Each year, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men engage in self-harm. For me, self-harm has been one of the main ways of coping with overwhelming emotions for nearly half of my life. For the past two years specifically, I constantly kept at least one sharp item easily accessible “just in case” I needed it. Even after spending months in an intensive outpatient program and over a year in DBT-informed treatment, I clung to the last razor blades I possessed, unable to let go even after months of complete abstinence.
But recently, I took that final small step: I surrendered my last razor blade to my therapist.
That may sound like something seemingly insignificant to most people. In fact, I’m sure that my friends even thought I acted a bit dramatic. However, that one small step for most was a giant leap for me. And, just like any other step towards progress in my recovery, this moment came with mixed emotions.
As I pulled the blade out of my purse pocket and set it on the table, I could hear the sirens sounding in my head. My wise, committed-to-recovery mind knew that this moment needed to happen and that I could successfully navigate through with skillful means. I hadn’t cut my body in over 6 months. So, why hold on to an item that no longer served me or sparked joy in my life? My brain now contains countless distress tolerance and emotion regulation skills. Therefore, that the razor blade was completely obsolete.
Yet my emotional mind kept telling me that letting go of this blade meant letting go of so much more.
There would be no turning back once I handed that blade over, meaning that I was completely turning my back on an entire part of my identity, a whole chapter of my story. In a way, I was also saying goodbye to an old friend. After all, this single razor blade rode with me daily for over a year of my life. It mostly remained hidden in a secret compartment in my car, but some days it made appearances when I willfully contemplated giving up on my new, skillful life. Heck, I even carried it with me when I traveled across the country just in case I needed it in a moment of desperation.
But, here’s the thing about my life of self-harm: It never really helped me.
I think that’s true for any of us who struggle with something, whether it’s cutting, substance abuse, or even disordered eating. We somehow convince ourselves that it’s somehow beneficial and that we need these behaviors to live our lives how we want. We get so wrapped up in our own self-destruction that we start to see it as our entire being instead of the dark cloud that hangs over us and complicates our lives.
The fact of the matter is that I don’t need self-harm to continue living, and I definitely don’t need it to live my best life. And despite the fact that part of me wishes I could use that blade and experience the thrill of just one more cut, I know that eventually I’ll feel a sense of pride regarding the day that I decided to tell that final razor blade goodbye.