Building Your Own Self-Injury Support Network
Trust is a necessary ingredient in any healing process. For those who self-harm, opening up about this habit enough to build a viable self-injury support network is requires an enormous amount of trust—but the results are worth it.
Do You Need a Self-Injury Support Network?
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I coped on my own with my self-injury and have been silent about my recovery journey for the better part of the last ten years. However, that’s not the same as saying I got better all on my own (or that I’m not still in the process of healing, for that matter). I had help; those who helped me simply weren’t aware of their contributions.
You don’t need to give full disclosure to everyone in your self-injury support network right away, though being able to talk about it directly will certainly become more and more important as you walk farther down the road to recovery. You do, however, need people you can count on for help and support, and to remind you that your life and wellbeing matter.
Who to Include in Your Self-Injury Support Network
There’s no one right way to build your own self-injury support network. Who you include, and how much they know about your mental health situation, is entirely up to you. However, in more recent days, I’ve found that a support network that includes at least one or two of each of the following is likely to provide the most comprehensive and consistent support:
- Family. This may not be possible for everyone, but having even just one relative who you can turn to in a time of need will go a long way towards helping you gain a sense of stability during your recovery.
- Friends. Friends often get to know a different side of us than our family members, and can offer different perspectives on both our problems and their possible solutions. A good friend to include will be one who can help you find your own path to recovery without attempting to choose one for you.
- A significant other. If you are in a stable long-term relationship, disclosing even a bit about your history of self-harm can be a huge weight off your chest—and there’s nothing like knowing your partner has your back. That being said, not all relationships are ready for this level of intimacy; as you should in any case, use your best judgment to determine if you are ready to share this part of your life with this person.
- Medical professionals. This might simply be your general practitioner, but typically a provider with specialized mental health training (such as a therapist or psychiatrist) would be best. This person’s (or team’s) priority will be ensuring your health and safety, as well as helping you develop the skills and tools necessary to facilitate your own healing process.
- Peers. This can mean anything from pen pals who have survived similar struggles to fellow members of support groups, whether you meet online or in-person. Sometimes you just need someone who actually gets what you’re going through, even if you only speak about it anonymously.
In addition to the above, there’s one more person you should have in your corner during this journey: you. When you grow angry and frustrated with yourself for not making as much progress as you expect, or for relapsing despite your best efforts, try to treat yourself with compassion rather than judgment—try to treat yourself as you would a dear friend.
We are often our own worst enemies, but we don’t have to be. We can choose to do better by ourselves, though it may take some time and practice to get used to doing so.
Setting Up Your Self-Injury Support Network
Once you’ve established who to let in, and to what extent, there’s no formal process you need to undergo to officially induct them into your self-injury support network—unless, of course, you want to. But in general, the only setup you’ll probably want to do involves nothing more than paper and a pen, or even just a memo on your phone.
The thing is, telling yourself you have people you can reach out to when you need them and actually believing it are two different things. It’s all too easy to forget that you are not alone when you are in the midst of a breakdown. So to help make it « real, » so to speak, I highly suggest writing your list down somewhere and keeping it handy for just such a scenario. Add their contact info, even if you know it by heart. Make it as easy as possible to access whenever you need to be reminded of that one simple truth we all seem to forget from time to time:
You are not alone.
Do you have any « secret » members of your self-injury support network who have helped you cope, even without knowing what you were struggling with? Can you think of others who are not listed above who would make great additions to your own support network? Feel free to share your ideas, questions, or doubts in the comments.