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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