SELF-INJURY IS NOT A JOKE

Many do not understand self-injury. It’s hard to comprehend why a person would intentionally hurt him or herself. It just seems illogical, and some think it’s a joke or just a way to get attention, but it’s not. It is very serious. It’s a silent cry for help, a way to ease pain and for some, a way just to feel something. Self-injury in any form should not be taken lightly and should not become a source for jokes, teasing, or gossip.

funny-clipart-4

When I was very sick and injuring my mom found a therapist for me in a nearby town. At first the appointments centered on my depression and an unhealthy friendship I was in, but when I confided in her about my self-injuring, things got rocky. She asked me questions about my injuring and I answered them.

During one of our appointments, my therapist sat across from me and looked into my eyes. “Could you be harming yourself to hurt others? Like your friend?”

bigstock-therapist-comforting-a-patient-45837694_0

I was speechless. My mind whirled. At that time I wasn’t even sure why I was injuring. I just knew I was hurting badly inside and it was the only thing that relieved the pain. I started asking myself questions. Am I trying to hurt my friend for hurting me? Am I trying to hurt my family? Was I that kind of person who would hurt people on purpose? Was I that mean?

I didn’t answer her. Tears threatened to fall, but I fought to hold them back.

She continued on. “Sometimes people feel helpless and lash out in different ways to hurt those they care about. Your friendship is troublesome and maybe the only way you can get back at her is by harming yourself.”

aid3825713-v4-728px-get-rid-of-self-harm-scars-step-1-version-3

My mom picked me up from therapy and I cried all the way home. That’s when my mother decided to find me a new therapist. She called a hospital to find me better help.

Mom rubbed my back and told me, “If you were doing this to hurt us, you wouldn’t have hid it for so long and it wouldn’t have taken you all this time to tell us about it. There is a reason for it and we’ll find out what it is.”

what-self-injury-healthyplace

When I found a new therapist, I learned that my self-injuring was an unhealthy coping technique I used to release the intense pain inside me. The pain of hurting myself physically took away from the hurt within me for just a little while. She said I was crying out for help without even knowing it.

Years later I went to dinner at a co-worker’s house. She had invited a few other co-workers. We went outside for some of them to smoke and talk. One of them started telling me that a fellow employee self-injured. They laughed about it like it was a joke.

800px_colourbox7520367

One of the women took a puff of her cigarette. “She does it for attention. When I was in school I knew of a girl who hurt herself just so people would pay attention to her. It’s all a joke. Like doing something that dumb is going to make us care anymore.”

I was angry, but calmly explained to them what self-injury was and that it was not a joke. I even told them I had once harmed myself.

Another girl spoke up. “I understand you have a reason, but I had a friend show me her cuts like it was no big deal.”

I looked at her. “She was asking you for help. Self-injurers hurt themselves in private and try hard to hide their wounds. If they become brave enough to tell or show them, then he or she is crying out for help. He or she doesn’t know how to ask any other way. Self-injuring is not a joke.”

self-injury-bandage-feature_1320w_jr-1

They all went silent.

Later I talked to the girl from work who injured. I told her how I struggled with it for many years and how I worked hard to stop. She confided in me about how depressed she was and the problems she faced within her life. Like me, she turned to self-injury to cope with the pain within her. I encouraged her to seek help.

Self-injury is not a joke; it’s not a way to hurt others or a way to get attention. It is serious. It is an unhealthy coping technique for either a deep inner pain or for the inability to feel anything. It becomes an addiction and the person can’t stop without help and support. If someone is showing you what he or she has done to him or herself, then that person is asking for help the only way he or she knows how. If you know someone who is harming him or herself, don’t brush it off. Encourage the person to get help and to tell someone they trust who can help him or her find the right therapist.

38_self_injury_self_harm_quotes

It took me time to tell my mom about my self-injuring, but because I did, I got help. I also confided in a friend who helped me to set a goal to stop injuring, and when I reached it we celebrated. Now I have gone 17 years without hurting myself. Because I asked for help, was taken seriously and worked hard I am standing in the light injury free.

 

NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES TO SELF-INJURY

 

   When you’re self-injuring, you have a lot of reasons why you do it. You try to make it, to yourself, sound like a good way to cope, when in fact it’s not. You’re too caught up in your own inner pain and emotional turmoil to see how bad for you injuring is. All you think about is that high and those few moments of relief.

   In my process of reaching for recovery from self-injuring, I came up with reasons why it was bad for me. I needed to see the negative side to injuring. Below is my list of Reasons to NOT Self-injure.

  • After injuring there are feelings of self-hate, anger, and guilt. Once the high is over, I was flooded with bad feelings. I had tried to relive my pain, but only caused more.

  • You become stuck in a circle of lying. I found myself continuously lying to friends and family about why I was wearing long sleeve shirts. When they happened to see my injuries, I lied about how I received them. I once told my mom I got caught in thorn bushes. By lying, I was losing trust in myself and I was betraying the trust of my family and friends.

