We are all on our individual roads to recovery and it can be a lonely road; especially when your own thoughts and actions seem to be your own worst enemy. Changing the mindset from harming oneself to helping may not be easily done as said, but every day is a chance to improve upon the previous and that can be in terms of recovery too. Sure, there may be setbacks, including low moods but set the goal of loving yourself in a positive, balanced manner rather than putting oneself in harm’s way.
It’s important to trust yourself, your strength and your courage. Trust your ability to persevere in the face of a setback. Trust that you will be able to move forward and one day forgive yourself, to look at the scars and realise that despite all that you’ve been through, you healed. Remember, people have scars and they are evidence of healing from whatever external wound and this can be the same for internal hurt as well, it may be a long road until you clearly see the road you came from but it is achievable.
For many people, recovery from mental health problems starts with a decision that they want things in their life to change, it has to be your decision because your ride to recovery is your own first and foremost. Perhaps the most important thing is to note down what you were doing, how you were feeling and/or what you were thinking before you self-harm to see if you can spot any patterns. Know what your body feels like when an urge hits, be mindful of items, sounds or pictures that make you feel a certain way or take you back to when you would self-harm. Recognising what triggers you and how you feel before you self-harm can help you anticipate the urge and distract yourself.
Distracting yourself when you feel the urge to self-harm can help form a new habit which in turns changes behaviour. In this way, unhealthy coping mechanisms can be changed to alternative distraction techniques to see what works best for you, whether that’s baking or cooking, getting a massage, hitting cushions, taking up a form of martial arts, listening to/reading Qur’an or going for a walk.
Remember, a relapse doesn’t mean that you’ve failed – you’ve actually started to make a positive step towards recovering, it’s just that sometimes it can take a number of attempts before you can stop completely but keep trying and don’t give up.
You may also find it useful being part of a self-help group as it will allow you to discuss your feelings with others who understand where you are coming from and won’t judge you. If you want to talk to someone in depth, then your GP may be able to refer you on for counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
True, Allah (SWT) never gives us anything we cannot handle, however support is vital and sometimes we should reach out to others whom we trust for help in order to take control of our situations and overcome our obstacles. Nevertheless, support doesn’t always have to come in the form of a pill, significant other or a family member, or even a friend. Support can come from within, it can come from your favourite verse in the Qu’ran, making duaa (supplication) or coming across inspirational stories, quotes or poems.
Being a Muslim should mean that we have constant support for each other, not only when someone has a physical and visible illness; a reminder to us all that we don’t know what another is going through, because most self-harm is invisible to the eye and hidden away. Therefore, even if you’re in a bad mood, try to be wary of how you speak to others, because you might accidentally say the wrong words and act as a trigger or a reminder of negative thoughts or experiences they’ve had, and cause them to do something that will negatively impact them in the long-term.
We should open our eyes and assist in making it easier for individuals with mental health problems to discuss their unhealthy coping mechanisms, seeking help and not be ashamed or stigmatised as “attention-seeking” to ensure they do not feel like their only option is to commit self-harm.
May Allah help us to love ourselves in the best way, and guide us to healthy and permissible coping mechanisms to overcome all the hardships throughout this life Ameen.