Self harming in hospital, a ‘big deal’ apparently

I wish I could verbalise what’s in my head instead of keeping it locked up inside.

I wish I could be honest about how I’m feeling.

I wish I had the courage to ask for help when I need it.

I self harmed yesterday. To be honest, I’ve been self harming throughout my time here. Even when I was on specials, I cut myself the one time the nurse wasn’t watching me, in the shower. It’s just that yesterday the psychologist asked why I was crying the previous day. I admitted I had cut myself both the day before and that day. “Can you show me?” he asked. I said to him it was on my thigh and he spotted the patch of blood that was seeping through my jeans. I told him I did it half an hour ago when he asked, and he went off to tell the nurses.

One of the doctors on my team came to see me and to look at the cuts. They weren’t deep. As expected, I had my blade taken away from me and was also placed on 15 minute obs.

The registrar came to speak with me today. She tried to explain why self harming is a big deal to them. Infection, septicaemia, cutting a major artery, it’s not a ‘normal’ way of coping… In turn, I tried to explain why self harming isn’t a big deal to me. I’ve done so for about seven years now and they’ve never been all that deep. She spoke of staying here until I learnt a different strategy to cope instead of self harming. My tears almost turned into laughter then. If that’s the case I’ll be here for years… I informed her my exams are next week on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Told her with uncertainty I want to be discharged, as it’s easier to study at home rather than on the ward. She’ll speak to me about what the plan is tomorrow apparently.

It’ll be four weeks in this public psych ward on Sunday, and now there are only two other patients who were here when I arrived.

13 thoughts on “Self harming in hospital, a ‘big deal’ apparently

  1. I remember the difference between my ex-therapist, C, and my most recent one, Paul, on the subject of self-harm. C was constantly perplexed by it and tried to get me to do wanky breathing exercises instead. You can guess how well that worked! Paul, on the other hand, suggested tucking the scalpel away, so that I’d at least have to go to some trouble before cutting – but, crucially, he didn’t condemn or try to ban the cutting itself. And his approach, for the most part, was more successful.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that these idiots on your ward, as I’m sure with any psychiatric ward to be fair, are going about it the wrong way. To me, removing the choice to harm only increases the compulsion to do it.

    And further, how patronising of them to bang on about possible complications. I know what they’re saying, but you’re studying to ve a health professional for God’s sake! Not to mention the fact that you’ve been cutting for long enough to know the risks. I feel vicariously frustrated about this 😡

    Anyway, not a very useful comment…but just wanted to say that, on some level at least, I ‘get’ it.

    Really hope they let you home for your exams/revision – and, of course, that they let you home full stop soon.

    Take care hun.

    Many hugs

    Pan xxx

  2. They’re not going about it the right way. I haven’t self-harmed badly in a few months now but that doesn’t mean I don’t have blades stashed in assorted locations throughout the house. Self harm is a coping mechanism, removing it is just unhelpful. To me it seems more important to treat the things that are causing the self-harm rather than the self-harm itself. If the bigger problems were fixed then the need to self-harm wouldn’t occur in the first place. Seems a better plan to me than taking away blades and 15 minute obs.

    I’m sorry being in hospital isn’t proving helpful. Being in hospital for me undeniably saved my life but it didn’t convince me that saving it was what I wanted. Hope you get home soon and someone somewhere comes up with some better solutions.

  3. While I understand the registrars concerns I don’t think she grasps what self-harm means to us! Her attitude smacks of her job is more important then dealing with your concerns. Trying to ‘ban’ self-harm is only likely to increase it, they should work with you rather than trying to treat you like a child and tell you what to do! grrr I’m so angry at how useless these so called ‘support’ systems are! WE need a change for the better!! 😦

    Hope you get out of there soon and feel better, good luck with the exams xx

  4. I think thats what made the difference for me-it not being ‘banned’. i quite often talk about on blogs about how incredibly lucky i am to have been able to continue to see my clinical psychologist from outpatients, whilst in a day care unit for eating disorders. I should have been swapped to a unit therapist, but because we clicked so well, and more crucially, enabled me to stop self harming, they didnt make the change. and hell im grateful. I havent cut since July now, which is the longest break in cutting i have had since a teen. I started seeing her after i cut through my femoral artery and totally buggered myself up-and v nearly died. They are right in saying its dangerous. I used to think i knew the limits, but the trouble is, the more you do it, the more it has to increase in severity t get the same effect. Im not saying any of this to preach-im the last person who could do that abotu self harm, and wouldnt want to anyway-psycs do enough of that shit. but what i wanted to say is-the reason i think she helped, is because she never once denied it was an option. if we talked about a partocular issue, and how i could deal, she always acknowledged that cutting could be something i could do. she was obviously keen to emphasise that this wouldnt help longterm, but because it wasnt ‘banned’ i felt more able to talk about it honestly, and exactly what situations led to it, how it felt, how it happened etc etc. and my god it was SUCH a relief to not have it as this big dirty secret.

    take care xxx

  5. Most places I’ve been to will discharge you if you self harm, though a first offence is usually frowned upon but then you get told that if you do it again, you would be discharged. I know it feels like forever when you have been somewhere so long. I lost five weeks to my hospital not that long ago. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going when I got home, it was weird. I hope you can get to do your exams [if it’s what you want] and that you do well. Thinking of you!

  6. Playing devils advocate here, but sometimes it’s not easy for the staff either – certainly within the UK there is a massive clash between understanding the need for “risk minimisation” and “positive approaches” to self-harm versus a legal duty of care which clearly states (both in NMC and GMC codes) that you must do everything to protect a patient from harm, including self-harm. I think in many ways that is the source of a lot of anxiety from staff members, although I know that negative attitudes and the general stigma and lack of understanding are a major problem as well.

    I guess in a way though, it makes it a bigger deal, as far as professionals are concerned, if you harm yourself in “their” environment as opposed to your own home, even if for you geography makes little difference.

    Hope you’re feeling better soon.

    Take care.

  7. I can see where you are love. A few years ago, when I was IP I used any day leave I had to SH, was doing it on the ward when no-one was around, was purging despite being on a meal-plan, blah blah blah. To be honest though, those admissions never got me anywhere. I left feeling just as hopeless and unsafe as I did before I went there. I don’t know whether it was a shift in my thinking, or just a few years of struggling through that made the difference, but I feel quite differently about it now. Yes, it still happens, but I had this awesomely proud moment the other week when my pdoc asked when the last time I had SHed was, and it was before hospital. She was stoked, and I noticed that I was too! It was cool. Apart from all the wanky ‘shift in my thinking’ stuff, I’m also a big believer in concentrating on the practical stuff that sucks, like what the reg said to you. Antibiotics, stupid nurse appts at the GP, not being able to wear bathers (I used to love swimming! I was such a water baby.) or shorts, feeling SO awkward ALL the time if anything might be visible (sort of getting over that one now) like at work, with family etc. Just, bleghh, it sucks. My friends are pretty spontaneous, and tend to do things like go for late evening beach walks and decide to swim in their undies, and I can’t do that, because I’m not open enough with them for them to know just how much this has affected me.
    That said, what they’ve done is not helpful. I can see that they’re liable and all that and could get in trouble if someone is repeatedly hurting themselves in their care, but putting you on 15 min obs doesn’t help that. Jeez, sometimes I wonder where the creativity in health care professionals goes? Can they not come up with something other than protocol? (Yes, they have to take blades off you, they’d be totally negligent not to, but to not offer alternatives/come up with something to fill the gap, seriously? Ugh.)
    I wish there was something I could do to help. I know the trap, I NEVER thought I’d stop or even cut down (ha) on SHing. I had infinite amounts of doctors try and tell me about how damaging it was and it never made a difference, it was like, ‘yeah, that’s kinda the point?’ and I just continued on my way. I can’t put a finger exactly on what has changed without going into unimportant, grisly details that probably won’t help. I just, I dunno, I know a lot of people who have beaten this thing, and it’s pretty awesome. I think you can do it too, I can see though that it might not be on the agenda right now. I spent years avoiding getting treatment for my ED, and then avoiding complying with treatment, and after a while my pdoc was just like “Laura, you’ve been saying for nearly 3 years to me that you’re going to get a handle on this, and you evidently haven’t. When are you going to do it? You can’t just keep sitting here and telling me that you’re going to do it, because at this rate, you’re not, and you’ll just get sicker until you won’t be able to do anything about it anyway.” and I was like “…. yeah…” and STILL I did nothing. I know what it’s like to be totally resistent to change, because hey, what you’re doing works in the interim right? Or else you wouldn’t be doing it. I SHed for so long because it took away the suicidal thoughts slightly. It has a purpose, but it can create its own shit.
    Crap, I’ve waffled on like a mofo. Sorry. I do that sometimes.
    Ah, tldr; What I mean is I understand, it’s shit, it can be less shit, but it’s a pain in the arse. I’m thinking of you xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  8. It totally amazes me that professionals on a psych ward do not know how to effectively cope with an issue such as self harm. I feel for you so much – you need people there who are supportive, who are helpful, who can guide you to a better place, not act as though you’ve done something which is completely new to them. I do hope a decent plan is put in place for you soon – & please take time for yourself, wherever that is, & don’t rush to do your exams – things like that can wait, your health is the most important thing.
    Keep us updated, sending lots of positive vibes xx

  9. Pingback: This Week in Mentalists- The bad tattoos edition. « This Week in Mentalists

  10. In my experience with cutters, if you show significant decreased number of cutting, then you should be discharged…. total discontinuation of cuts is not realistic. But learning alternative ways of coping is also imperative. It is a gradual process, it does not happen overnight. Hope you continue to be safe and receive support.

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