think I can do this on my own. But neither am I so deluded to think that this one issue means that I am broken. I will always be a work in progress and I’m okay with that.


<em>Dear Anorexia…</em> guest post by Sarah Easterday

Dear Anorexia… guest post by Sarah Easterday

** Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers surrounding eating disorders.

I was told by a specialist that those who suffer from anorexia are usually the people who care more about the happiness of others than themselves. They are much more sensitive from a young age, are always very in tune with the feelings of others and have a strong drive to want everyone around them to be happy.

Dear Anorexia -Guest Post by Sarah Easterday via >>Click to Read!Dear Anorexia,

You’ve been there for basically as long as I can remember. I’m sad to say that most of my childhood memories involve food, comparing my body to the other first graders’ bodies, crying after getting weighed at doctors’ appointments, looking forward to recess only because it was a way to burn calories, etc. I don’t want to write too much about my mother, but most of these early childhood memories involve her. You convinced me to start my first food diary when I was seven. You told me it was the only way to be perfect. But you told me I had to be perfect at everything else too. Not just calorie counting and weight, but also grades, sports, gymnastics, drawing, piano, the perfect big sister, the perfect daughter… My childhood was essentially the perfect breeding ground for an eating disorder. I’ve had therapists refer to it as the perfect storm.

You stayed pretty calm and relatively mild and dormant for a while until my volleyball career started getting more serious. I was chosen for an Elite Junior Olympic team in which I was then chosen as captain of my team. You didn’t let me be proud of myself for this. You just told me that since I now have to lead the workouts, I have to lose more weight than ever; that no team wants a “fat” captain. You told me 200 calories a day was the limit and I listened. I felt fine for a really long time. I felt good, even. Strong, in control. Working out became an obsession for me and I didn’t know how to do it in moderation. I knew I was done when I would pass out; and then would continue to do it all over again the next day. Surprisingly, you still allowed me to have friends at this point, to have a life outside of you, but not for long.   

Eventually the line between you and me got blurred and I just accepted you as who I was. You destroyed high school for me. You caused me to go from a straight-A student to someone who didn’t even bother going anymore. By this point, you had me convinced that I couldn’t chew gum because the 3 calories might make me gain weight. You had me terrified of the calories in toothpaste, in chapstick, in everything. I remember the exact moment I realized how bad things had gotten. I was sitting in first period cooking class and we were told we were going to make funnel cakes that day. I felt my heart start to race but I held it together for a while. I stood in the background while everyone started getting everything together, and suddenly you told me that I needed to leave the room because if I smelled food it may be possible to absorb calories somehow. (Yes, I realize how ridiculous this sounds now.) The rational part of me went to my guidance counselor and told her everything and asked for help. You were angry at me for that because now the secret was out.

I started seeing a therapist (that my guidance counselor referred me to) and dietician. I was genuinely enjoying allowing myself to eat again. More of my personality came back as I got healthier and it was so nice while it lasted. I knew I needed to gain some weight, but the day I walked into my dietician’s office and saw 114 lbs. on the scale, you freaked out. That was the day you told me I was done getting help.  Graduation came shortly after, and all I remember about my graduation party was how guilty I felt over the green beans I ate and how my collarbones didn’t stick out enough in that pink tank top. I slowly regressed from there.

You honestly felt like a friend to me sometimes. A mean friend, but a friend. No matter where I went, I knew you would be there. People left, but you stayed. Even though by this point I realized how you were destroying my life, you were still very comforting to me at times. You became the only way I knew how to deal with stress. My go-to coping mechanism. Some people use drugs, some drink, I had you. Fighting with my family? You told me how to deal with it (restrict). Had a bad breakup? Restrict. Lost my best friend? Restrict. Freaking out about  Restriction was a drug to me. The longer and harder I did it, the more numbed out I became to everything. Things didn’t bother me. I am naturally a person who worries about everything and has a high level of anxiety. So this numbness was very different for me and I became addicted to it. It was almost like taking a break from myself, which I desperately wanted.

