Authors note: If you are a person who just believes that self-harming is an attention seeking behavior, you have two choices. One, skip this post. Two, read it and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two.
Authors note 2: If reading about self-harm may trigger you, I ask that you read this with caution, or not at all. If reading, please have the crises hotline available: 1-800-273-8255
When the psychology experts started to realize the meaning behind self-harm, and the damage it causes not only hurts the victim, but everyone around them, they started speaking out about it. At first, there were a few terrible books out there, focusing on teenage self-harm and the signs parents needed to know. And, how to stop the behavior.
This was when society started associating self-harm only to teenagers in high school. And the belief that it was a phase that would end once they started growing up and learning about the consequences. This is also when the whole “attention” movement was favored. Apparently, everyone thought that those teenagers showed their scars with pride. No one really understood what was really going on.
Self-harm can be done by anyone and at any age. Most who do, don’t “show their scars with pride,” they hide them. They don’t let anyone know. They make sure that they’d be able to wear a t-shirt and jeans without anyone knowing. And, of course, a good portion of people self-harmed in every place… since it was so taboo, they wore long sleeves all year round.
I started self-harming when I was 20. I was on Prozac for my “Depression” and it had been 7 months since I started taking it. Then I lost control. The horrible noise and racing thoughts plagued me every day. I would hide at work, or try to, since I was basically the top-ranking administrative assistant and I worked at the front desk… and I had to answer the phone. I would literally sit there and do nothing, letting everything that was happening in my head just be. When I got assignments, it took me ages to complete them. And when I had to answer the phone, I had to give myself a pep-talk and try to find a silent place. It was very difficult.
Then, came the day I started to self-harm. I was in my room, sitting at my computer, trying to zone out. Somehow, I ended up reading a fanfic where the main character self-harmed… because it was the only way he could get relief from the pain he was suffering because of all the noise in his head. I got re-dressed, grabbed my keys and wallet, went to the drugstore and bought my first razors.
It was fall, so I didn’t need to worry much about hiding at that point. I did wear a whole lot of hoodies, though. And… I did tell one person. Just one. My little sister. She was 12. Telling her is one thing I will always regret. She had (unbeknownst to be) been seeing a psychiatrist for the last two months. She put away all her feelings to help me. And the few times I cut too deep, she stopped what she was doing and raced downstairs to me. I feel like I took part of her childhood away.
The day I told my therapist I was self-harming and showed her all my scars, she asked how many years had I been doing this. When I told her it was a few months, she was surprised. I apparently was doing it so often that she thought it was for years. I often ponder what it would have been like if I had been doing it for years. I don’t like my answer.
Nowadays, it is widely talked about, and people are starting to understand it. There are basically two groups of people: the ones who have/do self-harm, and the ones who have never done it. The only time the line blurs, is when a non self-harm person wonders if self-harm would have took away some of their pain. Otherwise it a big, permanent line. Those of us who have experienced self-harm understand it very well. Those who have not either understand it a bit, or they can’t wrap their head around it.
Self-harm carries it’s own stigma, in addition to adding the the general mental health one. But people are getting more comfortable. Older people… out of high school.. most after college, tend to wear their “battle scars” because they can’t live a life where they have to hide it every day. I call them warriors. I, myself, covered most of them on my upper arms with tattoos. There are a few that show, though, but when I wore my first tank-top in years, I almost cried with relief.
There are so many things that you can look for if you suspect someone is self-harming, but everything other than wearing long sleeves in the summer is also a symptom of various mental illnesses.
Just talk. Let people know that you’re there, whenever they want to talk about anything.