I like to think that I don’t shy away from the tough topics. If there’s something I don’t talk about, it’s likely that I just don’t want to, and not that I’m afraid of offending anyone. There are exceptions of course. There are things I don’t like to dwell on because they are painful, but here’s the thing. Do I have a right to not share my story when there’s a chance that doing so might help someone? Sometimes all a person needs to know is that they’re not alone. So I’m going to do something I’ve never done before on this site: share my story, or parts of it at least.
For those who know me personally, some may be aware that I have serious abandonment issues. My mother saw fit to walk out on her family when I was just a toddler, leaving me in the hands of an alcoholic father. Luckily he was a happy drunk, but woefully under-prepared to take care of a child. My grandparents stepped in and took responsibility for me, but the damage had already been done. How could a child learn to love themselves when, in their eyes, the one person who was supposed to love them unconditionally didn’t? I grew up believing that something was wrong with me…that I wasn’t worthy of love. It was difficult for me to emotionally connect with anyone because I truly did not know how to feel emotions.
That’s a hard burden for a child to bear, and it got even worse when I got to my teens. I grew up physically, but I never learned how to deal with emotions properly. It was very easy for me to become overloaded, and subsequently lash out. It was then that I learned one simple and amazing thing: physical pain made it all go away. That realization was a like a godsend. I don’t even remember how it started. I’m sure it was something accidental, but it soon became deliberate. There’s a reason I refer to it as self-mutilation and not ‘cutting’ or anything else that makes it sound like a fad. It’s an ugly thing and it should have an ugly name.
There are a lot of reasons why people injure themselves. Sometimes it’s more about the sight of blood than anything else. Sometimes it’s about fitting into an admittedly dysfunctional group. I’m not a psychologist. I can’t say what’s at the root of anyone else’s problem. I can only speak for myself and, in my case, it was simply about the pain. Perhaps that’s why I avoided any of the life-threatening complications I’ve heard about. I was never out for attention and I was most certainly never out to kill myself. Hell, I’ve fought to live more than once. I was just overwhelmed with what was inside and didn’t know any other way to deal with it.
The fact is that I still don’t, but it has been over ten years since I’ve let my urges get the better of me. It has not been an easy road and I wouldn’t call myself ‘healed’, but I am better. It’s no longer baggage that I take into my relationships. It’s no longer something that makes me think I’m a freak, because I’m not…and neither are you. I can’t speak for all the other types of self-harmers out there, but if hurting your body is the only way you know of not hurting your heart, I understand. All I can suggest is this.
1. Find a way of expressing yourself. I had no one to talk to and no way of putting what I was feeling into words until I started writing poetry. Sometimes I’d feel that compulsion coming on and I’d force myself to write instead. Nine times out of ten it would go away.
2. Confide in someone. It would great if everyone could talk to a friend, or a member of their own family, but that’s not always possible. The beauty of the internet is that there are now a number of support groups available for people like us. I don’t want to go into specifics because I’d like this article to remain relevant to people all around the world, but a simple Google search will yield many options. If you do find yourself becoming overwhelmed and having suicidal thoughts, help lines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
3. Find another method of release. Writing poetry can only go so far. Sometimes it’s the raw tension that you need to get rid of, and only something physical can do that. It can be as simple as ripping the hell out of a piece of paper. bpersonally I choose to exercise. Might as well do something healthy.
These things aren’t going to make the compulsions go away, but they will help them to decrease in frequency. The rest is up to you. I wish I could tell you that there’s some magical cure, but I can’t. There’s no simple remedy, but there is hard work and determination. There is understanding why you do what you and taking steps to not do it anymore. There is finally accepting that, while you may be a flawed human being, you are worth something and you are worthy of being loved.
If you’d like more information and resources you can check out this site: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/self_injury.htm#find. Above all, seek professional help. We can all give you advice but you may need the support of someone trained to deal with what you’re going through. There is no shame in asking for help.