Archive For The “SHADOW” Category

How to Help Prevent Suicide

How to Help Prevent Suicide

How to Help Prevent Suicide | >> Click to Read!*Trigger Warning: this post may contain triggers surrounding suicide, suicide loss, suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Please take a minute to read The Sunny Shadow Disclaimer.

The exact number of my suicide attempts escapes me. But the number’s irrelevant, all that matters is that I’m still here. Sometimes I still believe that suicide is an inevitability for me; simply a matter of time. For a long time it sat on a shelf in the middle of my mind with a label that read, “there’s always ‘that’ option.”

To ask if I have suicidal thoughts is a complicated question.

It isn’t so much a thought as it is a state of mind. One that I carry around with me everywhere I go. Having this “option” used to lessen the trapped feeling that once burdened me. Even after finally receiving a diagnosis I still felt isolated & somewhat hopeless, like no one could possibly understand. But those feelings were an illusion. One produced by my disorder & stigma. What’s tragic is, that illusion kept me from telling anyone. And sadly, this is a common reality in our world today.

Those of us with mental illness &/or suicidal ideations are often fighting two grueling battles at the same time. On one hand is our debilitating disease; that we did nothing to cause, could have done nothing to prevent, & are now doing everything within our power to manage. And on the other hand is stigma – societal & self-imposed.

What Is Mental Health Stigma?

Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart from their peers. It occurs when a person labels another based on their illness. We perpetuate stigma by assigning & feeding into stereotypes. The media does this by sensationalizing stories & misrepresenting individuals with mental illnesses. This incites prejudice & discrimination.

3 out of 4 people with mental illness report that they have experienced stigma.

Mental health stigma is silencing. As it produces feelings of inadequacy, shame, hopelessness, & even guilt. Stigma can make people feel ashamed for even having suicidal thoughts, much less asking for help. So not only are some facing the challenge of a lifelong mental illness but they’re also working incredibly hard not to internalize imposed societal stigma. A double-edged sword.

The topic of suicide often evokes feelings of anxiety, shame, guilt, & even anger. It makes people uncomfortable, so often they just don’t talk about it. But when they do, their words are sometimes laced with hurtful stereotypes, labels, & even slander.

Clearly, you’re not familiar with the depths of depression if you consider suicide to be “a selfish act.” An act? Really?? I have no {nice} words.

Not everyone is capable of keeping all of that noise out. Coupled with mental illness,  eventually this can lead to fatal consequences.


»Know the Suicide Warning Signs « 


38,000 people die by suicide each year in the U.S.; more than by homicide. It continues to  be one of the top three leading causes of death among young people ages 15 to 24. As many as 1 in 5 patients with bipolar disorder completes suicide. Additionally, suicide is the leading cause of premature death in patients with bipolar disorder, according to The Treatment Advocacy Center.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK{8255}

 It’s okay to ask, “are you okay?” In fact, it could save a life.

Many people who attempt &/or complete suicide don’t necessarily want to die, they just want the pain to end. This was so in my case. I never extensively dwelled on death itself. It was ultimately about ending my suffering; which at the time, I didn’t understand the source of. Not that understanding it takes any of the pain away. It doesn’t. But I personally find that understanding the source of my pain offers me hope.

I now realize that when I find myself in bipolar depression’s black hole of despair, it’s temporary. Even though it’s hard as hell to fight off & I don’t always do a great job of doing so, logically I know that it’s my disorder lying to me & I won’t feel that way forever. Read this → The Thing About Bipolar Disorder

Many people do want help even though they’re incapable of asking for it. Some of us don’t know how. Some of us are ashamed. Some of us just don’t have the strength. It’s not a matter of courage, but strength. We’re courageous beings or we wouldn’t still be standing. But sometimes simply surviving requires every bit of strength one has, so there’s not much left to go around. Mental illness beats you to the ground.

You can make a difference by simply asking your loved one if he or she is okay. It’s even okay to ask if your loved one is having suicidal thoughts, or any thoughts of hurting themselves.

