I hurt myself and nobody noticed!

CW: This post contains mentions of self harm and disordered eating. Do NOT read if you are triggered or negatively affected by these topics.






When we talk about the topic of self harm, the first thing a lot of people would probably think about is blades and the act of cutting oneself. Most people only know of this one method that people may use to hurt themselves. But the truth is that there are so so many more – lots of them not at all visible to another person. Over the course of a few years I too have hurt myself, despite never having touched a blade.

I am writing this post not for sympathy, but to raise awareness of the more subtle ways a person could use to harm themselves and how you could possibly help them. Why did I do it? Many reasons, some things I did purely to feel something when I went through periods of absolute emotional numbness. Other times I felt the need to punish myself for doing certain things or reacting to situations in certain ways. And then some things I did without even knowing that they were harmful to myself – to me they were just coping mechanisms at the time and made me feel better for a short period of time.

Scratching

Probably one of the physically most destructive ways I used to hurt myself was by excessive scratching. Whenever I had let my emotions built up for too long it was pretty much inevitable that I would eventually need to find and outlet for them. And most often that outlet were my arms or thighs or breasts. I used to scratch them until they bled, almost like in a frenzy I couldn’t stop until I felt I had punished myself enough. And yes, these scratches were visible, very much so and sometimes people would comment on them. But as opposed to actual cuts, these scratches were much easier to ‘explain’ or ‘justify’. I would say that my cat had caused them or that I had an allergic reaction. As irrational as it may sound it gave me a form of outlet without the pressure of making people overly concerned.

Excessive Drinking

Whilst these scratches were obviously pretty visible many of my other self sabotages weren’t. For a period of over 2 months I used to be drunk almost every day. I used the alcohol to drown out all the mixed emotions I felt after a bad break up. I didn’t want to feel or think for that matter. Looking back now I realise how damaging this kind of behaviour was to myself. Not only did I do nothing but spend most of my days in bed, I lost interest in things I enjoyed, I isolated myself from friends, I became angry and aggressive. Not to mention all the toxins I put into my body in such a short amount of time. But at the time it felt like the right thing to do, it helped me cope with a situation that I didn’t know how else to cope with.

Restricting food / Overeating

Restricting food and/or over eating were another way in wich I had done myself no good. Getting bullied in my teenage years, mostly due to my appearance, I soon became obsessed with the idea that I had to be skinny in order for me to be deserving of respect. Months of internet searches led to a downward spiral of counting calories, saving “thinspo” pictures on my laptop and ended in an extremely toxic cycle of restricting food for sometime, then ultimately giving in and binge eating – followed by guilt until the whole thing repeated itself. Over and over again. At the time it seemd like the only logical thing to do, it seemed like this was the way I had to go to finally be accepted by others. Little did I know how much I was putting my body through.

Overspending

When I just started out in my first job I didn’t realise how hard budgeting actually is. I would spend money on things I didn’t actually need which left my bank account in overdraft almost every month to the point that I had almost nothing left after having paid the necessary bills. Yet I kept impulsively buying things. I was addicted to that little rush of joy you get when you buy something new. It made me feel alive, if only for a while. In the long run it put me in a lot of trouble financially that I am still dealing with to this day.

People pleasing

Probably one of the biggest things I did to sabotage myself was ALWAYS putting everyone else’s needs before mine. Whether it was a stranger or friend or a family member. I always put myself last, even when I was in an awful place mentally I would make sure that other people’s needs were met before even considering my own ones. I know now that a lot of this behaviour stems from values that I had internalised during my childhood but I can say that it has seriously affected the way I socialise and behave around other people now. And whilst I am slowly learning to put my own needs above all I still find myself slipping back into old patterns sometimes.

These are just a few ways of self harming that may not be very obvious at first glance. Others might include:

  • Overexercising
  • Using blunt objects to harm oneself (i.e. headbanging, ligaturing)
  • Avoiding seeing a doctor when ill
  • Gambling
  • Purposefully reading/watching things that trigger or upset a person
  • Purposefully wearing the wrong type of clothes (for example underdressing in cold weather so one would constantly be cold)
  • Entering toxic relationships or staying in them
  • Burning onself for example with too hot water

These things are not always visible but they are all diffetent forms of self harm. We like to associate self harm with only visible cuts but there is so much more to it than just physical injury.

