Many people pull a face or shudder at the thought of self-harm but why?
Do you actually know what self-harm is? Here, I’ll tell you…
Self-harm is when you deliberately hurt yourself to cope with unwanted feelings or emotions, painful memories or overwhelming situations and it is a form of control.
People self-harm for various reasons and it is very subjective. One person’s self-harm is not the same as another person’s self-harm.
Firstly, here are some lovely stereotypical stigmatised comments that a self harmer may experience:
- “You’re an attention seeker”
- ” Go slit your wrists”
- “What an emo”
- “They obviously want to kill themselves”
These are first hand comments I have received. In fact, they are a little tamer than the real comments.
People who make comments like these are not necessarily horrible people, they are just uneducated around mental health and why someone may deliberately self-harm themselves.
Did you know that self-harm is not simply “slitting your wrists”…
You can self-harm in various ways including:
- cutting yourself
- burning yourself
- poisoning yourself
- biting yourself
- picking or scratching at your skin
- inserting objects into your body
- hitting walls
- hitting yourself
- excessive exercise
- pulling your hair
- getting into deliberate fights
- taking drugs excessively
- drinking excessively
Ever done one of these when you were angry/upset/mad? Are you now going to label yourself as a self-harmer? Didn’t think so.
Many people self-harm for a tonne of reasons.
The reasons behind self-harm could be to:
- express themselves when it is too hard to put into words
- turn emotional pain into physical pain
- feel in control
- escape traumatic events/memories
- punish yourself
- actually feel something because you are numb
- stop feeling overwhelmed with emotions
- quickly fix your problems
- express suicidal feelings without actively being suicidal
Personally, it was a way for me to deal with my emotions. I would try and be strong for everyone around me and I would end up getting lost in dark thoughts and the only way to free myself would be to self-harm. It was a way of physically dealing with my emotions. Sometimes, it was a form of punishment. Sometimes, I needed it to feel alive again. It made me feel in control but then, it became an addiction.
I lived with self-harm for such a long time and it scares me to say that sometimes, I miss it.
I try to explain to people that like when you are stressed and have a cigarette or a drink, I would self-harm. When you have done something repeatedly for so long, it becomes comfortable. Self-harm doesn’t make you a bad person and it doesn’t make you weak. It is a coping mechanism. It shows that you want to keep fighting and you’re looking for a way to feel better. IT DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT YOU WANT TO END YOUR LIFE.
Also, a true “self-harmer” does not walk around showing off their cuts, burns, injuries to the world. Self-harming is personal. If someone shows off their injuries, it is normally for attention.
You need to ask yourself why is this person craving attention before you stand there abusing them. Clearly, something in their life is lacking and maybe they just want to be noticed. Maybe, the only attention they have even received is negative attention.
It doesn’t matter why someone self-harms, whether they confide in you or you just notice it, approach them with a kind heart and ask them if they are okay. Maybe just hug them. Tell them you are there.
But remember, they are stronger than you think because they are still fighting. So support them in their fight. Don’t criticise their coping mechanisms. Just advice healthier and more positive ones. Show them better options.
I remember a counsellor telling me to self harm safely. Use clean instruments. Clean the wounds. Look after it.
When someone understands you are in pain and doesn’t criticise you for your actions, you already feel like you want to get better. It is encouraging to know you are not insane.
If you tell someone what they are doing is wrong, they will feel even worse and will continue to use negative coping mechanisms.
Support is the way forward and I am so grateful for everyone who has supported me on my journey. Believe me, I remember every single person who has helped me.
But don’t forget, along with remembering all the good people and the support received, someone struggling with their mental health with remember every negative judgement or comment that has been made to them.
After battling with self-harm since I was 12 years old, I finally feel in control. You can beat it. You may miss it. You will probably think about it every day of your life but there is life beyond self-harm. I promise!
Below are some helplines if you want to talk or want some information about self-harm: