dont harm your body

Fibromyalgia, CFS/ME, Chronic Pain and Self-Harm

In Blog by Alyssa Reid6 Comments

When I started to write these blogs, I believed that it was

Self harm doesn't necessarily mean cutting.

Self harm doesn’t necessarily mean cutting.

important to discuss a variety of topics – including ones that we don’t often discuss, but are nevertheless important to do just that.  Finding out that there is a correlation between self-harm and chronic pain peeps, including fibromyalgia and CFS/ME was an eye opener.

In connecting with other people with chronic pain conditions, it became very clear that a) this is a topic that needs to not only be discussed more -but have proper research carried out (there’s not much!) and b) I self harm.

Did You Know…

Self-harm goes far beyond cutting and burning?

Here is a study that was carried out on 105 people with chronic pain and below is the list of self-harm behaviours that were studied :

Rates of Endorsement of Items on the Self-Harm Inventory (SHI) (N = 117 chronic pain patients)

SHI Item N %
Overdosed 8 6.8
Cut yourself on purpose 8 6.8
Burned yourself on purpose 2 1.7
Hit yourself 11 9.4
Banged your head on purpose 14 12.0
Abused alcohol 38 32.5
Driven recklessly on purpose 26 22.2
Scratched yourself on purpose 4 3.4
Prevented wounds from healing 1 0.9
Made medical situations worse, on purpose 6 5.1
Been promiscuous 31 26.5
Set yourself up in a relationship to be rejected 20 17.1
Abused prescription medication 10 8.5
Distanced yourself from God as punishment 8 6.8
Engaged in emotionally abusive relationships 29 24.8
Engaged in sexually abusive relationships 6 5.1
Lost a job on purpose 8 6.8
Attempted suicide 8 6.8
Exercised an injury on purpose 3 2.6
Tortured yourself with self-defeating thoughts 21 17.9
Starved yourself to hurt yourself 6 5.1
Abused laxatives to hurt yourself 1 0.9

Why?

Ok, well, this is my take on it!  So please comment and share your thoughts and experiences about this…it will be interesting to read what others experience.

For myself, I definitely turn to food and smoking when I am in a lot of pain.  I also go into a mode where my pain is high and I slip into OCD.  I have this ongoing dialogue in my head that goes like, ‘I’m already in a lot of pain, so at this stage, it can’t get any worse than it is.’ (Lie!  It does get worse!).

I also believe that so many of us have experienced ongoing emotions about our illnesses.

Image result for emotionsWhen we have a conditions that fluctuate constantly, day to day (hour to hour) and you start hearing from your family, your doctor etc that it’s ‘all in your head’, you are hurt, frustrated, upset and angry (as just a few of the many emotions).

Many of us turn to food, alcohol, smoking, eating/not eating and causing physical injury to ourselves as a release and escapism.

 

External Factors

I also believe that there are a lot of external factors going on now more than ever in regards to how you should look, your weight, material goods, health, wealth, stress, grief, financial issues, family issues…the list is endless.

So What Do We Do About It?

We Take Care of Ourselves!

We Make the Decision That

We Are Indeed WORTHY!

We Believe In Ourselves!

We Don’t Give Up!

Every Day is a New Start!

We Start Loving Ourselves

We Understand That Vulnerability is Courage

I absolutely LOVE Dr. Brene Brown and her research (and amazing storytelling) on vulnerability and shame.  This is an awesome Ted Talks video about shame (below).

I love Dr. Brown’s  down to earth attitude and many LOL moments in her videos. She makes sense. And simplifies things.  A lot of ‘Aha’ moments in fact!

Please watch the video below.  Worth the time.  In fact, it may change your life! (I’m listening to it right now, she’s so funny!).

‘Vulnerability is not weakness, it is the biggest act of courage’. Dr. Brene Brown

We’re Not Alone…

I know full well that this is the case with MANY of the people I am friends with as well as support.

Suicide is the, dare I say, ‘ultimate’ form of self-harm and when we are in so much pain that nothing is taking even the edge off…well, all we want is release – and relief.  I get it.

Here is a link to a post from a fellow chronic pain person, who I think aptly describes their experience of pain, doctors not helping, treatments and medications not working…and they are at the end of their tether.

Anger, Pain, Hurt and Self-Harm

Many self harmers find it difficult to verbalise how they feel, and may have blocked off or detached from their feelings of pain, hurt, anger, etc. Self harm can be used as a way of feeling something physically which they are unable to feel emotionally. It is not uncommon for a person who self harms to say they are not angry yet in reality there is often an enormous amount of anger inside which they are turning inwards on themselves.

Ouch All Natural Pain Capsules

 This is Interesting..