I had the opportunity to go to college on both an art scholarship and a volleyball scholarship. You caused me to lose that. But more importantly, you caused me to lose relationships with family and friends. You have caused me to lose vacations, memories, jobs, family get-togethers, holidays, birthdays… the list goes on. Because of you, I have lied to the people who cared the most about me. You turned me into someone I didn’t even recognize. I remember looking in the mirror one day, just staring, and thinking “who the hell are you?” I spent countless nights freezing in bed feeling my heart slow down and skip beats, and I would calmly think to myself, “I’m probably going to die in my sleep tonight.” You stripped me of all emotion. I didn’t feel anything. Ever. Maybe that’s why I feel everything so intensely now.

Dear Anorexia -Guest Post by Sarah Easterday via

On April 22, 2013, the day before my 21st birthday, my body finally gave up. Somehow, until this day, I was still managing to hold down a job, and was surviving on 70 calories of frozen fruit a day. Restricting this low effects the release of endorphins in the brain and made me feel euphoric and mellow. At the time I was in a relationship with a guy who had a lot of strange views on food as well.  He would go for days at a time on nothing but Powerade. I viewed this as a competition to see who could do “better.” (I do not in any way blame him for anything I have done to my body. He was a good guy and wasn’t even aware that he was triggering me. I am simply trying to explain the competitive nature of eating disorders). When I woke-up that Monday morning and couldn’t walk anymore, you congratulated me for doing so “good.” But yet somehow you still told me I needed to do better. That 75 lbs. wasn’t “good” enough.

Legally, it is very difficult to force someone over the age of 18 into treatment, but my dad tried anyway and the judge sided with him. I felt like a prisoner. I didn’t want treatment. When my sister cried and held my hand on the way to the hospital, you had me very calmly tell her I will be gone soon but that it would all be okay. When the doctors told me I was the worst case of anorexia they had ever seen, you told me I should be proud of myself for having so much willpower. 

I was still refusing food at the hospital, but passed out a few days later and woke up with a feeding tube in my nose. I was infuriated but too weak to even bother complaining. The nurses there were some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met in my life. They treated me as if I was their daughter or sister, and I’m still in touch with them today. I stayed there until my bloodwork improved a bit, and then I was admitted by ambulance to the eating disorder unit of a psychiatric hospital in Pittsburgh. I remember the EMTs who picked me up. One of them was a young guy and I remember thinking, he probably had no idea what anorexia even was. But he sat with me in the back of the ambulance trying so hard to make me smile, and told me how much he believed that I could get better. My family didn’t come to see me before I was discharged, so this meant so much to me. 

But even in treatment, you didn’t loosen your grip on me one bit. The fact that I was there involuntarily meant I was treated differently than the other patients and monitored more closely, which caused me to want to rebel. I hid food, I water-loaded before weigh-ins, I secretly worked out with my roommate in our room, I faked my way through countless therapy sessions… I was too scared to lose you. You were the only thing that made me feel like I was good at something. You had me continue to go through the motions of months of treatment and I eventually hit 112 lbs., the lowest weight the treatment center was willing to discharge me at. You had me start restricting again, the very day I got out. You of course wanted me to lose weight again but told me that I had to do it slower this time so it wouldn’t be so obvious.

Things didn’t get bad until fall of 2014. The only thing I remember about Thanksgiving that year is my brother standing in the kitchen crying (this is the only time I have ever seen him cry), and begging me to get help. He wrapped his fingers around my upper arm, with room to spare, and told me he loved me. It broke my heart but it wasn’t enough for you to back off. 

In January of 2015 I was again forced into treatment. I was terrified because you kept telling me how fat I was going to get. I cried for days while the admission process was in the works, and thought constantly about killing myself. But the night before I left, a wave of calm came over me. For the first time in my life I wondered what life could be like without you. And that curiosity turned into anger towards you. Anger for destroying my life and my body and my mind and my everything.

