Understanding Self-Harm for both sufferers and those who know a sufferer.
[For context, read my about page first. This entry turned into a bit of an article about an important topic. Skip to the disclaimer if you want to jump over my mental mess.]
OKAY… Boy, I have no bloody idea what to make for my first entry. I’ve never kept a journal in my life and my first one is the opposite of private. So yeah, it’s freakin’ confusing… I’m just going to talk freely here and say to hell with making a properly written post. Who would do that in a journal or diary anyway? Though, I probably should try to make these things somewhat organized instead of random mess in my head. Maybe I’ll add a header that gives a heads up to the contents below… No idea… ANYWAY, let’s start off with a few basics…
What the hell would the basics be…? Screw it… Let’s start with the current topic on my mind. Now, I’m no longer a gamer yet I do enjoy watching a few youtube videos from gamers. The two current games, I believe, that are rather popular are “Life is Strange: Before the Storm” and “Doki Doki Literature Club”. A youtuber by the name of “jacksepticeye” has already finished up those two games but some topics they touched on felt like they were glossed over. A lack of understanding and experience with these topics does tend to do that, so I kind of want to inform people about these things. The second game especially as it touched on self-harm. Maybe I should put a “trigger warning” here now…
Trigger alert for anyone who may be suffering from self-harming tendencies… Below may contain some things that might be hard to read.
Okay, what I’m going to say from here is purely my own personal experiences and what little I have learned from a few others. If I’m way off here or there, it’s because the experiences that you or someone you know has been different from mine. But, if you wish to inform me, the please send me an email or comment or whatever, as understanding about such a complicated topic is important.
First let’s get rid of a few misconceptions. What is self-harm? Take a moment and think about that… So many people, possibly you as well, think that all it is is some self-destructive behavior that is a cry for help and attention. Though, this may be true for a few cases, it’s not the case for many others and it certainly wasn’t the case for me.
The second thing that probably pops into your head, or first, would probably be a person of around the age of 13 with cuts and scars all over their arms. Again, true that a lot start around that age as it is a very difficult time for most people. So much stuff is going on inside one’s head with the sudden imbalance of hormones, but not all self-harmers are that young. Some could be full grown adults with families to take care of. So age isn’t really a factor in the bigger picture. Now the cutting part is also not fully true, surprise! There’s a reason why it’s called “self-harm”. Any harm inflicted to oneself for a specific purpose is self-harm. So it can be as mild as digging your fingers into your own skin without ever leaving a lasting mark, to wounds that could even require stitches. Luckily, I was on the mild side of things, but I’ll get to that part in a moment.
The final thing is the concept that the self-harm itself is the main issue. Believe it or not, that is not the case. (Again, there are exceptions) Self-harm is only a symptom, or in cases like mine, a treatment. I know that sounds freakin’ weird to say that it’s a treatment, but it is true for a lot of people. Now, here’s where I tell you my story, briefly. I am a victim of emotional and verbal abuse by two lovely parents, who should sit on the world’s largest broom handles, without lubrication. That may sound harsh, but when one grows up to be nearly in their 30s and are being verbally beaten into the ground, treated as a worthless piece of flesh whose only existence is to serve them, then one doesn’t develop much love for their parents.
One moment… This is harder to do than I expected… It sounds like a good idea to talk about at first until the anxiety sets in. My emotions have been broken (or frozen depending on perspective) for nearly my entire life, so things feel differently to me. Right now, I’m starting to have a bit of an anxiety attack, but my mind is fine. It’s the body that gets all the physical symptoms of the attack and it causes a bit of a sense of dread. No, not Judge Dread… Okay, my humor sucks… moving on… My emotions and my memories are very broken, and though I’ve recovered most of my emotions, if not all, I have yet to recover my memories. To me, my past as been picked at by an invisible hand that has chosen which memories I should keep, and which I should not have. And I barely have any… That being said, the emotional part is our focus here.
My form of self-harm manifested as simply digging my fingernails into my palms as hard as I possibly could until the pain took what I didn’t want to feel away. The first time I tried it was probably by accident. An instinctive response to something that caused me great pain, only to find out that physical pain took that pain away. The pain I didn’t want to feel was the pain in my heart. I’ve felt abandoned and unloved and completely worthless for a huge part of my life, so I built up quite a bit of pain in such a small organ. So if anything at all triggered that pain to surface, I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t handle even a few seconds of it. If my eyes started to tear up as the muscles in my face begin to tremble, I dug into my hands. It worked… The pain in my heart was gone and replaced with only a temporary pain that I had absolutely no problem to deal with. Physical pain is a lot easier to tough out than emotional pain. And thus, my ability to cry was permanently broken. A few years ago I felt the worst pain I could imagine and I couldn’t contain it. I tried to cry but I quickly discovered that it was useless. So I have a pretty good reason to suspect that it is indeed, broken.
Now, I was able to recover from my self-harm and learn to try and feel my emotions instead of blocking them. Though pain of the heart is still very difficult for me to feel properly, I no longer hurt myself to suppress it. However, the desire to do so is still there. It’ll probably never fully go away. I’m just glad that those days I did have a blade to my skin, I never went through with it.
The point is though, self-harmers usually tend to hurt themselves for a big reason. I knew one person who did it out of a fear of their own wrath. They didn’t want to be filled with so much hatred and fury that they’d snap and hurt someone. This person did use blades. Another person stabbed needles through their flesh, while another bit at theirs. Self-harm can take many forms, but it’s only a result of something much bigger to the sufferer. A pain or fear or any other feeling that they do not want to feel under any circumstances. A lot of people suffer without hurting themselves, but the ones who do probably discover it by complete accident. A small urge that once indulged becomes the perfect treatment to rid themselves of what they don’t want.
Now, I am also aware that there are those who hurt themselves out of hatred or disgust of themselves too. Carving up their arms, legs, and stomach as a result of this hate. I’m not familiar with it enough to talk about that part of self-harm, even though grew up being absolutely disgusted with my own face. I couldn’t stand to even look at myself and destroyed as many pictures of myself as I could. It happens when you resemble your abusers.
So, to wrap this up, I want to address two things. To those who do hurt themselves, I know it’s very hard and it’s scary but I’m sure you know that the pain you cause yourself isn’t really helping. All it does is like trying to use a bandaid to keep back the raging waters behind a dam. One bandaid won’t be enough and you’ll keep adding more and more, but they’ll never be enough. The only advice I have is to try to calm those waters. Feel them and let them go instead of holding them in. If you don’t have anyone to talk to and tell how you feel safely, then be there for yourself. If you feel unloved, then love yourself. If you feel alone, then be there for yourself. You are an amazing person and capable of so much, but you are also the only one holding yourself back. So instead of standing in your own way, give yourself that long, tight hug that you deserve. Be the person for yourself that no one else is being. They’re missing out on who you are, so don’t miss out on that too. Even if you think there’s nothing to you at all, trust me, there’s a lot more than you realize. I thought I was nothing and empty for years, but I realized that I was wrong. And I’m more than sure you can realize this too. I believe in you and I’m sending you my love.
Now, for those who don’t self-harm, you can do something to help, but you have to commit. Don’t take a position by someone’s side if you are not willing to hold that position through the storm. Metaphorically speaking, they’re standing outside in the worst storm you can imagine, alone. And sure, you can yell at them to get their butts inside, but it doesn’t help. So instead, grab your umbrella and go out there with them. Show them that you’re there to provide your love and support and understanding when they need it. Try not to jump in and be the hero that saves the day. It’s not that simple. Every self-harmer has a different story and different needs. Listen and try to understand why they do what they do. Try not to focus on the symptoms when the cause is more important. Heal the cause and the symptoms will no longer be needed. It’ll take time, but all healing takes time.
Now, for the both of you, I discovered this video some time ago. It’ll help with the symptoms… Well, turns out the video that I think explained it perfectly was removed. But the process seems to be growing a bit. Look up “The Butterfly Project” on youtube for lots of videos.
Okay, my first entry turned out to be a loooooong article, but hopefully if anyone reads it, they’ll gain a better understanding or help in the path to recovery.