Survivor Aftereffects List #7

7. Self-injury (cutting, burning, etc.) (physical pain is manageable) (this is an addictive pattern); self- destructiveness.

I used to think that I did not engage in self-injury. But that is not true.

When I was around five years old I started having problems with this. I would classify it as picking. I’m not sure exactly how the problem started, because I don’t have a lot of early memories of doing picking with thoughts about it, I just know that I did and I remember the damage it caused.

I remember now the family environment that I was living in. My mother was abusing me. I was being abused by a male adult that my parents let live with us. And I was being abused by a ritual abuse group that this adult was taking me to. I was very suicidal.

I don’t know if I started scratching my face or if I broke out in hives or some kind of reaction from the stress and abuse. I had painful open sores on my face, around my nose, especially under it. They would start to heal and I would scratch them off again. I couldn’t stand it. It was painful and there seemed to be no way to stop the pain. It all must have itched painfully, but really I don’t remember.

It was very serious, because this was one of the rare times that my parents took me to the doctor and got any medication of any kind for me. It was a white cream that was horrible to have to have on my skin. This did not seem to help me to heal. It seemed to trap the heat in on my skin and make me itch even more. Slowly it got better and healed.

Over the years any time that I had a scab over a wound anywhere on my body, I would pick it off. It was compulsive. I had no control over it. I was about in my mid-twenties before I was able to exert any control over this behavior.

Sometimes I will wake up with deep scratches on my skin and not know how they happened. I bite my nails down very low, so it seems difficult to see how I am doing this in my sleep, but I must be.

The worst times are when I wake up and see that I was doing this on my face. That has only happened a few times and they were deeply troubling times. If I addressed the prominent issue in my life at the time, the scratches would heal with no new injuries.

Biting my nails was often something that I did to myself as a child to the point of injury. I still do it sometimes, though I try really hard not to.

At other times I would say that my behaviors or lack of proper self-protection has seemed self-destructive. I am just very lucky I guess that I survived those times in my life, especially when I trusted my safety and life in the hands of someone who was not trustworthy or safe. 

Some of the time I see this as due to the dissociation and disconnection from your body that all survivors go through. At other times I see this as being due to being a survivor and not knowing how to take proper care of yourself, not knowing who and what is safe, not having good and healthy boundaries, not having good role models all your life and on and on.

It is a work in progress. I see myself as half-way around the world from where I started on these issues. And that is a good thing.

4 thoughts on “Survivor Aftereffects List #7

  1. I had the same experience. I used to think the only form of self-injury I did was overeating until this year when things got stressful in therapy and I realized I was scratching myself until I bled and then I just keep pulling the scabs off every night. I do it to help myself fall asleep but not on my face unless I have acne. I’m just becoming aware on how I do this and have had no ability to control it.


    • Hi Diane,

      I’m sorry you are going through this. I know how out of control it feels.

      I agree with you that food issues are self-injury.

      Good and healing thoughts to you.



  2. I can relate to this one. I used to cut… I still have the scars.. and when I look at it, I feel so ashamed..
    I stopped cutting after a suicide attempt about five years ago. I went for very intensive counseling which helped a lot. I was also ritual abused as a child, I think it has a lot to do with it..

    Paul, I agree with you.. In my life sex was a definite form of self-destruction.

    We survived.. and that is a good thing!


    • Hi Identity,

      I’m sorry that you went through that. I agree with you on the connection between cutting and ritual abuse survivorhood. I have known of many ra survivors who deal with this issue. I’m glad that you got the counseling and that it helped so much.

      You are right. It is a good thing that we survived.

      Good and healing thoughts to you.



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