What can you do to help someone who you suspect might be harming themselves in one way or another?

First of all, I would advise you to be discrete. Often people already feel guilty or ashamed of having done things to harm themselves. It’s always a good idea to ask them how they are feeling at the moment and then actively listen. Instead of blaming them, ask HOW you can help them. Ask what they need, offer a non judgemental space for them to vent. It’s often very hard to break habits that might have persisted for years. Trying to just get people to stop doing these things could possibly result in it all just getting worse. You can offer to help them look into counselling or therapy options or help them find some online resources. Remember, you can’t help everyone and it’s not your job to do so. But you can always offer to listen and try your best to understand their situation. Sometimes that alone could help a person more than you might think.

Much love, Kerstin

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Nature Therapy – 5 outdoor activities that will help calm your mind and are completely free!

Nature is truly wonderful. There is so much beauty and peacefulness to be found in our immediate surroundings. But with our increasingly busy lifestyles these things may be easy to miss sometimes. So often we are caught up running from one job to another, trying to meet deadlines, reply to emails, get hung up about the amount of likes we receive on a post. Our life is happening so rapidly around us, sometimes we forget to take break, step back for a moment and just do nothing.

I found that spending time outside for a least a few minutes, maybe half an hour each day has helped me massively in regards to my mental health. When things get too much or I’m overwhelmed, I go out to get some fresh air and it really calms my mind! Especially now with autumn being my favourite season I enjoy it even more! So I thought, I’d share a few of my top outdoor activities that can really help you take a break and find a bit more calmness in your life!

1. Walk/Hike – There’s nothing special about this. Often I will just put on some music and walk for as long as I am able to. It helps me take my mind of things that are bothering me and when I get back home I am able to tackle things with a clear mind and new focus. Sometimes our lives get so messy we have this massive jumble of thoughts in our heads of things we should or shouldn’t do and I find that just going for a nice walk always helps me to just take a break from it all. Hell, sometimes I even have a little sing along to whatever I am listening to!

2. Listen/Meditate – sometimes I purposefully don’t put on any music at all. I just go out and actively listen to my surroundings. I listen to the waves of the river flowing by, to birdsong and to the wind rustling through the leaves. It’s a great way to shift your focus from yourproblems to something completely different. I listen to my own breathing and often I sit, close my eyes and just meditate for a moment.

3. Go barefoot – This is a great way to really experience nature. Just take your shoes of and go barefoot for a while and allow yourself to FEEL. It’s a wonderful way of grounding and really taking in your surroundings. Just walk and feel the earth beneath you with all it’s different terrains and shapes and temperatures. There’s something quite magical about doing this.

4. Collect something/Forage – I’ve made it my mission to bring little things back from my walks outside. Most often these are bird feathers that I may turn into dream catchers and other little crafty things Sometimes it’s conkers or stones that I find pretty. Mother nature has blessed us with an abundance of gifts to take away and it’s a great way to get creative too!

5. Get lost – Now, by that I don’t me walk off aimlessly until you can’t find your way back home. Much more, try and find some new places to explore and just absorb your surroundings. Get lost in the moment, so to speak. I always find that when I get to explore a new area there is so much energy and peacefulness that I experience. Discovering new little ways that nature decides to display its unique beauty. And there is so much of it, you just gotta get out to see it!

Of course there are plenty of other things that you can do outside. These are just my favourites. And if you can’t go out for whatever reason, please know that that’s absolutely okay too. We all have different ways to relax and find some calmess in the storms of our everyday lives, you do what works best for you!

What are your favourite things to do outside? Do you enjoy going out as much as I do? Let me know in the comments!

Much love, Kerstin

Self Care Sunday – Let’s cook!

Self care can come in many forms. One of these forms, for me, is cooking and baking. I know, for others this may seem like a massive chore and I understand that it very well can be if you’re mentally, chronically or otherwise ill. For me however cooking had always been something that I was fascinated with from a very early age on. I would always hover around the kitchen watching my mum and gran cook and every so often they’d let me help too!

