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Self harming in anger

(14 Posts)
tinsoldier Wed 24-Oct-12 22:23:23

Hi all, I'm new to this board but hope I've found the right place to ask about this issue. I have a history of depression and anxiety but have never self-harmed. The other day - in the middle of very frustrating argument with my mother - I scratched my face quite severely and pulled out a great clump of my hair. I don't know if this really counts as self harm, or just a huge outpouring of anger, but it felt very scary.

I was angry, frustrated, just beside myself and the urge to do this came from nowhere - immediately followed by horror at the scars it was going to leave on my face.

And now I feel sick, unsure if this means I'm really losing it, scared of what might happen next, horrified that I was so out of control. I have had many, many heated arguments with my mum in the past but haven't reached this point before.

I'm not sure what I'm asking really - just wondered if anyone has experienced anything similar or has any advice.

FunBagFreddie Wed 24-Oct-12 22:41:19

Hi tin, I would say it is self harm, and you must have been bloody angry to do something like that! When I was with the crisis team my CPN was very helpful because she would point out that not every angry outburst, or general freak out is because of a mental illness - if that makes sense.

Is your anxiety and depression worse and have you relapsed? Do you have a dysfunctional relationship with your mother? You mentioned that you argue a lot.

It was an extreme reaction, but reading between the lines, there is more to the situation than whether you self harmed or not iyswim.

How did your mum react?

EmpressOfTheSevenScreams Wed 24-Oct-12 22:44:49

Hi tinsoldier.

Welcome to MN. I self-harmed for about 6 years and yes, a lot of it was to do with anger. I didn't want to express it so I took it out on me instead. There are quite a lot of other people here who've done / do it too. I finally stopped about 3 years ago when I went to my GP and got offered 6 weeks of CBT.

So that's my background dealt with... now. Don't panic. Having done it once does NOT mean you have to do it again. If you do, though, it's honestly not the end of the world. Pain in the neck yes... but I survived so you can too.

How did your Mum react?

If you can face it I'd recommend visiting your GP to talk about it. If it helps, you wouldn't believe how common it is.

stillsmilingafteralltheseyears Wed 24-Oct-12 22:50:23

Hi, I have done this, I have hit myself when feeling very angry with another person. I come from a family where I was absolutely not allowed to express angry feelings so they sometimes came out in this way. I still occasionally get this urge when very angry. I have become able to verbalise now with my family - much to their displeasure!

I don't have any advice really. I don't have a MH diagnosis or a mental illness or anything, yet I have done this, so the fact you did this one thing does not, IMO, mean you are 'losing it' as it may not be due to a MH issue but just very strong emotions at that moment IYSWIM.

Take care of yourself and try to find out why that situation pushed you so hard, so that you can take care of yourself next time x

tinsoldier Wed 24-Oct-12 22:58:32

Thanks for replying so quickly. It's so helpful just to hear from somebody who knows a bit what it feels like. To answer your questions, the anxiety and depression are sort of always there but I am feeling a bit more anxious than usual at the moment - lots of things to be anxious about and no clear way to sort them out.

And, yes, really dysfunctional relationship with my mum. She lives a long way away so don't see loads of her but when I do, it generally ends with tension/arguments. A lot of it is stuff from my childhood resurfacing, and I think our relationship is probably worse than ever at the moment as a lot of what I'm feeling (being a useless mother, anxiety about children etc) is related to childhood stuff too. If that makes sense.

Oh, and you both asked how my mum reacted when I did it. Basically, she just didn't react at all.

I'm not sure I could talk to GP about it. But, if I did, what do you think they'd be likely to recommend. Empress, did the CBT work?

FunBagFreddie Wed 24-Oct-12 22:58:35

Btw tin, I just wanted to say that I have done similar, and it's been when I've been very angry with someone.

fuzzpig Wed 24-Oct-12 23:00:44

Yes, that is self harm and I have done it in anger too. I have done it to myself to punish other people, in the heat of the moment it is like "look what you made me do". It's not healthy - but you know that, and that's why you are posting. I don't do it any more - you can get through this.

