Self-Harm: I Don’t Want to Recover

It isn’t fair. Everyone has an addiction, everyone has something that they use to take the pain away. Just because I wear the evidence of my (self-harm) addiction on my skin, I cannot be allowed to continue?

The doctors and nurses at the hospital say themselves that it’s “just a scratch”. The psychiatrists say it “isn’t serious”. If my cuts are “just scratches”, why does it matter if I continue to cut myself? If the problem “isn’t serious”, why am I baker acted when someone discovers the marks?

I do not encourage or support self-harm, but I DO believe that I should be allowed to express myself in the way I see fit. Please stop overreacting to a "problem" that isn't like society thinks it is.

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury

Non-suicidal self-injury does exist. There are people who cut (or otherwise injure) themselves and do not have a suicidal intent. Personally, I stopped cutting over a year ago – but I still want to cut. I only stopped because my now-husband put his foot down (so to speak). Even though I want to cut, I do not want to die. I have no plan to commit suicide, no intention of committing suicide. I simply wish to express the inner turmoil consuming me on my skin.

Why is this an issue?

People are addicted to drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex, the list goes on. Some people are addicted to tattoos, but their self-expression is more acceptable than mine? You can see both on our skin. Drugs and alcohol can harm you from the inside out. Shopping too much can be devastating on mental health (debt, anyone?), and having too much sex garners you a unfavorable impression with the people who know you (and maybe an STD).

All of these are common addictions. Working too much can also be an addiction, but the only people who you hear complaining are the families of these work addicts (who don’t get to see their loved one). These addictions can all take both a physical and a mental toll (tattoos probably the least so). How is cutting any different? I don’t cut deep enough to do serious damage – just enough to feel the release.

Self-Harm: Not Guaranteed Safe

Self-harm is just another form of the addiction to release that we all have. When we get stressed out or keyed up, we want to “take a load off” – we just do so differently. I’m not claiming self-injury is safe – but neither is drinking too much alcohol, or driving a car for that matter! We all know that neither of those activities is guaranteed safe, and yet they are both completely acceptable behaviors. Of course they both have restrictions – if you drink too much and act in an unacceptable way, you might get kicked out or face some kind of legal trouble (depending on what you do), and if you drive in dangerous way then you could lose your license, get in an accident, or even lose your life. What I’m saying is that we as a society need to take a second glance at the things that we label “dangerous” or consider problem behaviors.

I Advocate for the Choice to Express Myself

I do not advocate for anyone to self-harm – I DO advocate for myself to be given the choice to express myself in the non-suicidal way I see fit. When I self-harm, no one (including myself) is in any danger. Society needs to step up to the plate and STOP overreacting to ‘problems’ that aren’t actually problems.

Besides, in the worst (read: unlikely) case scenario, I cut too deep and die. That’s one less burden on you, society. That’s how you refer to people like me, anyways. Is it different if I actually die? Kind of like people attending the funeral of someone they hated in life. You’ve got to keep up appearances.

Sometimes the outcry that people like me are a burden on society that should be dealt with are the reason I want to cut. People help contribute to a problem, then panic when they see the results of their contribution.

You contributed to my vices, society. Now leave me to them.

 

Disclaimer: I do not support or encourage self-harm in any form. Once you start it is hard to stop, and strangers judge you by the scars on your skin. Our society has not reached a place where they can accept behavior that is unusual but not dangerous. The purpose of this post was simply to express my frustration with society and its unwillingness to accept me as I am.

Self Therapy: Strong – Not Beaten Yet

Despite being unable to locate a reliable statistic estimating the percentage of people who have a mental illness and also self harm, I can tell you that self harm is something I struggle with. In addition, I have met several other people (usually in the hospital with me) who have a mental illness and self harm, as well. Regardless of self harming behavior (or lack thereof), we’ve probably all heard the recommendations to draw on the places we would cut. That is essentially what I was doing with Strong – Not Beaten Yet. When we create art rather than hurt ourselves, we are sort of giving ourselves therapy.

If you’re reading All Behind A Smile, chances are you or someone you know suffer from a mental illness. So you probably know how hard certain days can be, sometimes for unpredictable reasons. You know how hard it is to be strong.

Having bad habits and trying to stop typically leads to days when you are tempted. When I was tempted to cut again after stopping, I decided to turn to drawing something other than butterflies to help myself resist the temptation.

Focusing on cutting in particular, when a day arrives when I’m tempted more than usual, I draw on my arm instead of cut. I used to draw butterflies – the technique where every butterfly is someone you love and each cut you make kills a butterfly. There’s probably more to it than that, but that’s not what this is about.

This particular day, I decided to draw things that represented problems I suffered from myself. With some permanent markers in hand, I got busy ..

Almost all of the colors used are related to The Bracelet Project. I’m not sure where it originated.

Breathe (in black, self harm)

is to remind myself to take a breath and try and get through the temptation.

NEDA (in purple, bulimia)

to show myself where I’ve come from, what I’ve gotten through before.

Semi-colon (in yellow, suicidal)

a story that hasn’t ended and still has so far left to go.

Finally, rewind, pause, play, fast forward (in green, mental illness – color not from bracelet project)

To live life for where I am and not focus too much on the past or present. Not to exclude thoughts of the past or present, because they are still there and they still matter, but to keep moving forward.

Instead of drawing butterflies (if that works for you, by all means use it) I decided to represent the problems I suffered from. Sometimes it's easier to see it physically, and somehow marking your flesh helps alleviate the temptation at least somewhat.

Whatever your story may be, whatever you have or are going through, you’re not beaten yet. You’re still here, still fighting.

Stay strong – and remember, strong is getting through the day. Strong is getting out of bed when you don’t have the energy. It is smiling when your world is falling apart. Strong is whatever you manage to do that is hard for you. You ARE strong. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not. There are so many ways to be strong.