Fast forward a few years and I was always experimenting with different foods in the kitchen. Mind you, my mum must have hated me sometimes. Not only because of the mess but also because of the outright strange flavour combinations I must have served her! I still find great fun in playing around with flavours and pairing things that you usually might not want to eat together, it’s always a bit of a gamble if something will turn out or not.

These Rosemary and Apple Macarons were one of my all time favourite weird flavour combos!

One reason why Cookery for me is such a big act of self care is because I know I can be as creative as I like. I can just try things out without boundaries or restrictions and I can just let my creativity run wild. I was never one to follow recipes, I use them more as an inspiration and then always try to create something myself! It’s a great feeling when you get to create something and you go through all these steps and in the end you’re left with something that you made and that (hopefully) tastes great as well!

I particularly love baking breads. Kneading dough is actually a great way to let out some anger and stress. The great thing here is, that if I mess up it won’t cost me the world to start over and with baking there’s always something you can learn from it. If a loaf doesn’t turn out, I know what to improve next time. It’s a great way to also keep researching different techniques and recipes and it helps me keep my mind occupied, especially when I’m having a bad day.

One of my go to recipes that I will always make whenever I need a bit of comfort food are homemade chocolate chip cookies. Grabbing one when they’re still hot out of the oven and topping it with a bit of ice cream – heavenly! They’re easy to make, you really only need one bowl and even on a day where you might not have the most energy they can be a nice little sweet treat that’s done in minutes!

Do you enjoy cooking/baking? Let me know some of your favourite meals! If you dn’t enjoy cooking what are your favourite self care tips?

I’ll also leave my recipe for super easy, deliciously soft baked chocolate chip cookies for you to try out! Please let me know how they turn if if you do decide to make them!

All mixed together in one bowl and placed on a lined baking tray – goodness in minutes!

I wish you all the best on this Sunday evening and I hope that you can find some time to practise some self care tonight – whatever that may be!

Much love,
Kerstin

World Suicide Prevention Day – Give people flowers while they can still smell them

As today is World Suicide Prevention Day, I will be telling the story of my late friend Julia.

It was very early January 2016, I was in a pub having lunch with a friend, when I received a text message from a former classmate of mine. I read it and then I read it again. I briefly thought that they were joking when they were telling me that my good friend Julia had died by suicide just after Christmas 2015. And then, as another message from another classmate popped up on my screen, I realised that neither of them were joking and I went numb. I told my friend what had happened, but I didn’t cry or sob or tear up, there was nothing. Maybe I was in shock, I don’t know, but I remember finishing my meal and then going home with that sinking feeling slowly creeping its way into m heart. And then I cried, a lot.

I met Julia sometime in 6th grade, I believe I must have been around 12 or 13 at the time. I didn’t have many friends during my school years, I got bullied a lot so I would usually sit somewhere on my own just trying to mind my own business. And I did exactly that at some sport event that our school was hosting. I sat on a bench in the stands just waiting for the whole thing to finish, when Julia came up to me and asked if I wanted to sit with her and her friends. I was surprised at her approaching me. She was from a different town and went to a different class, but she seemed nice, so I accepted her offer and sat down with her and a few other girls. We got talking and even though we went to different classes we’d still sometimes meet up during breaks and chat. When we were going on a student exchange to the US in 2008 we had to prepare little presentations and Julia asked me if I wanted to be her partner and work with her. Of course I agreed. Back then Facebook was just taking off and I remember us spending hours online, sending messages to each other, trying t work out video calls so we could work on our project together. We had so much fun it didn’t feel like a chore at all. When we arrived in America we spend a few days in New York City before going off to our host families. I remember that we were allowed to go and explore the city ourselves as long as we stayed in groups of 3. Julia and I didn’t care much about that rule, as far as we were concerned all the other girls were all super stuck up and so we went off on our own and we had fun. We went shopping for a bit, I remember buying a pair of shoes for 15$. We went to Chinatown, where we got chased out of a restaurant and ended up eating takeaway on a side walk. I remember us buying fudge on Ellis Island, both not knowing what exactly it was, and both absolutely hating it for how sickly sweet it was. The picture below was taken when we spent a day at the Niagara Falls. We crossed the border to Canada, wasted some money in some arcades and then wasted some more money on some burgers that were soggy and awful.