How to Help Prevent Suicide? End Stigma!

» Separate the person from their illness. We are not our illnesses. For example, I am the same person I was before you found out that I had a mental illness, so you should treat me as such. And whereas it doesn’t bother me when people say “I am bipolar,” many people find it offensive. And understandably so. It kind of makes it sound like bipolar disorder is all I am, when that’s obviously not the case. My mental illness is just one small piece of me. So be respectful and mindful of your words. Instead, try to use the phrasing “I have bipolar.” I mean, if you really think about it, saying that “I am bipolar” is also kind of like saying that I represent the disease as a whole or that I represent everyone who has bipolar disorder. Weird, huh? {& slightly narcissistic}

» Educate yourself. Don’t rely on stereotypes or the media to draw your conclusions. They’re full of misrepresentations & false facts, even though it’s not always intentional. Do your own research. Ask your loved one to share what they’ve learned about the disorder. This will also show that you care.

» Treat physical & mental illnesses the same. Mental illness is different from physical illness only because it’s located in the brain and it’s less understood. Those are not good reasons to stigmatize anyone. Offer a mentally unwell person the same care & support you would a physically unwell person. Treat us equally, because we are.

» Mind your words. Rather than saying, “committed suicide” -like one commits a crime or a sin. Try saying, “died from suicide.” Rather than saying “so&so is bipolar disorder,” try saying “so&so has bipolar disorder.”

» In your own time, share your personal experience, strength, & hope with others. You have nothing to be ashamed of. So you don’t have to act “hush-hush” about your own mental illness. This perpetuates the idea that mental illness should be kept quiet, as if it’s something to be embarrassed by. That idea keeps people from seeking help. But acceptance is a journey that everyone takes at his and her own pace. So when you feel comfortable, share your experiences with others. This will let them know that they are not alone and give them courage and strength when they may need it the most.

» Put an end to stigma every chance you get! As you become educated, educate others. If you find yourself around people who are perpetuating stigma, put an end to it by correcting any false information.

Silver Lining

While stigma can negatively impact existing mental illness, it has also been shown to righteously anger some individuals. Thus empowering them to take more active roles in their treatment plans & to even become mental health advocates.


Suicide is preventable. We can help by learning the suicide warning signs, asking someone if he or she is okay or having suicidal thoughts, & doing our part to end stigma. To end stigma we begin by educating ourselves first & then we move on to educate others. Remember that mental illness is the same as physical illness, it simply takes place in the brain. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, the true life accounts bravely shared in this U.S. News & World Report article is proof of that.

Get Involved

Continue to talk about mental illness & suicide. Do your part to bring them out of the shadows & into the light. Register to walk or make a donation to Out of the Darkness Walks, hosted by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

And International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is always the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline w/Ribbon -via

Have you experienced stigma? Share your experience in the comments. Also share how you plan to erase it!

SOURCES: National Institutes of Health, National Alliance of Mental Health, National Institutes of Mental Health, NIMH


Suicide Warning Signs

Suicide Warning Signs

Suicide Warning Signs | >> Click to Read!September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. September 5th-11th is National Suicide Prevention Week. And September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.

One way you can show your support is by changing your social media profile pictures to a Suicide Prevention & Awareness Ribbon. The American Association of Suicidology and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline both offer downloadable badges.

If you or someone you know is thinking about hurting themselves, please get help immediately.

Call 911 -OR- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK{8255} -OR- 1-800-SUICIDE {784-2433}

Suicide Warning Signs

Note that suicide risk is heightened if the behavior is new, increased, & seems to be related to a painful event; such as a loss or change. Signs vary from person-to-person, with some people not exhibiting any noticeable signs at all.

It’s okay to ask someone if they’re experiencing suicidal thoughts.


Available to Subscribers in the Free Download Library.

Not a Subscriber yet? No problem! Subscribe Here =)


This acronym from the American Association of Suicidology’s website may also be used as a quick reference. 


