I covered suicide last month, so I thought maybe I should cover something else people like to ignore? Self-harm.
Most people who self-harm keep it a secret, which is what I did for a very long time. It’s more common than you’d think. Self-harm has this huge stigma around it, and it ends up hindering people from getting the help they need. I began self-harming in sixth grade. When people saw my cuts back then, they were anything but worried. I was the “emo” kid. Girls are mean when you’re that age, but these girls were cruel. These girls would tell me to “kill myself” or “slit my wrists.” For the rest of middle school, I made sure no one ever saw any cuts again.
The definition of Self-Harm is self-explanatory; it’s when someone intentionally hurts themselves. There are so many ways for someone to harm themselves; I’ve always stuck to sharp objects. Safety pin, knife, paperclip, thumbtack, etc. Some people burn themselves, pull out hair, pick their skin (I’ve started doing this). It’s not an easy thing to talk about, but I believe it’s necessary. People view Self-Harm as “attention-seeking” behavior. But really, it’s a cry for help. It’s a sign something deeper is going on there; they aren’t just “emo.”
It might be hard for you to understand why anyone would purposefully harm themselves, but I hope you have a little more understanding after reading this. I also ask that y’all read this with an open mind. I’ve never been this honest about my history with Self-Harm, but I think now is the right time.
When I tell people about my history with Self-Harm, they usually get wide-eyed and don’t know what to say. It’s hard to understand when you have never experienced it yourself. Most jump to the conclusion that it is all for attention, so they shrug it off and move on. People like that need to understand that this shouldn’t be ignored…ever. Self-Harm should ALWAYS be taken seriously; it’s not a joke. It’s a sign of emotional distress (not for attention). If ignored, it can turn into a dangerous cycle. For some, it even becomes a habit or a kind of ritual. Once the damage has been done, the guilt and shame start to come into play. Feeling this is normal.
I know what it’s like to wake up the next day with dried blood on my wrists. Then the cuts heal, and there’s this permanent reminder of what you did and what you were feeling then. How could one not feel shame? Or guilt? This is where that vicious cycle comes into play. You cut, then you feel guilty and you cut again. It’s not your fault (or mine), sometimes you need a release. I get it. Hurting yourself releases endorphins (pain-killer hormones). These endorphins that are released, are the reason I continued to cut myself. It was the only relief I had from my own mind. Those hormones do not last very long, which is why once you start…it’s hard to stop. You feel better until you don’t; thus beginning the vicious cycle again.
My Mom got remarried when I was in middle school. We packed up and left the only home I had ever really known. I had so much brewing inside me and I had no idea how to handle it. I remember the first time I ever hurt myself, I was in the bathroom at school. My depression was eating me from the inside out. I was sitting on the floor in that big bathroom stall, sobbing. I was fidgeting with the safety pin that was on my backpack and accidentally scraped my ankle. In that quick moment, I felt relief. I was so confused, but I wanted to feel more. So, I took the safety pin and began scratching my skin vigorously. The crying stopped. For that short moment, I had finally felt some form of happiness. Which was something I hadn’t felt in a long time. My life changed on the floor of that stall–I had started something that would haunt me for a long time. I have stopped and relapsed again and again over the years.
About three years ago, Tristan and I weren’t in a good place. I don’t even remember what started the argument. We had just gotten back from going downtown one night, so alcohol was involved. I spiraled. I usually spiral if I drink when I’m off my medication. Tristan ended up going to sleep, and my downward spiral continued. I remember getting a knife from the kitchen and going to the bathroom (the floor of course). I ended up cutting my leg three times, all deep enough to see my muscle tissue. Once I came to and saw what I did, I was scared. In the moment, you don’t realize what you’re doing.
I knew I needed stitches, but I knew what would have happened if I did. I’m terrified of ever being hospitalized, I don’t think it’s something that would ever help me. Which is why I did not want to go get stitches, I would’ve been put away. So after a looooooot of hydrogen peroxide, butterfly bandaids, and gauze–I just sat and stared at all the blood on the floor. I felt so much shame…so much sadness. I mutilated my body, again. I wore pants for a long time when I’d go out in public until I realized I shouldn’t hide them. People needed to see them. I needed to see them. Accepting my cuts and scars was the next step in my recovery.
I’m twenty-five now, and most of my Self-Harm scars are covered up with tattoos. My scars that remain (or are somewhat new), help me remember the place that I don’t want to get to again. Things are different today. I have a support system, I’m older, and I have a much better understanding of what I’m going through. I’ve accepted that this is a lifelong battle, but I’m committed to making it through. Over the years I’ve learned different coping techniques to subside the need to hurt myself. When I was younger, I’d take a pen and draw all over myself. My Dad hated it, but he had no idea why I was doing it. He just thought it looked bad. As I aged, my coping mechanisms have changed. Today when I feel the need to hurt myself, I usually go get a tattoo. But, we all know that shit is expensive. So when I’m not willing to spend the money, I do a few other things. Coloring, yoga, reading, and writing are all things that help me. It’s important to find what is best for you and stick to it.
I can’t promise there won’t be any bad times; no one can. Something I do know is that you deserve to be happy. Your mental health IS important, and it’s okay to struggle. Everyone struggles and I mean EVERYONE. Don’t feel shame in seeking help. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. You are the only one whose opinion matters.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with Self-Harm, I am praying for you. You are in my thoughts and I pray that you find healing. You are beautiful and you deserve the world.
Here are some Hotlines I recommend…
Crisis Text Line for Self-Harm: Text 741741
24 Hr Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK
Self-Injury Foundation Hotline: 1-800-334-HELP