  • You isolate yourself from friends and family. By running off to my private spot to injure, I was isolating myself. I was spending a lot of time alone when I could have been with the people who cared about me the most.

  • You Keep a secret. I carried a heavy load on my soul by keeping my inner pain a secret and by hiding what I was doing to myself. I became paranoid that others would find out about my self-injuring and that led to more lying. By keeping a secret, my anguish ate at my insides and only drove me down deeper into my dark hole.

  • Injuring is only short term relief. Ripping at my skin gave me relief, but only briefly. Once my high was over, I was back inside my internal hell, and now I had new bad feelings to add to my overload of emotions. Injuring could not permanently fix my mental agony; it only added to it.

  • Injuring is a form of self-abuse. Even though I used injuring as a coping technique, in all reality I was abusing myself. It’s just like when my friend and ex-boyfriend abused me. I was hurting myself and in time I realized I didn’t deserve it. I was doing the same things an abused person does, I was lying, keeping a secret and hiding my injuries. I owed myself a lot more respect and kindness then I was giving myself.

  • You have scars and injuries. I never cut deep enough to scar myself, but for those who do, scars are with you forever and a constant reminder of what you did to yourself. For me, my wounds were reminders of my bad coping techniques. I looked at my injuries and wondered what I was thinking. They reminded me of my inability to handle the pain inside me and the regret I felt after each time I injured.

   If these are not good enough reasons to make you want to stop self-injury, then come up with a list of your own. Don’t think about how you feel when you injure, but how you feel afterwards. Look at what you’re doing to yourself and ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” Are a few minutes of relief worth the feelings you have afterwards? Don’t you deserve better? Don’t you owe it to yourself to find better coping techniques? Take that step toward stopping self-injuring by getting help and exploring new ways to deal with your illness.

  I took the step I needed to stop self-injuring. I found healthy ways to cope with my illness and now I stand tall within the light.

THE SHAME OF SELF-INJURING

 

   At one point or another we feel shame for some stupid thing we did or said. Shame is a natural human feeling, but it’s an awful feeling that makes us want to hide from the world. Self-injury brings on feelings of shame. These feelings are sometimes due to the stigma attached to self-injury. They are also brought on by past trauma. We sometimes think the abuse we suffered in the past was our own fault and the injuring is, in a way, a punishment we believe we deserve. Our own wounds and scars produce feelings of shame for what we have done to ourselves and shame from questions from curious observers.

   When I self-injured, I would rip into my skin, and once the high was gone, I was left with a wound. How would I explain my injury to others? People always ask questions when they see a cut, a bandage, or some kind of injury. I couldn’t just tell them I did it to myself. They would judge me. They would think I was crazy or even dangerous.

   I was judged throughout my childhood. Not too many understood what a learning disability was. I was marked as a retard who would never amount to anything. I struggled with the labels and stigma that were attached to my disability throughout grade school and into high school. I didn’t want to face judgment again as a young adult, this time related to my self-injury. I had worked hard to rise above the prejudice I faced in school and I didn’t want to fight a similar battle again.

   When I injured, I wore long sleeves to hide my injuries, or I cut in places where I could cover them up easily. I never cut myself deep enough to cause scars. Scars raised too many questions that I did not want to answer or lie about. I also didn’t want the constant reminder of my own stupidity. The shame of my wounds was hard enough to deal with.

   After every time I hurt myself, anguish, guilt, and shame tore at my insides. My thoughts raced as my stomach twisted. What if my mom walks in while I’m in the shower or changing shirts? What would she say? What would she think? What if a friend noticed a bandage peeking out from under my shirt? What excuse could I give him or her? I couldn’t let them see what I had done. Would my self-injuring prove I was a loser? I couldn’t be judged again. I wouldn’t allow myself to face my school years all over again.

   I hated myself for injuring, but I didn’t know any other way to deal with my internal pain. With each cut came shame, secrets, and lies. One day my mom saw cuts on my arm. I lied to her and told her I had fallen into some thorn bushes. I was too ashamed to tell her, “I did it to myself because I hurt so bad inside and I need help.” If I would have stood above my shame and told the truth, my mother could have found me help sooner.

   By educating people about self-injury through our own stories, we are taking the steps to reduce the stigma surrounding self-injury. With less stigma, maybe injurers will be more comfortable telling others what they are doing and that they need help.

  Don’t let shame keep you from getting the help you need to stop hurting yourself. Find a therapist, a good friend, or a family member to confide in. When I finally turned to my mother and told her what I was doing, she went out of her way to find me a therapist who could help me. She never judged me the way I feared she would. Instead, she embraced me with love.

   Facing my shame and reaching out for help is what led me to the light and allows me to dance within the light.

  I found my information about shame from self-injury in the book, The Scarred Soul: Understanding and Ending Self-inflicted Violence By Tracy Alderman, Ph.D.