The next morning I woke-up and you were complacent, which was shocking to me. Dad and I flew out to Denver that morning. I remember watching a girl around my age on the plane eating a banana. I was so jealous that she could just eat and not want to die afterward. I kind of just stared at her and tried to wrap my head around what that was like. You were pretty quiet during the whole flight. I felt calm. Sitting in a wheelchair in the Denver airport, it hit me that I was never going to be good enough for you. I wasn’t good enough for you when I hit 120 lbs., not 110 lbs., not 90 lbs., not 75 lbs. There is no “good enough” for you. Dying as a skeleton is the only thing that would have been good enough for you.

The treatment center I was going to was the most intense in the country. A part of me hoped they could really finally make me “better,” whatever that was. And they did. You got quieter and easier to ignore.

I did extremely well there and I felt like myself again. I got to know myself. I appreciated my sense of humor, my personality. The panic attacks stopped. I spent time with amazing treatment friends and didn’t isolate myself. I explored the most beautiful city I’ve ever been in. I laid in the sun. I did art again. I wrote again, every day. I laughed. God, it felt so good to laugh again. I became a leader in the treatment community and you were relatively silent. You did, however, make me feel guilty for not struggling more, of course. There’s always something for you to make me feel guilty for. 

After months in Denver, I was terrified to leave. I felt closer with the people there than I have ever felt with my family. I didn’t want you to come back when I got home. I didn’t want to go home at all, and my family didn’t want me there either. You snuck back in when I got back to Pennsylvania. You “helped” me deal with stress and the transition. I was lonely and miserable. I gained weight, I lost, I gained, I lost, etc. My psychiatrist quit on me, saying I was too “complicated” of a case.

Life was a mess until January of 2016. I was finally put on meds that actually helped. I moved into a new apartment that didn’t have bad memories associated with it. It was like a fresh start. I felt hopeful. I reconnected with friends. I got back in touch with everyone from Denver.  Then I met the most amazing guy I’ve ever had in my life and he is a big part of my motivation to stay healthy. Am I happy with my body? No. I don’t think I’ll ever be, and I’ve accepted that. It doesn’t matter if I’m 75 lbs. or 150 lbs., I’m never going to be completely happy with my body. This is because eating disorders are about so much more than weight. But I refuse to miss out on anymore of my life because of food and body image. I want to travel, I want to finish college, I want to have late night talks and spontaneous ice cream trips and laugh until I can’t breathe and write poems and sit on the beach and go swimming and spend time with people I love.


Right now I am happier than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m not completely better and I’ve been told that completely better doesn’t exist when it comes to eating disorders. But I’ve made so much progress. It’s still hard; and I still spend too much time trying on clothes, butter still seems extremely unnecessary to me, and I still can’t wrap my head around why people drink non-diet pop or use regular sugar instead of Splenda. I’m not going to pretend like I’m 100% ED-free. I’m not going to put on the façade that I am the perfect image of recovery because I’m not. But I’m at a healthy weight, I’ve recently found that ice cream is super good,  and I couldn’t ask for a better guy in my life. Life no longer revolves around meal planning and calorie counting and exercise.

I’ve learned so much about myself and about the underlying causes of my eating disorder. The ironic thing about eating disorders is that they promise you all the control in the world; but in the end, you are stripped of every bit of control. People with eating disorders tend to be very black-and-white thinkers, which is a very hard mind set for me to get out of. I think in extremes.  Everything is either the best thing that’s ever happened to me, or it’s the end of the world. There is no gray area, no in between, no moderation. When I diet, I starve. When I workout, I do it until I physically can’t move anymore. But when I love, I love hard; and when I commit to something, I give it my all. It’s hard for me to come up with things that I like about myself, but I do think I have a really good heart. I would do anything in the world to make sure that the people I care about are happy and safe and taken care of. The hard part is allowing myself to show myself that same compassion.