Around 2009 we started taking the same Latin class and I was delighted when I saw her walk into the classroom. Although we both hated the subject we had an awful lot of fun still. We used to spend every lunch break on a Wednesday getting our lunch and then studying words and phrases. Julia would make little cards for us so it was easier to learn and to this day I remember the little inconsistencies in her handwriting, the way certain letters sometimes looked so out of place. I remember us laughing at each others badly translated Latin sentences and I remember Julia downloading videos off Youtube to show me on her mp4-player. Every week she had found a video just as funny as the last one, if not more. Julia had a wonderfully dry sense of humour, her sarcasm matched mine so well, we never got bored. She was always so present, so cheerful. She’d make jokes just for the hell of it. She was bright and she was fearless.

Julia was light.

We both graduated high school in 2012 and whilst I went to Ireland for a year, Julia started studying at one of the biggest Universities in Germany. She was very clever and I knew she’d do so well. We lost contact for a while, maybe messaged each other every now and again but that never changed any of the dynamics of our friendship. When I came back from Ireland and we met with some other friends it was like nothing had changed. We’d laugh and we’d joke about each other just like we always did. I then started nursing school and sometimes I’d send her a message saying how much I was using all those terms in Latin that we used to hate so much during our school years and she’d laugh and sometimes reply with some phrases she still remembered. I remember her inviting me to her birthday party. And I remember making some shit excuse and not going because I was too scared of who else might be there. And I believe that was one of the last times we talked.

And now, here I am, almost 4 years later and truthfully I have never been able to fully come to terms with her being gone. I can rationalise all I want, it doesn’t take away from the immense sadness that I feel when I think about all the pain and torment she must’ve felt to see no other way out. How much she must have hurt, without anyone knowing. And then after all the sadness, there’s so much shame and so much guilt inside of me. So many times where I sit and wonder, why did I not notice? Or if only I had talked to her more. If only I had known how awful she felt. If only I had made more of an effort. So many days that go by where I miss our silly conversations, our little nicknames we had for each other. So many days where I wish her name would pop up on my phone screen one more time. Yet I know there is nothing that I can do, or anyone for that matter, to bring her back. All I can do today is continue to raise awareness, spread the word on mental health and help fight the stigma surrounding it. And maybe that’s what Julia would’ve liked me to do.

I truly hope she rests peacefully now, where ever she may be. She deserves it.

To end this post, I urge you, please look out for those around you. You have no idea how much a person could be going through without them ever saying a word about it. Please, tell someone you love them today. And if someone inspires you, tell them. If someone’s hair looks nice, tell them or if something made you think of them. Spread some fucking kindness today. This world is dark enough, never hesitate to brighten up someone else’s day. You never know how much a few kind words can do for someone who may be in so much pain. It takes a second out of your day to possibly save someone else’s life.

And to you, if you’re not feeling yourself right now. If it seems like all this darkness is just too much and you just want to give up – please hold on. I’ve been there and it’s an awful place to be in and I know you may feel so hopeless right now. But please reach out. Whether it’s online or to a friend or a family member or a crisis line, someone somewhere is going to listen to you. Don’t ever think that you have to carry all this weight by yourself, please speak to someone. You’re not alone, I promise.

Much love,
Kerstin

Tales from Misanthropia – An update of sorts

Truthfully, I haven’t been doing too well lately. And I can’t quite pinpoint what it is exactly that is making me feel so low.

I few weeks back I felt alright, positive almost, and I was getting a few quite productive days in, spend lots of time working on the blog and my shop and all that. And then all of a sudden the whole mood dropped. And everything felt so tideous and I felt so low, still do.

I feel stuck. I don’t know where I’m going with my life and I have no idea how to get out of this slump at the moment. It feels like everything I try to do just isn’t really worth it. I only end up drained, fatigued and irritated anyway.