I – Ideation

S – Substance Abuse

P  – Purposelessness

A – Anxiety

T – Trapped

H – Hopelesseness

W – Withdrawal

A – Anger

R – Recklessness

M – Mood Changes


You are NEVER alone. You ALWAYS have options. You matter. You are loved, needed and wanted.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline w/Ribbon -via 1-800-SUICIDE {784-2433}


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.


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!


Creating a Safety Plan

Creating a Safety Plan

Creating a Safety Plan | >> Click to Read >>*Trigger Warning: may contain triggers surrounding suicidal thoughts and ideation.

In my last post I shared that I’ve been depressed as of late. I also shared that my suicidal ideations have become more pronounced. At this point they’re thoughts that I’m able to redirect. But the red flag that keeps popping up in my mind is that my previous attempts were impulsive. Impulsivity is a common predisposition among those with bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses. This is one reason why I believe a Safety Plan would greatly benefit me, and potentially many others living with bipolar disorder.

Intense suicidal thoughts are often temporary. Safety Plans put on the brakes and help us get safe.

What Is a Safety Plan?

A Safety Plan is a document we create to help us stay safe when we’re having thoughts of self-harm. It’s a concise, step-by-step plan of action. Once we’ve been triggered or become aware of our warning signs, we activate our Safety Plan and carry-out each step in order. We thoroughly develop this plan with someone we trust, like a healthcare provider or a close friend or family member.

Safety Plans are different from No-Harm Contracts, as they are plans of action. Research has questioned the efficacy of no-harm contracts. For many reasons, but one being that they’re not that effective in actually preventing suicide.

Do You Need a Safety Plan?

Some people have higher suicide risks. For example, those with a history of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, and/or substance abuse all run a greater risk.

It’s important to know the warning signs of suicide.

I found the acronym below helpful, it comes from the American Association of Suicidology. But there are many more. I suggest reading Suicide Warning Signs & How to Help Prevent Suicide.


Ideation | Substance Abuse | Purposelessness | Anxiety | Trapped | Hopelessness | Withdrawal | Anger | Restlessness | Mood Changes

How to Create a Safety Plan

Safety Plans should be completed when we’re clear-headed. That is, when we’re in a mindset that we can be honest with ourselves and others. Everyone listed on the Safety Plan should receive a copy.

Sarah Emmerling from Bipolar Bytes has created two amazingly thorough Safety Plan templates that I highly recommend. They come with instructions too. And she’s generously offered to share them with all of us! → Safety Plan Template 1: PDF to download, edit, and email! – OR – Safety Plan Template 2: PDF to print and copy!

If you’d rather write your own, without using a template, here’s a brief guide. Remember, be specific and detailed. Carry out your plan in order. It’s best if you keep it on you at all times. And give everyone listed their own copy.

  • Identify Triggers & Warning Signs:
    • What sends me spiraling to a place where I think of harming myself?
    • What are warning signs my friends and family should look for?
    • What are thoughts, feelings, and/or emotions I have that signify a potential for self-harm?
  • Identify Coping Strategies:
    • What can I do to calm or distract myself? What works best for me? {externally}
    • How can I change my thought patterns? Reframe my thinking? What works best for me? {internally}
    • How can my family and friends help? What should they do and not do?
  • Identify Contacts:
    • Who should I contact to distract me, and who does so in a healthy and positive manner? {list several people and phone numbers}
    • Who should I contact in a crisis situation, and who can respond immediately? {list several people and phone numbers}
    • Who should my family and friends contact in the case that my judgement is impaired? {ex: psychiatrist, therapist, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK{8255}
  • Identify Reasons for Living:
    • What are my reasons for living?
  • Identify Ways to Make Environment Safer to Prevent Self-Harm:
    • How can I make my environment safer to prevent self-harm? {remove firearms??}
    • How can I minimize triggers?

Do you already have a Safety Plan? Do you feel that it’s helped you?

Remember, you are NEVER alone. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK{8255}


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

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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


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