Meet the Author: Sarah Easterday

Dear Anorexia -Guest Post by Sarah Easterday via >>Click to Read!

Connect with Sarah on FACEBOOK.

Thank you for sharing your inspiring story with us Sarah! Congrats on your recovery!

Self-Injury: Not “Just a Teen Thing”

Self-Injury: Not “Just a Teen Thing”

Self-Injury: NOT "Just a Teen Thing" | >> Click to Read!*TRIGGER WARNING: This blog post may contain triggers surrounding self-injury.

The first time I turned to self-injury was in middle school. But as an adult going through the most painful time of my life, I returned to it. Self-injury was familiar, so I kept turning to it. Eventually it became a go-to coping tool and perhaps even its own addiction. When sober, I’d find discreet bodily locations to inflict injury. But when drinking, I didn’t think that far ahead. Thus the scars on my arms.

This craving to self-injure is something I still battle from time-to-time. I usually win. But ever once in a while, I find myself under that familiar shroud of secrecy. While there’s something comforting about it, it’s also humiliating. When I do succumb to these cravings, which is thankfully rare these days, I feel a great deal of shame. It’s indescribable really. Even though I’m completely alone and no one else knows, I know.

My biggest trigger? Bipolar mixed states. What’s yours?


A common myth surrounding self-injury is that it’s “a teen thing” and that people outgrow it. Other common myths are that only women self-injure and that people who self-injure are suicidal or seeking attention.

What Is Self-Injury?

Self-injury is a deliberate non-suicidal coping strategy that involves inflicting physical injury upon the body. It takes on many different forms. People turn to this coping tool for various reasons. One is to cope with intense, emotional pain. Another is to ground one’s self when feeling numb.

Self-injury is mostly done in secrecy and injuries are often carefully placed to keep them hidden. It’s rarely attention-seeking behavior, although sometimes self-injury can be a cry for help. So it should never be ignored or minimized.

Self-injury does not discriminate. It affects every age, sex, gender & societal class. A myth is that it is a “young people’s problem.” I can attest, it is not.

Self-Injury: NOT "Just a Teen Thing" | >> Click to Read!Fight Self-Injury!

It’s important to note that self-injury is a coping tool, it’s just not a self-serving one. This means that it’s being used to cope with painful emotions in which one is struggling to deal with otherwise. It could signal an underlying & contributing issue that needs to be addressed, such as a mental illness. My experience has been that those issues must be addressed before one can expect to be completely self-injury-free.

Additionally, alternative coping strategies must be learned and a support system put in place. It can absolutely be done! Relapses may, and likely will, occur. But that’s okay. It does not mean you have failed. Just the opposite actually. Every time you dust yourself off and start again strengthens you. You become better equipped to handle the next intense urge or trigger. Keep battling. You’re stronger and more courageous than you may realize.

Self-Injury Awareness Day {SIAD}

Recognized on March 1st every year. It’s an annual, global campaign. The awareness ribbon is orange. Visit LifeSigns (Self Injury Guidance & Network Support) for support, resources, and to see how you can get involved. Also join their forum for anonymous, 24-hour peer support.

Self-Injury Awareness Twibbon

Add an orange ribbon to your Twitter and Facebook profile photos to spread awareness. >> Click Here!

The Butterfly Project

A coping tool for people who use cutting as a means to cope. It’s run by an anonymous Tumblr account. The basic “rules” are that anytime you think you may cut, you draw a butterfly on your wrist. The goal is to allow the butterfly to fade away on its own, rather than “killing it.” That is, cutting. This Tumblr page also accepts anonymous submissions, which it posts on its front page. You definitely leave the site feeling less alone.

SIOS (Self-Injury Outreach & Support)

SIOS is part of a collaboration between the University of Guelph and McGill University. It’s a non-profit outreach initiative that provides information and resources to those who self-injure, those who have recovered, and those who want to help.

S.A.F.E. Alternatives

Provides educational resources, support and treatment options. Information Line: 1-800-DontCut (366-8288)

Do you have any helpful self-injury resources to share? Please share them in the comments!


Self-Harm: ‘What’ & ‘Why’

Self-Harm: ‘What’ & ‘Why’

Self-Harm: "What" & "Why" | >> Read Blog Post!

  • Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers surrounding multiple forms of self-harm and suicide.
  • Disclaimer ← please read ;).
  • This post was revised on 3/6/17.

↓ The reason I revised this blog post is:

“I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being – to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.” ― Malcolm Gladwell

What Is Self-Harm & Why Do People Do It?

Self-harm is a coping tool, albeit a self-destructive one. It is not a suicide attempt. However, in some instances it may be a cry for help (not attention). And it should always be taken seriously. As people who self-harm at are a higher risk for suicide.

Self-harm is a way of coping with unbearable emotions. Some people use it to release emotions (the kind that make you feel like you’re going to explode from the inside-out). Some people use self-harm to ground themselves, to help them feel something when the only thing they feel is numb, or unreal from anxiety. And some people use self-harm as a way to gain a sense of control. I, and I’m sure many others, have used it in each case.

People usually self-harm in private. It can be isolating and shame-inducing.

As my own battle with self-injury progressed, I became more purposeful about the placement of each cut. I made sure they’d be covered by my clothing. And although I didn’t plan it, this prolonged the comfort I received from self-harm. Each time my clothes rubbed against my broken skin, or water ran over it, I was again rewarded with that tranquilizing sensation. 

Is Self-Harm a Mental Illness? An Addiction?

  • A Mental Illness? – NO: According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), “Self-harm is not a mental illness, but a behavior that indicates a lack of coping skills. Several illnesses are associated with it, including borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.”

  • An Addiction? – YES & NO: Self-harm itself isn’t classified as an addiction. However, it can become addictive. Particularly alcohol and drug misuse, which is one way people self-harm. In a Psychology Today article, Elana Premack, L.C.S.W., M.P.H. shares a quote from a young woman she heard speak on self-injury, “…self-injury can be a sort of addiction – an addiction to the release of emotions. Unlike talking to another person about anger or fear, the tools used in self-injury give a reliable response. These tools cannot fail us in the ways that people can.”

Examples of Self-Harm:

  • Cutting (more common among females)
  • Scratching or pinching (e.g. using fingernails)
  • Skin picking (e.g. at scabs or pimples)
  • Burning
  • Hair pulling
  • Carving into skin (e.g. letters or symbols)
  • Intentionally restricting food and/or purging, binge-eating (e.g. anorexia or bulimia)
  • Excessive use of laxatives
  • Excessive exercise
  • Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs

Risk Factors for Self-Harm:

  • Social Difficulties (e.g. being bullied, problems at work, school or in relationships, struggling with sexuality or cultural issues).
  • Trauma (e.g. physical or sexual abuse, death of someone close, miscarriage).
  • Psychological Factors (e.g. disassociation, borderline personality, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder).

 Identify Triggers & Make a Plan

Triggers are stressors that elicit the intense emotions that lead to self-harm urges, or cravings. It can be frustrating because, even when we’re following our treatment plans and diligently working to overcome these urges, there will inevitably be times when we become triggered. But seeking help and practicing self-awareness enables us to identify our triggers, minimize and sometimes even eliminate them.

Increase Self-Awareness

Practice mindfulness, journal, meditate (and use other grounding activities), and work closely with a skilled therapist. These are just a few ways to increase self-awareness.

Everyone’s triggers are different, but some general examples of triggers include: arguments with loved ones or co-workers, death of a loved one, financial stress and situations that remind you of past traumatic events. Once you’ve identified your triggers, you and your therapist can develop a plan for how to combat them if they arise.