I feel lonely. Despite always saying that I don’t like to have too many people around me, and that I do enjoy being alone most of the time – I still get phases where I get overwhelmed by this very deep rooted lonliness. I crave connection but I don’t seem to find it anywhere. And it feels quite empty sometimes, knowing that there probably isn’t really anyone out there who I could share my thoughts with. Maybe there is, I don’t know, but it never feels like that.

I feel overwhelmed just by looking at the mountain of expectations other people and society seem to have in me. Everyone seems to be achieving things, going to college, getting jobs, starting a family and I’m just here, existing, trying to make it through the day. I don’t know what poiny in my life I should be at and I feel like I’m constantly running behind. I feel like I’m wasting so much time but at the same time I don’t know what else to do.

I need change and I don’t know how to change things or even if I did I have a feeling I’d probably be too scared for it anyway. Too scared of letting go of what I’ve become so used to. A strange sense of comfort that lingers in this stagnancy, a strange sense of calm that would only be shaken up if I were to do anything else.

I feel numb yet other times I feel evrything so deeply there’s never any inbetween. No middle ground, no balance. It’s all or nothing.

Enough rambles, I hope you have a lovely Friday evening and an even better weekend!

Much love,

Kerstin

[GUEST POST] Healing fear of engulfment in relationships by Aanchal Parker

This article explores fear of engulfment in relationships-its causes, effects and healing.

Let us understand the fear of engulfment in relationships with the help of a short story. This is the story of Raymond from New Jersey who is 44 years and has never been able to sustain a relationship. He feels lonely and desperately wants to be in a loving relationship, but it never seems to last. He is often attracted to strong and self-assured women and the first two months go exceedingly well for most part-there is connection, chemistry and loads of happiness. It’s just that when things begin to heat up and the woman demands more of a commitment, Raymond seems to start to take a hike. When asked to commit, he starts to distance himself from the woman and within a flash of a second declares that he does not do closeness well and has eyes for other women. At other times he shuts down so as not to commit.
This makes the woman he is dating exceedingly mad and she often leaves. Her leaving creates space but also a void. Raymond feels sad that yet another one got flushed down the drain. He tries to comprehend his behaviour as to why he is compelled to run /cannot do closeness but is unable to find answers until he meets a therapist.


The therapist is a kind- hearted old woman and tells him that he is afraid of engulfment and the foundation for this behaviour was possibly laid in his early years. She asks him if he had controlling parents to which he responds in the affirmative-he had a controlling mother and in order to not be controlled/lose himself, he would shut down or run away when she demanded too much from him. Thus, any kind of demand from anybody places a threat on his supposed freedom.
The therapist also asked him how he feels in the exact moment when he runs from the woman when she demands commitment. He says he feels drained and smothered and hence needs to escape. The therapist asks him why he feels drained in a loving beautiful association and he replies that he has spent the last two months trying very hard to keep the woman happy lest she be mad.


Here, every new woman is a substitute for his mother, and he is subconsciously playing out the same patterns in each association. He grew up trying to avoid upsetting his mother-thus complying or shutting down were the only two options. Complying ate into his self so after growing up he started shutting down or distancing himself. Saying he cannot do closeness and spreading attention to other women are also ways to avoid building intimacy and commitment and thus avoid feeling trapped.
Furthermore, he has been solely operating out of a place of knee jerk reactivity. He does not pull back and think even for a moment whether he can do as the woman wants-not because she wants to control him but because she likes him and wants to be together. He also does not think about the consequences of losing her-no connection, intimacy or happiness but a hopeless loneliness. Thus, he continues to carry his childhood defence mechanisms well into adulthood even though they are serving no purpose and are only hindering a love relationship.


In order to form a love association, Raymond will have to first learn to let go of extreme reactivity and will have to take a few steps back to examine his feelings without shutting down. Further, he will have to love his true wounded self which was battered during childhood trying to please his mother .He will have to learn to stand up for himself in the association ,assert his needs boldly and not take responsibility for making the other person happy and thus being in an interdependent relationship. He will then not feel smothered or engulfed but will be able to do 50% of his work in the relationship. The process of this healing is called inner bonding.
Once he applies the above -mentioned tools, he will be able to sustain a love relationship.



