The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain. –Lord Byron
Self harm is brutal. It is disturbing.. it is a way to feel. A way to bring sensation into the body, to fill a void. Thus the reason for the above quote. But most of all, self harm is misunderstood. Self harm is something that I have battled with for over half my life. Ever since I can remember I have found little ways, or big, to feel something in my body. Ways such as cutting my self, scratching myself, banging my head, running into things, purposefully tripping, biting, pulling my hair, etc. It has not all been done at a conscious level but is always done in times of distress and overwhelm. My body is like an empty cavern… or so it seems. But inside that empty cavern lies buckets of emotion… emotions that are void to my knowledge. Locked up. It is when I inflict injury upon myself that I am finally able to feel a smidgen of that emotions…in a painful, yet satisfying, sensation. However, I do not self harm because I like it. I do not like it one bit. I self harm because, like a drug, it is addicting. Instead of washing all of my emotions and memory away with drugs, I allow myself to finally feel something. I allow that void to fill, just a little. Many parents freak out when they find out their child has been self injuring. They do not know what to do and enter a state of fear. I know this because every person, besides my real mom, I have ever lived with has done so. Not understanding the reasons behind self harm causes people to jump to conclusions like suicide or manipulation. People who don’t understand self harm sometimes believe that those who self harm are “martyrs”, self loather’s, selfish, ill, attention seeking, and often believe that said individuals need major psychological intervention. In my opinion, this is not the case. Most of us don’t need to be sent to a shrink to discuss our habits… instead, we need someone to love us through it. Someone who is willing to truly listen and understand. I have scars all over my body. My forearms are completely destroyed. My thighs, unbearable. My stomach… well lets just say I will most likely never wear a bikini again. I hate it. I don’t like seeing my body completely mutilated… however, when I look at the scars I can tell myself that, somewhere, deep inside my body, there is something–there IS feeling. I recently participated in one or more of my injurious behaviors. I am not proud…in fact, I am very disappointed in myself that I have not been able to find a more useful, safe, method to find sensation and emotion. Imagine, for one moment, that your entire body is numb. You have lost feeling, completely, thus the feeling of paralysis starts to sink in. You don’t know what to do and you are starting to get frustrated because you want that sensation back–you want to feel your body again. What would you do? Now imagine that you have finally found a solution, though not the most appropriate, that for a short time will allow you to have bodily sensation again. Would you take it? I believe that most self injures inflict pain on themselves, not for attention, but to finally feel something or release an abundance of trapped emotions. For me, it is helpful to have someone who is willing to listen without passing judgement, someone who understands and someone who will love me through all my injurious behaviors. I once had someone who, instead of freaking out, asked me if she could be with me the next time I felt the urge to self harm. This individual gag’s at the sight of blood and gets creeped out by the smallest injury… but she asked. And for that, I was grateful. Not only did she ask if she could sit with me, but also asked if I could help her to understand. Instead of freaking out and telling me that I needed psychiatric help she asked what she could do to help. This is why I am writing this post… because for those of you out there who are reading this and do know someone who self harms, I wanted to give you some insight as to the reasoning behind it. Also because I want to challenge you to do the same for them that I had done for me. I have given you a small piece of this challenge already in doing my best to help you understand self harm, from the perspective of someone who has/does live it. Now it is my hope that you will take it upon yourself to 1) do your best to not judge someone who self harms 2) take it upon yourself to understand the individual–from their side, not yours. 3) listen–truly listen–to the individual. and 4) Love them, no matter what, unconditionally. Of course there are extremes to self-harm in which psychiatric help is necessary, but it is not needed for everyone. In fact, in my opinion, it is not needed for a lot of us. A lot of us are just trying to feel again. And it is much easier to feel again when you are not having someone freak out about the methods in which you help yourself feel.
I have scars all over my arms that were not there in 1993, which means some sadness came alive as my body did, and I, mute, etched it into my skin. ~ditto