50 Simple Ways to Cope | >> Available in the Free Download Library

Not a Subscriber Yet? No Biggie =)
To access the Free Download Library SUBSCRIBE HERE

Grab Your Journal: 5 Prompts to Get You Started

  1. Ask yourself what emotions are present when you have urges to self-harm.
  2. Next, what circumstances and/or events lead to those emotions?
  3. What are some of your favorite alternative coping tools? Check out The Sunny Shadow ‘Coping Tools’ category for inspiration! Also snag 50 Simple Ways to Cope from the Free Download Library. Not a Subscriber yet? Subscribe HERE for access.
  4. Which coping tools will be most effective when you become triggered and aware of the emotions that lead to self-harm urges? Which ones will be easiest to implement?
  5. Whoops! You missed the trigger and have a strong urge to self-harm. Which coping tools will be most effective now? Which ones will be easiest to implement?

» You may enjoy this blog post: Identifying Bipolar Disorder Triggers


When it comes to self-injury, I realize that I’m human. That means that, yes, I slip-up from time-to-time. But I TRY not to beat myself up when I do. Instead, I do my best to learn from it. I ask myself, ‘what was so different about this particular time that I couldn’t resist the urge?’

Relapses are common when it comes to self-harm. If you relapse, show yourself some love. Be compassionate and empathetic towards yourself, just as you would a friend or loved one. Try to look at it as a self-growth opportunity rather than a moment of weakness. I believe relapses are a sign that we need to learn some type of lesson. If we learn from relapses, we grow stronger because of them. And this leaves us better equipped to handle future urges and triggers.

Recovery Is a Journey, Not a Destination | >> Read Full Post!TREATMENTS FOR SELF-HARM

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ treatment for self-harm. Treatment plans vary and are specific to each individual’s needs. It depends on the type of self-harm a person uses and their unique set of challenges. But in all cases, new coping strategies must be learned. 

Do not expect self-harm to suddenly cease because treatment begins. A person uses self-harm for a reason — it works for them. After using it for a lengthy period of time, it becomes habit-forming and sometimes even addictive.

The first steps toward recovery is seeking support and visiting a psychiatrist and a therapist. A psychiatrist will be familiar with your condition and can further determine what underlying conditions may be contributing. Those conditions and/or illnesses will be treated alongside the self-harm. Treating the underlying illness may even reduce one’s urge to self-harm. A therapist can work with you on developing new coping skills, and much more. Be patient, recovery is a journey — not a destination.

Treatment for All Types of Self-Harm May include a Combination of:

  • Psychotherapy: There are different types of psychotherapy. But generally speaking, psychotherapy will help you identify circumstances and emotions that trigger your urge to self-harm. A psychotherapist will also teach you self-serving coping strategies to replace self-harm. It’s also helpful in developing problem-solving skills.
  • Medications: If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, you may be prescribed medication.
  • Inpatient or Outpatient Psychiatric Hospitalization: Unfortunately, psychiatric hospitalization still has stigma attached to it. But it shouldn’t. Getting help for an illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Do your best to ignore societal and self-imposed stigma. Focus on getting the help you need, that’s all.

» You may enjoy reading this blog post: The Reason I LOVE Psychotherapy

Treatment for Eating Disorders May include a Combination of:

Eating disorders are difficult to treat. People who battle anorexia are 18 times more likely to die prematurely. There is not a clearcut cure, but eating disorders can be managed and treatment is available. In addition to psychotherapy, treatments may include the following:

  • Nutritional Counseling: This is an essential component of eating disorder treatment. A dietician works closely with patients to teach them how to develop meal plans and healthy eating habits. The goal is obviously to change patients’ perceptions toward food and return them to a healthy weight. Medically supervised diets are sometimes necessary.
  • Medical Treatment: Symptoms of eating disorders, particularly anorexia, can become life-threatening. If anorexia progresses to a chronic level, it can affect the organs and cause other symptoms that require immediate medical attention and monitoring.
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): CBT is a short-term goal-oriented therapy that focuses on changing a person’s negative thought patterns and behaviors. “Behavioral therapy pays close attention to the relationship between our problems, our behavior and our thoughts. Most psychotherapists who practice CBT personalize and customize the therapy to the specific needs and personality of each patient,” according to a PsychCentral article by Ben Martin, Psy.D.