This article is contributed by Aanchal Parker( Click to read Bio) who writes extensively about topics related to psychology, mental health ,intimacy issues in relationships and spirituality. Her new book “Smashing Love Addiction and Love Avoidance :Powerful Healing Strategies for healing deep rooted intimacy issues” is now available for pre-order on Amazon .Click the link below to pre- order Click to Pre-Order

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Depression culture – Why my mental illness is not your quirky little aesthetic

A few years back, while I was studying to become a geriatric nurse, we talked about the subject of mental illness in class. This was supposed to be quite a big part of our curriculum as the nursing home that we all worked in also had a psychiatric unit, housing patients with various forms and degrees of mental illness. I was excited to be able to learn more about something that I was already passionate about and I was glad that we would be having lessons about the subject in class. During the first lesson the teacher handed out a sheet of paper which was supposed to have definitions and symptoms of a few of the most common mental disorders on it. It is safe to say that I was quite shocked when I read it. It read something roughly like the following:

  • Depression: When someone is feeling a bit low or sad
  • Anxiety: When someone is feeling nervous
  • Bipolar Disorder: When someone has a lot of ups and downs
  • Schizophrenia: When someone has hallucinations

Now, not only does that leave out a multitude of other mental disorders that should have been mentioned. It also generalises and downplays the severity of those disorders to a point where, reading it as a person who has experience mental illness first hand it is quite frankly infuriating. Now as much as I wanted to give my teacher the benefit of the doubt, thinking he may just not be educated enough to accurately teach on the subject, it turned out that he actually was a trained psychiatrist, which just made me even angrier.

So what happens when we teach and/or spread information like this? Well first of all, by doing this you are essentially invalidating and downplaying the experiences and the trauma of those people who live with an actual mental illness. Mental disorders are so much more serious and complex than can be put into one sentence. They are also highly subjective, meaning that certain people may experience different symptoms than others. Regardless of that however, a mental illness is something that is very scary. It’s confusing, it’s debilitating – it’s a lot more than just being a bit like this or that. It can have serious effects on a person’s well-being. It ruins relationships, jobs, ambitions and so much more. If you are saying and teaching something like “Depression being a bit sad or down sometimes” you are discrediting every single person that has ever lived with this condition. And for a person suffering from mental illness, this is infuriating.

Another thing this ultimately leads to is the misuse of descriptors such as “depressed” or “anxious”. All of a sudden every person you know is depressed. Everyone’s got anxiety and surely everyone’s got OCD as well because they organise their skittles by colour. Our society is becoming one big mental illness and as much as I would like to put that down to lack of knowledge or education, a lot of it is just sheer ignorance. And it’s in no way fair on those who actually do suffer every single day. Those who have to live with debilitating mental disorders and have to fight their hardest just to get through some days.

When I see people say that they have social anxiety when they may in fact just not want to go out or are just a bit awkward, it makes my blood boil. I’d love to scream at them, I’d love to make them live one day of my life and see how they like their social anxiety then. Because it’s not just not wanting to go out, or feeling a little awkward. It’s knowing every public toilet in a 2 mile radius because you know your IBS will act up in public. It’s throwing up before meetings. It’s cancelling plans last minute because you got so overwhelmed. It’s never making phone calls, regardless of how important they may be. And never answering the phone and then pretending that you were out of signal, so people would text you instead. It’s excessive sweating, shaking and hiding in toilets to escape social events. It’s not an aesthetic, it’s not something quirky you can say to get some lad to like you better.

Mental illness ruins lives. Daily.

So please, unless you have experienced mental illness first hand, refrain from using those descriptors for yourself. Feeling invalidated and not being taken seriously is one of the worst feelings a person can go through. You are not doing anyone a favour when you use those words so liberally and you are most certainly not funny or quirky. All you are doing is effectively adding to the already existing stigma that surrounds t mental illness. Mentally ill people struggle enough as it is, you don’t have to take their validity away by glamorising life threatening disorders. It’s not cool.

Please be mindful and have a think about what you say about yourself and others in the future.

Much love,
Kerstin