Understanding self harm and suicide

Self harm is not about attention.

TRIGGER WARNING. This article deals with self harm and suicide. If you are self harming or are suicidal, there is help available. Please visit our help page instead of reading this article.

If this article upsets you stop reading.


Depression is suffocating. It’s can be a full time job and sometimes it has the tendency to ruin your life. Today I find myself sitting at home, written sick off work because of my depression. Days off work can be beneficial for recovery, but they also leave you feeling unsuccessful and ashamed that you aren’t a reliable worker. Then begins what they call in German a ‘Teufelskreis’, which literally translates to ‘Devil’s circle’. A perfect name for something so horrid. It’s a viscous cycle of thoughts that build on themselves. I think ‘I’m useless because I’m depressed’, then I think ‘I’m so depressed and will never get better’, and now we’re back were we started, but now I feel worse than before. The cycle continues and I just feel worse and worse. And this is when I feel like I’m stuck in a hole. I imagine myself in well, with ever growing walls. I can try and climb out, but what’s the use? The well is getting deeper, the walls are increasing in height. I’m suffocating. I can’t breath. A heaviness settles on my chest. I can’t breath. Stop. Time out.

I wonder what it’s like to be ‘normal’ -if that even exists. What’s it like to have never had depression? Is that even possible? I can’t imagine it. I mean every one gets sad from time to time, of course. But are there really people out there who have never experienced a depressive episode? (Notice that I’m differentiating here between having a depressive episode and being sad? -It’s not the same thing.)

Anyway… back to the title.

I never understood self harm until recently. The last week I’ve really been battling hard. I’ve really wanted to harm myself. It’s different from how I’ve felt before. I understand the motivation behind it this time. Self harm isn’t the same for everyone and there may be different motivation behind it and different methods of self harm (which I will NOT get into, because I don’t want to give anyone ideas… but I will say if you really, really can’t help but harm yourself, maybe try putting ice against your skin or flick a rubber band, it’s a lot less damaging and is recommended by therapists).

Previously when I hurt myself it was an automatic thing. I can recall when I was hospitalised and was telling the nurses I couldn’t stop. Some nurses were really helpful and gave me mandalas to colour in (which was a great recommendation by the way), others weren’t particularly helpful and just told me they couldn’t help. Battling with thoughts of self harm for the last week I understand that it’s a pain thing. As a child if I hurt myself my dad would recommend hurting another part of my body as a distraction. That way I’d stop thinking about the first pain and think about the second instead. This is exactly what’s going on here. I want to give myself physical pain so I can escape the psychological pain. It’s just too unbearable.

Side note: this isn’t the same for everyone. I have a friend who self harms out of self hatred. Which I’ve probably also done.

Self harm is not about attention. Self harm is something I do when I’m alone (mostly…). It’s desperation. It’s seeking a way out. It’s trying to alleviate pain. It can be almost automatic, something you can’t help.

Let’s talk about suicide. This is something I’ve thought about a lot, seriously contemplated, planned out to an extent, and even thought was ultimately inevitable. (Sorry Mum, I know that’s hard for you to read.) It’s never been about wanting to die. It’s hopelessness. It’s giving up. It’s a belief that nothing will ever get better. It’s a thought that this pain will always exist. I never wanted to die. I just wanted to escape the pain. I wanted a way out. An emergency exit. It’s not a wish to end things, it’s a wish to never have ever existed.

Lots of people complain about people committing suicide as being selfish. To that I say: yes, depression is selfish. Depression takes all your focus and attention. It’s cancer. It takes over. Depression is ‘me, me, me’. And to recover from depression you need to be selfish. You need to say no when things are too much. You need to be able to say, sorry I wish I could help you, but right now I need to focus on my own needs. And you know what? That’s ok. That’s why this is my first post in… a year? 18 months? No idea honestly.

If someone ever tells you that you are selfish because of your depression, good. We ALL need to be selfish sometimes.

If you are suicidal or know someone who is suicidal, seek help immediately. Call a suicide hotline or if a life is in danger call emergency services. Mental illnesses do not need to be fought alone. Don’t wait. Get help.

3 thoughts on “Understanding self harm and suicide”

  1. Hello Friend. Thank you for sharing this post on your depression with us. I am so so sorry to hear about what you are going through. I can understand how all of this must feel. If I may ask, who are the people who argue that depression is selfish? I cannot seem to see the sense in their argument. How is it selfish? Anybody can go through anything, it is life. We just need to make sure that we are holding onto a solid rock and are connected to a strong pillar of hope.

    In my case, I did not struggle with depression, I struggled with another disorder called maladaptive daydreaming. It is a condition that is only just now being recognized as a mental disorder. It sucks because a lot of doctors do not know about it. However, for those of us who have had it, we can tell you that it is one real condition. It is so sickening and it ruined my whole social life. The worst part is that, I could not stop myself. Whenever I did not participate in these excessive daydreaming activities, I did not feel complete, I felt like a large chunk of me was missing, this is because I built my world around this problem. After some time, that world began to crumble.

