Please refer to this separate post dedicated to coping methods when dealing with the urge to self harm.
Self-harm is an extremely misunderstood symptom of BPD. Many people view self-harm as a means to garner attention from other people. Some people even view it as a manipulative behaviour to get other people to do or behave how they want. This is an uneducated and potentially harmful misunderstanding.
To those who do not commit self-injury, it can be seen as pointless, destructive, painful and meaningless. However to those that may feel distressed, it can often seem like a logical, effective release from overwhelming emotions and the pain they feel inside.
You know that old bit that goes around, if you’ve got a headache or pain somewhere you should do some sort of exercise that pushes your body to feel pain elsewhere? Not even heavy exercise, it could be just flexing your foot until it reaches that uncomfortable, almost painful point, to distract from the other pain you may be feeling.
This is something akin to the reasons people may choose to self-harm, though there are a multitude of different reasons why people self-harm.
If feeling ignored or unloved, it may function as a symbolic form of communication. Those who feel they do not have the strength or capabilities to articulate their deepest pains may feel they can only show they are hurting by physically hurting themselves. It is important to try and understand what the sufferer is going through, and how their disorder may manifest itself.
When overwhelmed with emotional pain or anxiety, they may pull at their hair or skin, or cut themselves. This may function as a distraction for the inner turmoil they are experiencing. When it is difficult to make sense of the chaos in their heads they may turn to self-harm to distract from this. In this paradox, causing pain is used as a way to relieve pain.
Someone experiencing relationship difficulties with lovers, friends or family may be suffering from extreme feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Many people with BPD struggle maintaining close, interpersonal relationships and as a result may take it out on themselves both mentally and physically whenever they feel they have failed, or have done wrong again. In this case, self-harm is a form of punishment, or as recognition or communication that they feel they were wrong.
This may not ring true for everyone with BPD as everyone is different, and it is important not to make assumptions about anyone who self-harms, or to over-simplify the problem.
For people who have never experienced moments of suicidal ideation, or disturbing and intrusive thoughts of harming or taking your life, it can often be hard to understand the viewpoint of someone who is suicidal.
Life for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder is fraught with chronic, isolating emptiness and impulsivity. Every day is often an immense battle with yourself. You have no motivation, no hope, no will to carry on. The emptiness is pervasive. In a way you want to feel alive again, you want to feel something, anything. But you also want to stop feeling so much. To stop the constant, exhausting onslaught of ever-changing emotions.
I’m going to share with you an excerpt from my personal blog which may hopefully help you to understand the complex struggle with suicide for someone with BPD.
‘Most of the times I consider suicide I am in a state of great distress. I am tortured and irrational looking for some way to stop how I feel. I can recognise now that there are different types of suicidal.
The first, and the one I experience most often, is an intense, primal sort of suicidal. I feel suffocated and frantic, desperate for something, anything. I am in distress. I vomit suicide. There is a jack hammer in my skull; spewing suicidal thoughts, means, methods. I am overcome and my mind ceases to be. This I know is not me. It is a manifestation of my distress. In this state I am dangerous, I am unpredictable and I am consumed and it is terrifying. Once I manage to calm down; I realise that I did not truly want to die. It is almost reassuring in a way that when I get that bad I know deep down I do not really want to die, however the risk of hurting myself in my distress is critical. It is uncontrollable and I am not in charge, so I do not know how far I will go.
The second, and the truly terrifying one is the quiet, festering sort of suicidal. It is lingering. It is innate, internal, and it hides away unseen and unnoticed gnawing at your mind. It is pervasive. It is scary as it worms it’s way into your everyday thoughts, and consumes you before you even understand what is happening. It is this type of suicidal that truly scares me. Because I do not know if this one is not me. I don’t not know if it is separate from me. I cannot distance myself from it.’
I believe people with BPD should be helped to develop the skills and tools they need to not only cope with, but to try and overcome these intense, terrifying urges.
It may be difficult to understand from an outsider’s perspective, but gaining that little bit of insight may be enough to save someone’s life one day.
If you, or someone you know is in need of urgent help right now, please see this page for details on how to find help and support.