The biological bases of the relationship between self-harm and pain is, as yet, unclear. Some theorists have argued that early experience of trauma damages certain neuroanatomical pathways in the brain related to the release of endorphins, which are implicated in the regulation of emotional states. In individuals whose neural pathways are affected in this way, it is suggested that deliberate self-harm may offer a means of releasing endorphins.

Others have noted changes in the brain systems utilizing the neurotransmitter serotonin in both suicide and deliberate self-harm. The role of these systems in both the development and maintenance of deliberate self-harm behaviours remains to be fully elucidated.’  (Pinched from the Wellcome Trust).

Well…I think it is rather interesting in regards to endorphins and seratonin…We know that fibromyalgia and CFS/ME are central nervous system disorders…so this would certainly fall in line with this line of thought.

What To Do About It

Here are some excellent Distraction Techniques from Cornell University

Feeling Sad or Depressed

• Do something slow and soothing.

• Take a hot bath with bath oil or bubbles.

• Curl up under a comforter with hot cocoa and a good book.

 

Feeling Angry

• Slash an empty plastic soda bottle or a piece of heavy cardboard or an old shirt or sock.

• Squeeze ice.

• Do something that will give you a sharp sensation, like eating lemon.

For a more comprehensive list of distraction techniques for emotions such as feeling empty, unreal, craving something, feeling guilty or bad and other coping techniques please go here.

Once We Recognise an Issue We Have Opportunity to Change

I think, as with all things, once we recognise that we have an issue going on, we have the opportunity to change how we want to deal with it.

Resources:

UK:

Mind

Samaritans

Suicide UK

SupportLine UK

Self Harm UK

Harmless

BiPolar Disorder

Overeaters Anonymous

United States:

Self-Injury.Net

Samaritans

 



Thank you for taking the time to read this.  Please share if you have found this helpful…you never know, you may share it with someone who gets the help they need. Also, if there are other helpful resources that you would like to share, please add the link in the comment section and I will add it.

Comments

  1. It helps so much to know I’m not on my own with my pain. There are people out there who understand. I can’t tell you how much that helps. I’m not going mad. Am I ????

    1. Author

      No, definitely not mad! I think that once you start connecting with others, you realize that you are not alone. Thank you for your comment! 🙂

  2. It makes perfect sense that someone would indulge in self destructive behavior during or following a fibro episode. Cutting often gives the individual the feeling of release and control, and that’s exactly what fibro sufferers yearn for. Others may choose to drown their pain away with drug or alcohol abuse. I’m sure this is applicable to any kind of long term illness that leaves the patient physically and emotionally depleted, but in particular those who have a predisposition to depression or a history of self harm.

    1. Author

      Indeed. I also think that when we are struggling with sleep issues on top of pain, it increases depression – as do opiates. It seems many of the medications we are given just creates side effects and more health issues as well. I think many of us struggle with self-harm one way or another, sadly. Alyssa

  3. I can’t say thank you enough. i would never hurt anybody else or kill myself. But the last few months i have started thinking about hurting myself. I even had a dream i did it last night. I haven’t actually done it, but i fear i will. I suffer from Fibro (diagnosed 3 years ago), I dont sleep very much i have anxiety and am an ex drug user. I have been clean for a while.
    I have battled a lot in my life. Just please keep writing about these things we don’t like to talk about. Sincerely, Heather

    1. Author

      Oh sweetie! I am so very sorry to read that you are struggling…know that you are not alone. Just a few things I would like to mention that I thought of when I just read your message…as I also was struggling to sleep, had bad anxiety…and also was using a lot of cannabis to reduce the pain (and attempt to zone out from it all…didn’t work!). Firstly, I realized that some of the medications I was taking were actually causing my insomnia! The opiates I was taking (codeine/tramadal/morphine – not all at once!) and knocking me out after taking them? They disrupt your sleep. They also can cause anxiety and depression…And medications like gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregablin (Lyrica) can truly screw your head up as well…(I remember looking at my very loving and trusting cat one day thinking ‘I could wring his neck, he’s so trusting’…and at that point flushed the meds down the toilet!

      If you have a little bit of money, I cannot recommend enough to look for a good functional/holistic doctor – they look at the root cause of what is going on for you regarding your fibro symptoms – and treat accordingly. There is help! And people do care, honest! But as far as conventional medicine is concerned, keeping us in pain, dealing with a plethora of health issues (many are side effects of meds), and drugged is a cash cow for Big Pharma!

      Also, look into toxicity…we are ALL dealing with toxicity issues – we are born toxic. Heavy metals, fungus and parasites can cause anxiety, depression – weird dreams…and even self harm. Have a look at http://www.feelgreatnow.co for more info and do the free quiz if interested.

      Apologies for rambling! I just want you to know that there is help sweetie and also that there could be things you are doing (meds perhaps) that are actually aggravating factors regarding mental health stuff.

      Be well, and be safe.

      Alyssa x

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