On Self-Harm

I’ve avoided this topic for some time, both because it is especially personal and because I fear someone seeing this an acceptable behavior to try. It is not. Regardless, though self-injury is a thing of my past, my body is a walking testament to the consequences of engaging in this misguided coping mechanism.

Self-harm entered my life during a particularly low and difficult period of young adulthood. Struggling to find my way in the world, I stumbled upon “cutting” quite by accident. To this day I do not know why choosing this course of (in)action even crossed my mind. Once it had, however, self-harm become a bit of an obsession and a mode of dealing with all the painful emotions which bubbled underneath the surface of my psyche.

I’d like to bring some understanding to the reasons why some of us engage(d) in self-harm, though I recognize that everyone’s experiences are different. I can speak only for myself.

Consider a dull headache, then consider a horrific migraine. One hurts more than the other, yes? For me, self-harm was the dull headache. The pain was unpleasant but in no ways comparable to the pain of my depression. And for a few brief moments, hurting myself physically distracted from the strange, frightening firings of my brain. Self-harm was my way to attempt to stay grounded in a world that had lost all meaning and tangibility.

Unfortunately, I was also becoming trapped in a dangerous cycle. Self-injury, in whatever form, tends to induce guilt which furthers negative feelings about oneself, in turn leading to a renewed desire to self-injure. And on and on, the cycle continues. In this way, self-injury is very much a drug and an addiction: the need, the obsession, the craving, the endorphin rush, the crash and the increasing need for more and more in order to achieve the desired level of high.

My recovery from this form of self-harm was long and filled with slips and lapses. Initially, I would go jogging, journal, make collages with magazine clippings, jot poorly-written poetry, anything to keep my hands busy and my mind on task. Eventually, self-harm just didn’t “work” for me the way it had previously. And while I used to hide year-round in long-sleeves, I reached a point of self-acceptance and, in a sense, self-appreciation, which gave me the strength to show the real me.

We all have a past. Mine just happens to be written on my skin.

Looking for more information on self-harm? Go here.

 

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And the Beat Goes On

For as long as I can remember, I have found solace in music. Whether I was throwing myself into piano practice or blasting industrial “noise” as loudly as my eardrums could tolerate, I longed for the sweetness of rhythm and melody, the objectivity of notes and measures and time signatures. Even my first tattoo is a visualization of this feeling–a woman floating, peaceful and untethered, held aloft by nothing more than the gentle pulse of song.

Most recently I’ve had the pleasure of beginning to learn some basic drum skills. (A thanks goes out to my patient and ever-encouraging teacher…you know who you are.) I’d never imagined the drum set an easy instrument to master, though I have to admit I was unaware just how brain-splitting the entire process is! And I’ve not even managed to move beyond the basics (bass, snare, hihat)! Regardless, I am enjoying myself immensely and, given the absence of a set to regularly practice on, find myself occasionally air-drumming in the manner of some beat-obsessed lunatic.

Each time I sit down to play I first must overcome the introvert within, who screams in fear of making a giant ruckus. Once I begin, however, I find that the opposition to making noise lessens to the point of extinction, and I am able to find pleasure in my self-created cacophony.

I suppose the lesson in this, my friends, is: Try something new. Make some noise! Let your spirit run a little wild and to hell with the opposition.