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Looking after you

11 Nov, 2020

It's important to have a basic understanding of first-aid if you are a self-harmer, and even better to have someone you can trust to look after you. It IS possible to be a harmer and still look after yourself while on the path to recovery.

First stop, first aid...

You don't need a PhD in medicine in order to take care of small wounds responsibly and be able to identify when additional help is needed.

Whilst we are the last people to encourage cutting, if it's something you're going to do, make sure you have a good stash of sterile dressings and the means to clean - and keep clean - fresh cuts. Plasters, gloves, bandages and waterproof dressings are a good starting point for making a first aid kit. Keep an eye on existing wounds too - are they inflamed? Are they oozing pus? Are they getting worse rather than better? This could be a sign of infection and you may need to see a doctor.

Do I need medical attention?

How does blood flow? If it's a small trickle or just tiny beads of blood, a good clean and plaster may be all you need, but if blood is 'pulsing' you may have nicked an artery which will put your health in grave danger unless you seek medical attention as a matter of urgency.

How big is the injury? If it's bigger than about a 50p piece then get it checked, especially if it's a burn.

Is it affecting a joint? If so, get it checked - you are risking the future health of that joint if it doesn't heal properly.

Have you got something stuck in your skin? Leave it where it is, secure the area with a bandage of you need to and get some medical help.

Have you burnt your skin? Are your clothes sticking to the area? Leave them alone and get some help. Don't try to peel them off. You also cannot do anything about chemical burns - always seek advice if that's the case and tempting though it is..... never EVER burst any blisters. They are all part of the healing process.

Always make sure you drink plenty of fluids - staying hydrated will help replace any lost blood.

No-one can diagnose you over the internet, and no-one can assess any injury as well as a trained professional. The quality of care you may experience in different health-care settings may vary, but be bold, look after yourself, and speak out if you need help.

The biggest rule is to never, ever, hurt yourself whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It's not good when you're sober, but when you're judgement is impaired it'll much harder to recognise when you need help.

Learning to live with scars....

An important part of the recovery process is learning to live with scarring that may have been caused by harming actions. Scars are permanent - there are steps you can take to improve the appearance of scars, but learning to live alongside them will be a massive part of your recovery. Is it possible to love your scars and view them as an important part of your past? How do you manage if people make comments or ask you how they occurred? We can advise you but the answers will be different for everyone.

It's okay not to like your scars - liking them is very different from accepting them. Sometimes doctors or psychiatrists will ask to see your scars and you may not feel comfortable with that - again, that's okay, no-one can force you to show any part of your body if you're not happy for them to see.

Your scars are a result of how you have injured yourself, but they are not a reflection of what is happening to you emotionally - not having scars or any physical sign of self-harm doesn't mean you are not having difficulties - you don't need to try and scar yourself to prove you need help, and having lots of scars doesn't mean you can't recover.

What you choose to tell people who notice your scars is up to you. There is no right or wrong answer; it comes down to whatever you feel comfortable telling people. Having a history of self-harm is nothing to be ashamed about - we hope that by now you have realised it's more common than you think. You don't have to tell people, but you also don't have to avoid it.

There are a variety of camouflage make-up products out there that you may feel will be helpful - these have been designed for all kinds of skin complaints, from birth marks to scars caused by accidents. They are suitable for use all over the body, including your face, are waterproof and suitable for use when swimming, and you may be able to obtain them on prescription from an understanding GP.


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