March is Self- injury awareness.
(Caution: may contain triggers.)
“Why would someone hurt herself on purpose?”
“I don’t understand how pain could look appealing.”
“Why can’t he just choose to stop doing drugs?”
“How could someone be so irresponsible to go on shopping binges?”
I have heard these sentiments over and over. Some people are shocked that someone would want to hurt himself, and other people mentally distance themselves from “those poor people in mental institutions.”
The fact remains that a plethora of people are hurting themselves on purpose and are not in mental institutions. They are in your neighborhood, at your school, next door to your cubicle, your childhood friend, your neice, your brother.
I’m not writing this in order to be morbid or gross or to give anyone harmful thoughts. So I’ll be general in my terms. And you can stop reading this right now.
But what if it is your friend who comes to you? What if it’s a family member? Will you act shocked? What would you say? Are you supposed to call 911? Is it a hopeless situation?
I believe the first thing to understand is that the first sentences of my post all have something in common: they represent possible addictions. Like taking drugs or drinking, self-harm says, “I need relief. The pleasure is nice, but I am in so much pain right now that I need to escape, to numb, to feel, to demonstrate, to punish…” and the list of reasons goes on.
So as I work as an activities assistant at a mental health facility and know residents that are in a chemical dependency program, I feel compassion.
Of course it’s wrong to be addicted to something. And addictions punish you. The shame, remorse, powerlessness, guilt. The questions from others and the thoughtless remarks. The curiosity from people, as if it’s something easy to talk about, something as simple as doing your nails or doing your hair.
I’ve done self-harm.
And God is merciful to me and helped me stop recently after years of therapy, 18 months of DBT, prayers from myself and others, discipline, and medications.
So I bring mercy to others. I know why they drink or take drugs. I know why people hurt themselves. It’s really hard to stop. And in life with a mental illness, it’s so hard to go on.
But we do, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, for weeks and months and years.
And we fall down, and we get back up.
And so do you.
Everyone falls down and needs help.
I didn’t write this to be gross or because I was dying to share this about myself. I hope that understanding self- harm from someone telling about it first hand will help people be less judgmental and more understanding; less frustrated and more compassionate.
So that you know how to react when that special person in your life tells you a secret about coping, and the secret is self-harm.
Remember the pain and difficulty, and give your support.