#WhenIBecameFree I stopped blindly harming myself

The journey I am on with the #WhenIBecameFree- The Heartland Project  is bringing back some memories that have always been a part of me, but I never gave them the respect they deserved as a sign of how far I have come on my road to healing.

Tonight I was wandering various websites as I did what I usually do when the house is quite and I have my space, OCD research. I have this part of me that takes over where I must know everything about any given topic at the time I am working on something. I am a research hound. Have been since I was a child. Who knows maybe it was that desire - that obsessive drive - in the pursuit of making sense out of the world around me, that actually saved me from walking down dark paths of no return.

As I was sitting here listening to music of my teen years while searching out some data, a thought entered my head - "I no longer scratch my arm." Why that thought came through is beyond me, but I found myself looking down at my forearm, and before I knew it I was scratching it like I did when I was a teenager. The memory flood gates opened.

There was a time in my life when stress and anxiety brought about that action  - scratching my arm. It was a reflex to the pressure I was feeling around me. I would do it without thought, just nonchalantly start scratching my right forearm...over and over and over.

As the memories of that action played out in my head, and as I went through the motions of physically reminding myself what that felt like, I realized the last time I did it I was maybe around 20 years old and it was around the time I put myself willingly into counseling to address my childhood aches.

That first attempt of trying to get counseling on my own was a bit of a farce. The walls around my soul were so high and thick that I learned more about my counselor and her issues than she ever did about mine. When our sessions were through I am positive she left them feeling better about herself.

Now I realize that while I may not have allowed her in, past my walls, just making that attempt to help myself actually worked. I say that because just tonight's escapade of reliving that memory of scratching my right forearm reminded me that I haven't felt that sensation since then, all those decades ago. Yes, I am getting up there because when I say all those decades ago we're talking just about three of them. It was almost 30 years ago when I made my first step on to the path of healing.

It is a good thing that I was a fingernail bitter (which I also no longer do) because I can remember how welted and red streaked my arm would look from repeatedly scratching it with my barely there nails.

Self Harm - that is the term scratching falls under, as  does cutting, picking at skin, pulling out hair and burning.

According to RAINN "deliberate self-harm, also called self-injury, is when people inflict physical harm on themselves, usually in private and without suicidal intentions. Some survivors of sexual assault may use self-harm to cope with difficult or painful feelings. Self-harm isn’t necessarily a warning sign for suicide, but it can be a sign that someone has survived a serious trauma. You might be trying to numb the pain, feel a release, or regain a sense of control. Unfortunately, this relief is often short-lived, and the urge to self-harm can return, encouraging a cycle of self-harm that may cause damage, infection, and sometimes life-threatening medical problems."

We hear about young girls cutting themselves and we assume that it is a new trend, but it is not, we are just newly aware to what cutting is and all the whys around it. Cutting and any form of self harm is a symptom of someone who has been traumatized and it has been happening since the dawn of time.

So to anyone reading this and identifying with it, know that your self harming ways are nothing to be ashamed of, if anything they are a sign that you need to release shame that was never yours to hold on to in the first place. You need to make the attempt to let it go - just take that first step out on the road to healing - believe in yourself you are worthy, believe you are not alone and most importantly what you're experiencing is normal for someone who has walked through an emotional war zone.

Visit RAINN's website to look for a counselor near you

As for me, I am thankful that I had that memory come to the foreground of my mind. It was a sign that I needed to respect my journey and just how far I've come from the dark days of my youth...all those decades ago.  A reminder of the survivor in me.


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