Let’s talk about the hard stuff today.
Self-harm is a topic that often sends up serious red flags for those who have never dealt with it before. And it should – because there is nothing healthy about it. It’s an addiction unlike any other. Everyone has different reasons for trying it once, but we all kind of stick around for the same one – it’s calming.
I imagine that’s the word that just came to mind. How can hurting yourself be calming of all things? I really don’t know how to answer that, to be honest. I can’t speak for everyone. For me, however, it has a grounding effect. In the past, when I’ve felt like I couldn’t establish the boundary between reality and trauma, I would turn to a razor to pull myself back. It would remind me what was real. The panic would end, and it would just be me, sitting on the bathroom floor, alone and hurting.
I’m sure that scares a lot of people. It scared me for a long time, too.
The only way I can think to describe mental illness is like a toddler learning shapes. Imagine those peg boxes with different shapes that we give them. Have you ever watched them spend an hour trying to shove a square peg through a round hole? That’s how it feels. Over and over again, you try to make it fit but nothing seems to be working. You can’t calm down, be happy, sleep, remember, understand, etc.
For a lot of people, unfortunately, self-harm works. However, it is not a solution. It’s a cheat – a shortcut around the problem. It’s like just breaking the peg into pieces and forcing them through the hole. It brings momentary satisfaction, but ultimately causes more damage.
For me, it was never an ideation of suicide. Those who consistently engage in self-harm are typically using it as a coping mechanism that actually helps them to continue living. That may make very little sense to some of you, and you may be considering all the ways to have me institutionalized for saying so, but it’s true. You may be thinking this girl is off her rocker, only crazy people do this, and we shouldn’t be talking about it like it’s a common problem.
Self-harm needs to be looked at as more than a juvenile habit. It needs more attention than a school counselor and a bandaid. It is a serious problem for even those above the age of 16. With age, we may become better at hiding it, but before you go stereotyping it, I dare you to take a closer look at the scars on those around you. According to The Refuge, “30% to 40% of college students report engaging in self-harm after the age of 17.”
Let that sink in.
Don’t allow social stereotyping to dictate your view of self-harm. I am not advocating this practice in any way, shape, or form. I do, however, have genuine empathy for those who struggle with it. Now, I am asking you to approach this topic with at least sympathy rather than judgment.
I have not cut in two weeks. This is not my longest period of being clean – I had two years under my belt until recently – but I am going to be proud nonetheless. I am healing, slowly but surely. Just a few nights ago, I had perhaps the worst nightmare I have ever encountered. It embodied both traumas and my greatest fears in one terrible minute. In the past, this would have been cause enough for me to cut. This time, I crawled into bed with a roommate and just held on until the panic passed.
If you are struggling with self-harm, know that you are not alone. I have several close friends that are also trying to break the habit. We all have our reasons for it. Whatever yours is, I hope that you can begin to look beyond it. Hurting yourself is not the answer, though it may seem so in the moment. Every time I put the razor down, the aftermath is almost worse than the episode. I feel so stupid when I’m sitting there bleeding with no hand to blame but my own.
During my most recent relapse, Kate told me that I needed to find another way. She was right, and she had every right to call me out on it because her arms bear the same scars. So, coming from a place of genuine empathy, I am telling you that you need to find another way.
Hold onto your anchor, whatever that may be. If you feel like you can’t stop yourself, call someone – call 911 if you have to. Just know that harming yourself is not the answer to any problem. You are better than that, even if your circumstances would tell you otherwise.
I am better than the scars, and so are you. I promise.