Max's shop of horrors

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Month: January, 2017

Resisting Relapse

First of all, a head’s up: this entry will be discussing self-harm, so if that’s not something you want to read about, stop now. That being said, I have endeavored approach the subject in a constructive manner, with a focus on coping strategies and recovery. I hope I’ve succeeded in this regard.

It’s been five and a half years since the last time I cut myself. I assumed that with time, the urges would go away, but the truth is, they haven’t. Months may pass without the thought of relapse crossing my mind, but every now and then, when I’m feeling lonely, unwanted, or embarrassed, it resurfaces with terrifying ferocity.

In those moments, the urge can be so overwhelming that it feels like I can’t breathe. Like I physically need it as much as I need oxygen. Resisting it is hard. Damn hard.

Now, I have no official training as any kind of counsellor, psychologist, or anything like that. This is simply an account of what has worked for me.

First of all, I’ve found that, like panic attacks, these episodes tend to be limited in duration. A lot of the time, if I can just hold out for fifteen minutes or so, the urge subsides.

In fact, a lot of the same strategies I’ve found useful in combating anxiety attacks are effective here as well; strenuous exercise, for example. If I go for a jog around the block or do a set of push-ups, it almost always helps me feel better. Meditation can also be helpful; if you don’t know how to do this, there are plenty of videos on YouTube that can walk you through it.

Another trick I use is that I have a word document where I keep a record of nice things people have said to/about me. When I’m feeling bad about myself, I open it up and re-read them.

Now, none of these things are a magic bullet, but as a sort of emotional first aid, I’ve found them valuable tools for keeping relapse at bay.

Perhaps most importantly, I like to remind myself that every day without relapsing is a victory that nobody can take away from me. In five and a half years, that’s nearly four thousand victories. We can’t always erase our demons entirely, but we still give them a kick in the arse and send them packing if they dare show their face. And after five and a half years, my kicking leg has grown strong.

A Helping Hand

There are times when life seems to shrink, like we’re a frog alone in a pond that’s drying up.

We can leave the pond, and fight our way across dry land under the scathing sun to try to find something better. And maybe we manage to save ourselves this way, through immense effort and hardship.

But what if someone saw the frog in the shrinking pool, and carried them a dozen meters to a larger one? Such a distance would be a terrible struggle for the frog, but for someone to carry them that far takes practically no effort at all.

Likewise, when a person is struggling, it can be extremely difficult for them to work through it on their own, while the relatively minimal effort it takes for someone else to ask them how they’re doing can make a huge difference.

It’s incredibly important to check in with our friends regularly, even if they seem to be doing fine; a lot of people will put on a brave face and try to hide their difficulties. Something as simple as messaging someone to say hi and have a chat can literally save a life.

While this can be true of anyone, it’s especially important in regards to people on the spectrum. A Swedish study from 2015 found that autistics without a cognitive disability had a suicide rate nine times higher than the general population. (http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/208/3/232)

That’s a terrible statistic, and highlights just how important it is that we support each other and provide a safety net of kindness and inclusion for those among us who are facing tough times.