Self-Harm is a topic that’s very taboo and every time this word is mentioned, people get very uncomfortable. What people don’t understand it’s that it should be talked about and awareness should be raised about it. Statistics state that one in every two-hundred girls in their teen years’ self-harms. That’s a lot of girls! And it’s not even counting the boys!
The thing is, there are a lot of myths surrounding this specific topic and other things you may not know about this so I’ll try to talk about them as best as I can.
“You self-harm because you want to die.”
This is both true and false. Why is it both? It’s true because there are people all over the word who self-harm and they do want to commit suicide. But there’s a majority of people that self-harm because they just want a coping mechanism. Something that always would frustrate me is how people seem to take “self-harm” as something so creepy or freaky. While yes, it is kind of frightening, it’s an outlet people use, just as alcohol or drugs. Both are damaging your body: alcohol abuse and/or drugs will deteriorate your body inside, whereas self-harm is damaging your body on the outside. Again, it’s a coping mechanism just as any other.
In my personal experience, self-harming became my outlet. Did I want to die? I’ll admit that at times I would think about it and I once tried to commit suicide by drinking lots of pills. But I never related both. I was just going through Major Depression Disorder, which led to very negative thoughts about my life and ultimately suicide. When I realized early on that I did not want to die, I never attempted against my life again, but I did continue to cut myself.
“I’ve seen people make really deep cuts. Does it hurt when they do that?”
Again, it’s both yes and no. For me, it didn’t. You’re probably thinking, “That’s crazy. You’re cutting your body tissue.” The thing is, the emotional pain is unlike any other. It gets to a point where you just become numb. Nothing you do will hurt you. Sometimes I would do it so deep, but I wouldn’t feel anything.
Once I was in remission of the depression, self-harming hurt! I remember being very sad about something and even though it had been a while since I had done it, my mind gravitated towards self-harming. When I cut myself, I realized it hurt so much! I went from crying to laughing in seconds. I could now understand why people asked me if it hurt to cut because they couldn’t imagine doing that to themselves.
“I’m so happy you stopped. Your arms look so much better now.”
A lot of people think that when you don’t have any new cuts on your arms/wrists, it means you have stopped and you’re cured! Unfortunately, that’s not how it is. I even have friends that would cut their ankles and would just wear socks all the time.
My mom went into a crisis when she found out about my self-harm. I’m not kidding. I missed school and she missed work because she cried for 4 hours straight on my shoulder. I didn’t want to keep hurting her, but at the same time, I needed this outlet. I stopped cutting my arms, but I moved down to my hips and thighs. It was there that I took liberties with my cuts. I would carve negative words about myself, such as “worthless”, “fucked up”, “bitch”, “a bother”, etc. Honestly, my thighs were the worst to look at. In the end, I opened up to my aunt and my step-father and later on, my mom. That doesn’t mean I stopped.
“Get your scars removed. You’ll feel so much better.”
When I had recovered, or more like I decided to stop, was when my mom decided that my scars needed to be erased. Most parents want this for their children, so that your skin is brand new again. I remember I went into panic mode. I had grown so used to my scars that I didn’t want them gone. They also served as memory of what I did and what I wouldn’t do again. They showed me I went through a lot and there was no way I was going to part from them. It’s like Papa Roach’s song says, “My scars remind me that the past is real”. Thankfully, my psychologist actually said it would do worse if I got them erased.
What to do when your friend/family self-harms?
Please, don’t force them to talk to you or point out the scars. Don’t even dare say, “It’s been 4 months. I think you should stop now.” It could be years, and you shouldn’t even say that. One thing I do recommend is taking them to a psychologist, even if it has to be force. I didn’t want to visit a doctor, and it took years for me to accept the help. But trust me, it’s worth it.
What you can do is be there for them. When I opened up to my best friend, all she did was hug me. That act alone showed me that she still cared for me and loved me. It got me to open up more to her. Just show support and love. It goes a long way.
To Write Love On Her Arms (http://www.TWLOHA.com) – A non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.
1-800-334-HELP – Self Injury Foundation’s 24-hour national crisis line.
Gen’s post is very admirable and brave. I think hearing her story was very touching and I think you guys should give her some love in the comments below. Again, thank you Gen for sharing your story!