When I was miserable as a child, and at age 13 began dieting in an attempt to be accepted and 'pretty', I had no idea that this would result in an eating disorder that held me captive for over 35 years.
Until only recently (the last few years) have I realized that the behaviors that I engaged in as an attempt to SURVIVE, were actually self-harming behaviors. I was literally hurting myself in an attempt to survive the pain that I could not handle. Trading pain for pain?
I have never 'cut' myself, but I can now see that the 'pain' of starvation, and the mindset of deprivation and ignoring my needs truly fit together with the forum of harming myself.
I felt anger, resentment, anxiety and great fear, but I did not know how to express those feelings at all, nor did I even recognize them at the time. The 'harm' and pain I was inflicting on myself was, I believe, not consciously aimed at ME, but at the people around me. In my twisted, ill-equipped psyche, I can see now that I was attempting to hurt them by hurting myself.
Kind of an 'I'll show them' attitude, but very passive/aggressive.
Yes, the people in my life were hurt by seeing me hurt, but I was obviously not solving anything with that approach. Again, none of this was evident to me during the time it was happening.
I now believe that an eating disorder does fall into the spectrum of self-harm, and like cutting, burning oneself or any other direct injurious behavior, this becomes cyclical, ebbing and flowing over time.
Another important aspect to self-harm is the lack of concern for one's health or safety. While in the midst of it, the severity is not recognized or even believed. It is a coping tool that seems to work in the moment, bringing about a pseudo relief. But the truth is, the boomerang effect is much more painful and long lasting. Solving nothing, it truly adds to a person's shame and lack of respect for themself.
Recognizing that this is what is happening is the first step to changing. Talking to someone, and/or seeking professional help is critical to moving beyond self-harm to self-care.
The key to changing is developing new and safer ways to deal with pain, shame and low self-esteem. One of the necessary steps is learning that you can control how you express or react to your emotions, instead of automatically allowing them to control you.
Increased awareness, over time, will help you to protect yourself from situations that may trigger feelings or beliefs that have played part in the harmful behaviors in the past.
As you are able to replace the old behaviors with those that do not harm, but that truly do help, your belief in your own power will increase and prepare you to move forward.
Self-acceptance and embracing who I am, 'without apology' has been THE most healing viewpoint for me in my recovery.
My words here show only a very small picture of this issue.
Life is precious. We are here on this planet together for some reason.
Why would I choose to hurt myself?