What's going on with your mother - can I ask, are you an adult or a teen living with her? I hate to think of you living in such hostility.

fuzzpig Wed 24-Oct-12 23:02:05

Oh x post. I am glad you don't live together. Do you think it is worth seeing her at all, given what she has effectively driven you to?

fuzzpig Wed 24-Oct-12 23:02:22

(disclaimer I do know it's not nearly that simple)

FunBagFreddie Wed 24-Oct-12 23:08:21

The dysfunctional relationship with your mum was pretty obvious tin, things are like that between me and my folks, although it's much better since they moved to another country!

I worry a lot about being like my dad and fucking my son up, having children certainly dredges up painful memories of your own childhood. I think you'd find it helpful to see your GP as he might be able to refer you for CBT or other therapies.

EmpressOfTheSevenScreams Wed 24-Oct-12 23:33:56

It made all the difference, tinsoldier.

I can't post any more now, sorry, but I will later tonight.

EmpressOfTheSevenScreams Thu 25-Oct-12 00:35:34

OK...

I'd already decided it had to stop, and the CBT showed me how to do it. We talked about why I did it, and alternative ways to react when I was feeling that angry, and looked for ways that would actually work for me. It also just gave me the chance to talk (and cry) for hours to someone who was simply there to listen, help and offer tissues.

I'd really recommend it. I've been tempted to do it occasionally since, but I've spent so long now practising the distraction techniques we came up with that they more or less automatically kick in instead.

She emphasised quite hard, though, that if I did it again that didn't mean I'd failed. That just meant I'd done it again once and would carry on trying not to repeat it.

I really hope that helps. I didn't want to write you an essay but feel free to ask questions and I'll answer all I can.

tinsoldier Thu 25-Oct-12 22:45:38

Thanks again for the replies.

Fuzzpig I'm often on the verge of not seeing her again but she kind of makes an effort as a grandmother and ds is very close to her.

Empress that's great about the CBT. Did you do it face to face? I was offered some CBT last year over the phone and I was really put off (for various reasons) during the intro phone call so didn't properly pursue it.

I'm feeling a little bit calmer now about the face scratching thing - I was so shaky for a couple of days afterwards. It's been great just to be able to "admit" to what happened, and realise I'm not alone. You've also made me realise it doesn't have happen again. But I guess I need some kind of help knowing what to do with all this anger....

Thanks again

EmpressOfTheSevenScreams Thu 25-Oct-12 23:19:59

Hi tinsoldier

I'm glad you reposted, I was wondering how you were.

Face to face, yes. I would have accepted it over the phone too though, at that stage I just needed SOMETHING.

The therapist explained CBT as rewiring my brain so that when I felt that anger, I'd do something else instead of harming myself.

There's a wide range of techniques out there. Traditional ones include wearing an elastic band round your wrist that you can ping, or holding ice cubes (temporary, harmless, non-scarring pain) or drawing on yourself with red pen (temporary marks). Also delaying tactics, like saying "I'll do something else for 10 minutes and then see if I still want to hurt myself." Or doing something to work off the anger, like punching a pillow or running up and down the stairs very fast. Or just being nice to yourself instead of hurting yourself. Getting your comfort food of choice & hiding under a duvet with it.

The thing for me was that often other people would be around at the time, and they were no deterrent because I'd got very good at doing it discreetly. What that did mean was that my techniques for stopping had to be just as discreet, but also instant. No time to go find a pillow or a freezer!

She talked about recognising that the anger was there, not trying to suppress it but not acting on it either - just letting it move through my mind and recognising that it wasn't in control. She used the image of a bus driver, whose passengers were sitting at the back shouting "Go on, crash, crash." But the driver didn't have to obey them. She could keep driving the bus safely and wait for them to be quiet.

She asked about my favourite music, and about what made me laugh. I now have a few different videos to 'play' in my head (the daftest being a version of Dead Ringer for Love (don't know if that's before your time!) featuring Kermit & Miss Piggy.

I have one of those squeezy balls in my pocket, for the times when I have to dig my nails into SOMETHING. And sometimes, when I want to scratch myself, I hug myself tightly instead. One of the biggest things she taught me was that I don't deserve to be hurt. And nor do you.

I thought about namechanging to talk about this but then I thought, why the fuck should I? It's who I am. And this summer, for the first time in years, I wore short sleeves grin.
Stick around, you'll find that the support on MN is amazing. Not to mention the laughs.

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