This is a hard subject to approach and a hard one to write about… there is a lot of stigma behind this topic and also confusion. What exactly is self-harm?
For me I would sum it up as taking anything surrounding you good or bad and turning it against yourself to cause physical or emotional harm. Sometimes taking pleasure from the pain it brings, other times doing it as a form of self-punishment believing that it’s what you deserve.
It can often become an addiction and a coping mechanism for very difficult feelings.
For those who don’t understand why someone would turn to self-harm here are just a few reasons why it might appeal to someone or become a last resort…
- express something that is hard to put into words
- turn invisible thoughts or feelings into something visible
- change emotional pain into physical pain
- reduce overwhelming emotional feelings or thoughts
- have a sense of being in control
- escape traumatic memories
- have something in life that they can rely on
- punish yourself for your feelings and experiences
- stop feeling numb, disconnected or dissociated
- create a reason to physically care for themselves
- express suicidal feelingsand thoughts without taking their own life.
Types of self-harm
I almost don’t want to list any as sometimes I feel like I’m listing to myself the only options I used to feel I had. I also feel reserved doing so as these are by no means good options and any release they bring I can guarantee they hold a lot more pain and hardship for you in the long run.
However here are just a few I can think of:
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Cutting yourself or causing harm to oneself by punching/pinching etc.
- Refusing to eat (starvation)
- Burning yourself
- Self-sabotage in friendships and relationships (on purposely pushing others away)
- Promiscuous behaviour (with intent to replace other forms of self-harm or as a form of escape)
Besides the obvious reasons self-harm is bad for you there is also a high risk of addiction, as these things may bring temporary release it’s something people can come to rely on so when in desperate need or in emotional turmoil they turn straight to self harm as some relief can be better than none. It’s almost like a distorted comfort blanket but any comfort self-harm brings you is a lie and only pushes you to devalue yourself and your life more and more.
|Myths and facts about cutting and self-harm|
|Because cutting and other means of self-harm tend to be taboo subjects, the people around you—and possibly even you—may harbor serious misunderstandings about your motivations and state of mind. Don’t let these myths get in the way of getting help or helping someone you care about.|
|Myth: People who cut and self-injure are trying to get attention.
Fact: The painful truth is that people who self-harm generally harm themselves in secret. They aren’t trying to manipulate others or draw attention to themselves. In fact, shame and fear can make it very difficult to come forward and ask for help.
|Myth: People who self-injure are crazy and/or dangerous.
Fact: It is true that many people who self-harm suffer from anxiety, depression, or a previous trauma—just like millions of others in the general population, but that doesn’t make them crazy or dangerous. Self-injury is how they cope. Sticking a label like “crazy” or “dangerous” on a person isn’t accurate or helpful.
|Myth: People who self-injure want to die.
Fact: People who self-injure usually do not want to die. When they self-harm, they are not trying to kill themselves—they are trying to cope with their problems and pain. In fact, self-injury may be a way of helping themselves go on living. However, in the long-term, people who self-injure have a much higher risk of suicide, which is why it’s so important to seek help.
|Myth: If the wounds aren’t bad, it’s not that serious.
Fact: The severity of a person’s wounds has very little to do with how much he or she may be suffering. Don’t assume that because the wounds or injuries are minor, there’s nothing to worry about.
Personal Experience and Recovery
Self-harm can enter peoples lives in a manner of different ways. For me I was a somewhat usual hyper child, however I do remember I could get carried away with my feelings and sometimes it would get me into trouble. One time I got told off for my behaviour and I suddenly felt this internal pain which was sharp and made it hard for me to breathe, by no means had I been yelled at or scolded but it felt like I might as well have been! Once I got home this feeling didn’t leave and I simply remember wondering if physical pain would counteract this strange overwhelming feeling, then without any real intent to harm myself I took a paper clip and one cut was all it took, the worse part of all it worked.
I do not want to overindulge in where it took me further into teenage years etc. but safe to say that self-harm (cutting myself) became an addiction of which caused temporary relief to what was a constant emotional roller-coaster. At roughly 16 I do remember stopping for a few years, but it soon came back as it was all I knew that helped, and with little concern for my body or well-being it branched out into many other forms of self harm into my early 20’s.
I stopped cutting again temporarily but turned to things such as drinking too much and other self destructive behaviour. With no value for myself or my life I wasn’t really bothered by the consequences, but my actions not only harmed myself but sometimes others also. Which in turn lead me down a whole other path of guilt and self-punishment pushing me ever so closer and closer to the edge.
In short self-harm simply gets you no where positive fast, if anything it pushes you further and further back into the darkness.
I am no authority on this whatsoever, and I wont lie professional help was at times often quite scarce but recovery started within (as cheesy as that sounds!) but choosing not to self-harm simply because it harmed my body and doing things like pampering myself and attempting to paint my nails or having a healthy dinner were acts of self-love which slowly rippled into my sense of well-being. Telling myself ‘I am worth more than the temporary release of self-harm’ or ‘I matter as a person’ and ‘This is not your fault’ became challenges I would daily try to repeat to myself in an attempt that if I continued to say then maybe eventually I would believe them?
Communication with others was a massive and scary step! The idea or dealing with rejection made me feel like I may be pushed over the edge and I was scared at times of what I might do if reacted to negatively.
Ultimately recovery is different for everyone though, some really need professional help, others the support of friends and family can be a life changer, but for me the final step or the big PUSH was a follow up sort of ‘damage control’ appointment after being hospitalised after an ‘episode’. It was only meant to be 30 mins but it carried on for over an hour and by the end of the session they turned around to me and said ‘thank you’, they mentioned my insight into my condition and self-awareness was incredibly eye opening and I was doing better than I thought. They even mentioned I could go on to help and educate others, this set alight something in me and by no means did I go home and suddenly get better but I was determined to work out how to tell people and help support others who felt the same as I did.
In group therapy I got a chance to meet others who did feel and think very similar to myself and that was the final straw! I refused to let myself and these wonderful people suffer in silence, condemned by our own thoughts, often house bound and sometimes criticised by others who had no idea of the daily battle within our minds.
So though I am still recovering in many ways on this journey when I say you are not alone I am not throwing a comfort blanket over your pain, I’m saying I see your pain, I hear your pain and I am telling you that you are NOT alone and you are worth far more than you can even comprehend. We all have fight in us just choose to fight for the right people and the right causes and most of all fight for yourself.