Warning but this post contains a lot of talk about depression and self harm, please be careful about the content you read and keep yourself safe!
The rules of the butterfly project are simple:
- When you feel the urge to self harm, draw a butterfly on the area where you normally would
- Name the butterfly after someone important to you or someone who you know wants to help you get better or anyone who holds significance in your life who you love
- If you self harm before the butterfly fades, the butterfly has died and you have to start again
- If the butterfly fades naturally from your skin, then it has been set free and it lives
I only discovered it a few months ago, on a desperate, late-night trawl of the internet as I found myself on the cusp of loosing a battle that I thought had been over for a year and a half.
I have to admit that, at first, I wasn’t entirely convinced by it. I mean, drawing on my wrist had never stopped me before, regardless of what all the websites recommended. But, it felt as if I had already tried everything – the ice cubes, the lists, the music, I’d punched so many cushions that even my dog was beginning to become concerned about me.
And so, I gave it a go.
The thing about the Butterfly project, is that it makes you reflect on the people important to you, to think about how they would feel about you self harming. It forces you to consider their thoughts if they knew what you were doing.
Very, very few people know about my previous experiences with self harm – this may surprise you, but it’s not something that I go around telling everyone about. It was a part of my life that, largely, I dealt with myself. It wasn’t until I had been clean for a little while and thought that I was on the road to recovery that I even thought about breaching the subject with the girl who had been my best friend since we were six months old (she’s probably gonna pop up a lot in these blogs I should give her a nickname at some point…)
And even now, she doesn’t even know the half of it. I didn’t want her to, I didn’t want her to feel sorry for me or to be disappointed in me, or to feel as though I was burdening her with my problems. There was even a part of me worried that this fantastic, wonderful friend of mine who I love so, so dearly, would think that what I was doing to myself was just a ploy to get attention.
But even back then, when I first discovered the butterfly project, when she just knew the smallest details of my inner turmoil (I don’t exactly remember what I had confided in her at that point – perhaps she just knew that it was an urge I got sometimes, not something that I had indulged in before), I knew for a fact that she would be so, so upset if I had given in.
Drawing a butterfly on my wrist, naming it after her – one of the most important people in my life – made it easier for me to remember why I had forced myself to stop in the first place. Because sometimes it feels like it’s too hard to get better for yourself, but it feels a little easier to try for someone else.
Sometimes I wish that I had heard about the Butterfly project earlier, when I was trying to quit for the first time. But other times I think that I learnt about it at just the right time for me. For me, the butterflies remind me, in a roundabout way, that I am loved. That there are people who care about me, who would be disappointed or upset with me to see me slipping back into old, bad habits or coping mechanisms or whatever you want to call them.
The thing is, however, I’m not a very artistic person and so I did feel somewhat awkward walking around with a badly drawn butterfly on my wrist. So a few nights ago when I was, once again, trying to calm down and remind myself of how far I’ve come, I tried something a little different, based off of what I already know I’m okay at.
(I’m sure you all already know where this is going)
Made with the shakiest hands imaginable and enough tears to fill the Olympic swimming pool (I’ve been watching a lot of Olympics to cope recently), I knit myself a butterfly.
I made it over the course of a few rough nights in which I needed to be reminded of why I quit. It was nice to be able to create something rather meaningful to me in the medium of knitting, which I now find a real comfort.
And that’s one thing that I think is so fantastic about this project – you start with the basic principle of the butterflies and then you can turn it into something that works a little better for you as time goes on. Perhaps moving from butterflies to some other animal, or from drawing to another medium.
I suppose this butterfly doesn’t really work in terms of the rule of it dying if I do give in, but for the moment it works well for me.
And it’s probably something that I’ll keep doing on nights where it all seems too much and I want to go back to my old ways. By the end of the month, I may have a whole kaleidoscope of knitted butterflies around my room (hopefully not, but if I do, it’ll be a sight to behold!).
(apologies for the deviation here but I need to say it – this pattern is not by me, it was created by Ginny (Ginxcraft) on Etsy, I have linked her shop here!)
This project is something that means a lot to a lot of people, many of whom are similar to me. And if this can find someone, anyone, who has been struggling with this, struggling with finding the right resources to help them or just needing someone who understands and has been through it, I thought that I’d write this post as a reminder that you are not alone and that what you feel is valid and I hope that the project can help you as it has me.
I’ve left the comment section open as I always do. I hope that it will encourage those you want to share to come forwards with their own experiences with the butterfly project and that we can come together to try to offer support to those who need it.
The Butterfly Project
If you want to learn more about the project and other similar calls to action or to help out and donate some money then I have linked the pages below!
I’ve linked my socials as always, but please do reach out if you want to talk – I’m not a trained medical professional, not by any means. But if I can offer anyone who’s struggling some company then I’d be glad to!