I have alluded to this many times in the course of this blog (in fact, I’ve probably outright stated it before), but I used to self-harm. For the peace of mind of Mrs. Satis, who sometimes reads these posts, I should state that I haven’t lifted a blade to hurt myself in over ten years; in fact, I stopped around when we met, and partly because of her. But there was a time in my life when cutting my skin was an enormous part of my identity, and I of course bear the scars (both physical and emotional) to this day.
I’m not ‘better’, and I doubt I ever will be.
There’s a wide range of reasons why people hurt themselves, and just as wide a variety of methods. From cutting to burning to starving oneself (Princess Diana once said she used to throw herself down stairs), self-harm can often be an outward reflection of the emotional pain someone is enduring every day. It’s often associated with suicide ideation, but I don’t think that’s quite fair; the people who hurt themselves (myself included) might often dream of and think of ending their lives, but the harm itself is born out of a burning desire not to die, but to feel alive. Although it might not look (or feel) like it, self-harm is usually topical and superficial, leaving little lasting harm. My deepest scars are not on my wrists; they’re on my upper arm, a fleshy place that was easy to cut deep without doing serious damage.
A lot of folk want to believe that self-harm is about the pain; certainly, hurting oneself intrinsically comes at the cost of real pain, and it can’t be ignored. Perhaps for some people, it is; they say the endorphins released with physical pain can induce a kind of euphoria. This was never the case for me, though—I hated the pain. Most of the time I could only bring myself to perform light, superficial grazes to my skin. No, the pain was not it: for me, it was the sight of blood. There was such an enormous release in watching the blood pool, drip and run. It was visceral, and entirely visual.
I’ve changed as I’ve grown older, and so has the mental imbalance that led to my self-harm in the first place. I’m not ‘better’, and I doubt I ever will be. These days my release comes not from seeing blood, but by shutting down my senses, my thoughts and my cares. It’s a purely mental escape, one that leaves me perpetually tired and lackluster. It’s still self-destructive; it comes at the cost of my family life and my ability to work. But it’s no longer physically directed toward my body.
My own son is rapidly growing, and he’ll soon be approaching the age I was when I first became depressed, and started hurting myself. I’m ill-prepared for it; I’ve been passive as a father for his whole life, and while I engage with him as much as I can—and at the moment he still trusts to confide in me—I don’t know what to do if he turns out like me. I don’t have advice to offer; I don’t have guidance to give. I’ve weathered the storm, and it left me scarred and deformed, a shell of a man.
All I know is that self-harm is not the end of the world, or even the end of life. For those of you who have done it, you know this. For those of you who still do it, be careful, of course; I know you probably don’t mean to do yourself serious injury, but accidents can happen. And for those of you who live daily with a self-harmer, it must be hard; try to understand, it isn’t the outward scars that need healing or tending to, it’s the internal turmoil.
- helpguide.org: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/cutting-and-self-harm.htm
- WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/cutting-self-harm-signs-treatment
- selfinjury.com: http://www.selfinjury.com
- Suicide Prevention Lifelife: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Featured image from http://letmelearnya.com/immortalize-your-razor/.