WARNING – THIS POST CONTAINS INFORMATION AND IMAGES THAT MAY BE DISTURBING
I have been skirting around this subject for a while now mainly because I was unsure how to write it. As I see it the term ‘self harming’ is one of the biggest stigmas that mental health sufferers face, especially those who are younger and mainly effected. The most common image I expect that comes to mind is cutting, this is often confused as ‘failed suicide’ but self harm often has nothing to do with suicide. In fact self harming is often a coping mechanism which helps those with suicidal thoughts release tension.
Self harming is not confined to cutting, any form of harm committed against oneself can be self harm. hitting, slapping, scratching, burning, pinching, the list goes on. Those are just the infliction of pain, alcohol and drugs are also another way of self harming. Self harming is about control and release, by inflicting pain it can let a sufferer release some of the tension or pressure building inside them. It is not a cry for help, in fact most people who self harm go to great lengths to hide it, even becoming very creative in how they do it. I know someone who uses a piece of ribbon which is pulled tightly underneath the finger nail to inflict pain, you would never know.
From a personal perspective thinking back I have used self harming in several variations. Drugs and alcohol were always good and as both readily available and “socially” acceptable I could drink myself into oblivion or get out of my mind for a while. I have also been known to cause myself pain by hitting, pinching etc mostly in times of great stress or anxiety but I never seen it as self harm.
During my last trip into darkness I did turn to scratching. Now just to clarify cutting is generally the use of a sharp instrument like a knife or razor to inflict cuts, scratching can be either with the nails or a blunter implement to inflict pain. Think of it like being scratched by a cat, painful but less blood is drawn. I personally chose a small jewelers screwdriver about 1.5mm wide, this allowed me to scratch but not leave to much of a mark. It started as more of a graze, leaving a welt on my back, but soon the strokes got harder and started to break the surface. I chose my lower back to start with because it would be easier to cover up but it soon became difficult not to overlap and I also couldn’t see my handy work.
I started on a Saturday however by Sunday I had moved onto my forearms, I had learned that doing it fast gave an intense blast of pain, doing it slow and controlled gave a longer more “satisfying” pain, I was making a conscious effort to prolong the pain until my anxiety eased. Every mark was the result of a need to control my growing anxiety and deteriorating mental state, each one a story in itself. I had also started using the sharper edge and was starting to go deeper so I started doing it on the top of my forearm. This was strange because my self harm was happening because I needed to get through the weekend until the Monday when I had planned to get help or get dead. It was so well planned I was worried that if I continued by my wrist I might accidentally go to far and end it early, as you can imagine I was not in a rational state of mind. So in the short period of two days I managed to inflict the damage shown below. Now I’m a forty-year old man who did this so when you hear about self harm in the future, hopefully you wont just think teenagers and you might have a bit more understanding of why it happens. Mental health suffering is often done alone and with shame, imagine breaking your leg and yet still trying to go about your day with nobody noticing. I’m sorry if this post is disturbing but so is the truth about mental health.