Today I’m tackling the issue of self harm. I went through a period of self harming that had something to do with being given the wrong medication, something to do with a feeling I needed to externalize my illness to see it legitamized and a long-standing Mexican stand-off with the idea of self harming in order to cope with what goes on inside of me.
I’d toyed with the idea of self harm in my teens. I had a kit in the back of my wardrobe I would go back to every now and then and think about using it. In the end, because I’m a deeply logical person, I was dissuaded by a documentary on a woman whose self harm escalated massively. Seeing her external damage stopped me in my tracks.
I realised then that self harm would only keep working if you did worse, more dangerous harm to yourself. I felt the potential for severe escalation in myself that I saw in that woman and I saw the potential too for someday being better and having to live with that damage on my outside forever, despite managing to learn to live with the damage on the inside.
I lost my fight with the urge to self harm in my late twenties, when life went a little crazy bad and my bipolar decided to rear its head in a similar way to my teens, unmooring me from the fragile connection I had with reality and control (just one toe on the ground, barely holding me down). I knew then that I needed help and tried to seek it but was told I didn’t *look* ill.
I was told that because I wasn’t self harming my problem wasn’t legitimate enough for help. So I harmed myself to get help and the help given to me was Prozac, which is not something a person with bipolar should take. Prozac led to a drug-induced mania that left me cutting constantly. I wore arm warmers that became sticky and thick with blood. My arms burnt, they felt heavy, I only felt alive when I was hurting. Kind of a darker period in an already gloomy life patch there.
That need to self harm ended, thankfully, when I came off prozac. It gradually faded and then disappeared. I’ve been tempted since, but I’ve never tried again. All I have to do is look at my arms, and it gives me reason to dump the volition.
I’m in a similar position to that woman in the documentary now, albeit less severe. I may have finally begun to recover, but I will always carry my damage on the outside. It will always be there reminding me of the broken person I was, the person I desperately did not want to be. I’m not happy about that. I’m not ashamed of it, but I am not happy with it.
I would prefer not to be reminded of how bad things were every time I look at my arms. I would prefer not to worry how people will judge me when they see my scars. There is, after all, no mistaking what they are. I am not my scars. I am not my damage. I am DESPITE them. But I wish neither were there.
Self harm is not an answer. It is not a healthy coping mechanism. It can escalate to levels so dangerous that suicide becomes accidental. Can you imagine that? You only meant to cut out the pain, but you cut your life off instead because it no longer works to cut shallow and you forget how very fragile the body is. Remember that self harm escalates. And it escalates because it is not a cure for the pain, it is not truly helping you cope, it is only replacing one hurt temporarily with another.
If you are thinking of self harming, or are already in a pattern of self harm, please seek help. I’ll link as many organisations as I can find below.