» You may enjoy this blog post: 5 Things to Consider When Selecting a New Therapist

Treatment for Alcohol & Drug Misuse:

“The most effective treatment for co-occurring illnesses is intensive inpatient integrated care where both illnesses are treated at the same time and receive the same level of care. Followed by long-term aftercare and support. Inpatient care may include a medical detox, group and individual therapy, and medication management.” ~The Best Treatment for Co-Occurring Illnesses, The Sunny Shadow

There are different treatment approaches to alcohol and drug dependency. As well as philosophies surrounding the dependency itself (e.g. is it a disease or a compulsive behavior?). Perhaps the most well-known recovery programs are the 12-steps of Alcohol Anonymous (A.A.) and Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.).

While the number of dual diagnosis treatment centers continues to grow, each has their own treatment philosophy. There’s not one empirically-based treatment for addiction of which all treatment is based on, yet.

“It’s common for a person to relapse, but relapse doesn’t mean that treatment doesn’t work… Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.” ~National Institute on Drug Abuse

Here’s some helpful information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse ( about Evidence-Based Treatment to Drug Addiction Treatment. Be sure to visit my Mental Health Resources page for lots of resources!

When someone self-harms, there’s often an underlying contributor that needs to be addressed, such as an undiagnosed mental illness.

Treatment is imperative. 

Although self-harm is not a suicide attempt, people who self-harm run a higher risk for suicide. Sometimes self-harm, and even suicide attempts, are the only way people know how to express the level of pain they’re experiencing. It could be someone’s way of asking for help.

My first suicide attempt was meant to make my loved ones understand how much pain I was in. I felt that either they weren’t listening or I was unable to get it across otherwise. I was desperate for someone to understand the living hell that had become my mind. Eventually I started to believe that no one ever would, it was a hopeless feeling of loneliness. But I just wasn’t looking in the right place. Once I finally started seeing a good psychiatrist and psychotherapist, things began to fall into place. Still, healing took time. 

» You may be interested in this blog post: Suicide Warning Signs

You're Not Alone | >> Read Full Post! You Are Not Alone

No matter ‘how’ you self-harm, there is no reason for you to suffer alone or in silence. I know it’s hard, because as open as I am about my bipolar, I’m just not it there yet with what my psychiatrist calls an eating disorder. Not to mention the laxatives I’m now dependent on. Acceptance takes time. Everyone is on their own path to healing, but remember we’re on the journey together. Be gentle with yourself. And try to let go of stigma. Don’t allow it to keep you from seeking the help you need and deserve.

» Mental Health Resources «

SOURCES: PsychCentral | | MayoClinic


Just Another Mixed State with an Urge to Self-Harm

Just Another Mixed State with an Urge to Self-Harm

Just Another Mixed State with an Urge to Self-Harm | >> Click to Read!*Trigger WarningThis post may contain triggers surrounding self-injury. Please take a minute to read The Sunny Shadow Disclaimer.

I often write about my bipolar mood swings after the fact, so I want to try something different. Write about it now. While I’m actually experiencing a bipolar mixed state. Oh, & FYI – I’ve been ultra rapid-cycling lately. Sorry in advance if it’s a bit inarticulate.

I feel . . .

Clenched, tight . . . full of rage that I can’t let out. This rage I just want to explode but I have a craving to do it in a not so healthy way. I also feel tearful at the same time. Sad but full of rage but apathetic but irritable, & like I could explode at the same time. Does this make sense? No. That’s why it’s a disorder.

I have a craving to grab a sharp object, any sharp object, & ever so slowly glide it against my skin. Deep, not too deep, but deep enough that I see a little blood & I feel . . . I FEEL . . . that familiar & grounding burn. But then I’ll do it again, & again, & again. *Bonus: I’ll feel that burn for days… when I shower, when I get dressed, when anything rubs against my broken skin, I’ll feel it.

But no matter how much I romanticize self-harm in my mind, it’s covered in a veil of shame. I have to hide. I have to make sure that no one’s going to walk in on me . . . You know, like my KIDS?! I have to make sure that the physical placement of each cut is in a discreet location, so that there’s no visible evidence. I don’t need a repeat of the past. My family members hid all knives & other sharp objects, like if I saw one I’d be overtaken by an uncontrollable compulsion to hurt myself.

. . . . . . . . . The rage is gone now. Just tears. I can’t stop them, & that in itself is rage-producing. Now I want to self-harm to stop this. This whole process is exhausting & frustrating. The negotiating is tiresome; my shadow trying to justify self-harm but my conscious, rational self being, well, rational . . .  telling my shadow, “NO.” Usually rationality wins out, but there sure has been lots of negotiations lately.

Some part of me enjoys this sick place, that’s the piece I don’t understand. Why do I like it here? Is it the familiarity? I’ve said this before, I know, but I’m concerned that one day I might stay here. The thing is, I know I wouldn’t actually stay here. I would unwillingly fall deeper into this darkness, which turns into hopelessness, helplessness, psychosis, & being held against my will in institutions. And eventually suicidal ideation would evolve into the most organized plan I’ve ever made.

SO, the question: should I cut? It may bring me out of this quicker. -That’s just my shadow making justifications, isn’t it? Isn’t it?


Feel: About Self-Harm

Feel: About Self-Harm

*Trigger Warning: this post may contain triggers surrounding self-injury.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that I’ve self-harmed in the past. And I admit, I’ve been a little hesitant to discuss it further. But self-harm is shrouded in secrecy. If we talk about it, it loses some of its power & others will know they’re not alone. Plus, it’s Mental Health Month (May of every year); just in case you need extra motivation.

At the same time, don’t allow anyone to pressure you into doing something you’re not ready to do. We have to focus on healing ourselves, from the inside-out first, before we can be of help to anyone else. And everyone’s treatment plan & recovery process is different, & that’s okay. We’re still fighting the same battle.

I will likely have my battle scars for life. And I’m finally okay with that. I’ve come to accept & even appreciate them, as they represent difficult times in which I’ve made it through.

There was a time when I worried about what others would think. I was extremely self-conscious. But I’ve mindfully & consciously shifted my perspective. I also try to stay diligent in my mental health care. Now I’m free to just be me. If others judge, that’s their problem not mine.



I wish I could give you a simple answer, but I can’t. In the moment, I felt as though I was literally going to explode & I suppose I didn’t know how to channel that. I would sometimes try healthy coping strategies first, but still somehow end-up cutting.

I believe I’ve self-harmed for two reasons: to feel & to not feel {so intensely}. Sometimes what I think I was trying to feel was ‘in control,’ other times I was just trying to feel something.

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  • Tell yourself that you will wait 15 mins. Try some healthy coping strategies during this time. Set a timer if it makes you feel better.
  • Exercise – this is my personal favorite & its been the most effective for me.
  • Call a friend, talk to someone about anything.
  • Journal
  • Listen  to music {w/no triggers} & dance vigorously.
  • Rub an ice-cube against the back of your arm or leg for a few seconds.
  • Rip-up a bunch of papers.
  • Take a cold shower or a warm bath; whichever sounds the best.
  • Go Online for Support; websites, forums, or chat rooms. For more tips, visit the websites below…

» Checkout these 10 Healthy Ways of Coping! «


You’re NOT alone!

What’s your most effective tip for beating self-harm urges?

» You may also enjoy reading: Self-Harm: ‘What’ & ‘Why  «


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