    God helped me out of that situation. Every single time, God reminded me of his presence. He reminded me that he is always there and a part of my reality. Over time, I have become better with my MDD. The symptoms have reduced, and I am generally happier. I doubt that I could have achieved this without God. I had struggled for years on my own to get over it, but God came through and saved me. If he can do this for me, I am certain that he can do the same for you. God is a loving father to all of us humans, he loves you just as much as he loves me. He would not forsake you. I would suggest that you try building a relationship with God and directly telling him how you feel and and asking him for healing via prayer.

    I do not know whether you have a relationship with God or not. If you already have a good relationship with God, congratulations, you are on the right path. You do not need to read this comment any further. Chances are high that if you have a relationship with God, you probably already know everything that I am about to tell you. I would say this, keep praying, keep obeying him, and keep trusting in him, and he would come through for you, his promises would be made manifest in your life. However, if you do not yet have a relationship with God, you are in luck, here are some exciting details about God that you need to know:

    You may have heard that God is the creator of the universe and everything within it. This claim is 100% true. God did create everything in the universe, including us humans. Like a good father loves his children, God loves each and every one of us dearly. He likes to provide for us, to bless us, and to help us. His intention is to provide for us in this life and to also grant us eternal life. Eternal life is the life after this life that we are currently living, you can simply call it the after-life. Eternal life would last forever. Not everybody would gain access into the eternal life. Since that life would last forever and in it people would not die, it would not make sense to allow in violent people, liars, thieves and others. Since these people would not die, there would be no end to the problems that they would cause. Therefore, only the purest people are allowed in. We humans cannot be pure by ourselves. We are prone to envy, lying, cheating others and so much more. We learn to do these bad things from such a young age, by the time we reach adulthood, we are already too far gone in it. For this reason, God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins so that we can be easily redeemed and saved. The blood of Jesus has made us pure and worthy. After the death of Jesus, all we need to do is to believe in Jesus and obey the Word of God, and those are the core for gaining access into eternal life. Like I mentioned earlier, God loves to bless us, and he desires to give us everything that we need. However, because God exists in the spiritual realm and we exist in the physical realm, we need to learn to understand how God communicates and to build a relationship with him in order to understand him. Over the course of building a relationship with him, you would understand how he works and how to locate the blessings that he has sent to you both in this life and for the next.

    God wants you to inherit eternal life, as a matter of fact, eternal life is one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind. Nevertheless, God also cares about how you fare in this life. He wants you to know that he loves you. He does not ever want you to feel alone, confused, anxious or sad. He wants you to know the provisions that he has made for you. Like a good father, he loves us and he would like us to love him and obey him. He has put everything in place for our good. There are numerous bible verses that exemplify God’s love for us, here are a few:

    The Bible says in Romans 8: 38 – 39
    “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”

    God says in Jeremiah 29:11
    “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

    God says in Isaiah 43:2
    “When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
    and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
    When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze”

    God says in Isaiah 41:10
    “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand”.

    The Bible says in Philippians 4:6
    “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done”.

    God is awesome. He would never leave you or forsake you, he would never give up on you. I and several others have a testimony to this effect. He has forgiven us at times when we could not forgive ourselves. He has given us several chances to fix our wrongs. He is our abba father. He is the best parent ever. There is nothing to lose when we build a relationship with God. God would provide guidance, protection, understanding, healing, we would also inherit the good things of this life and gain a spot in the eternal life. There is nothing to lose except for sin, and God would be with you every step of the way. He would not condemn you, he would correct you, he would not judge you unfairly, he would use love to draw you in. Trust in him, I am certain that he can help you.


    1. Hi! Thank you for your very detailed and comprehensive comment. Kudos to you for taking the time to write it.
      To answer your initial question I had some friends tell me I was being selfish. This was around the time I was hospitalised with depression and was so sick I couldn’t think straight. At one stage I was near catatonic because my ruminating was so severe. Because of my depression I was only able to think of myself.
      In response to the rest of your comment I am indeed Christian and without my faith I am pretty certain I would no longer be on this Earth. Having major depression has certainly tried my faith and even made me be very angry with God. However, in that time I never stopped going to church. Over three years I’ve really been on a rollercoaster journey. I had issues finding support at my previous church, but from April this year I’ve been attending a really great church which really supports people with mental illness. The volunteers in the prayer team are trained and the church provides free counselling for church members. Sometimes I am too depressed to pray but in those times I reach out to friends and family to petition on my behalf.
      My faith has really received a shaking over the last four or five years and there were definitely times I wanted to walk away from the church and from God. I actually witnessed this happen to a friend of mine because of depression. However, I’m on the mend now and as my life gets more on track, so does my relationship with God (and vice versa). As of recently I’ve found a small group/bible study and have started volunteering at the church in the translation team (I translate a church service from German into English live every three to four weeks). Being actively involved in my church really helps me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Praise God! I am always thankful when I meet people like you. You are awesome for this positive response. if you ever need someone to talk to, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I would be willing to help in anyway that I can. I would follow your blog shortly, so that I can keep up with your content. I wish you all the best. Stay blessed in Jesus name, Amen 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: