How Do You Tell Someone You Self-Injure?
When telling someone you self-injure, self-harm, there are many things to take into consideration. Consider revealing your self-injury to someone you trust.
Telling someone that you are a self-injurer is scary. You don't know how they will react to your self-injury disclosure. In a way, it can be viewed as similar to coming out as gay or lesbian. Although it is very common, it may not be considered "acceptable" to others. Be careful whom you choose to tell. Choose someone you really trust. You can disclose your self-harm in a conversation, or in a letter that you present to them, or by e-mail. If you choose the last two, be ready to follow it up with a face-to-face conversation or phone call.
Disclosing You Self-Injure
When telling someone you self-injure, keep these points in mind:
- Be willing to give the person some time to digest what you have told them. You may have caught them by surprise and first reactions are not always the best indicators of their feelings. Give them some space, but be ready for their questions. You may even have to respond to self-injury myths they may have heard or something they saw in movies about self-injury.
- Be as open as you can and give them as much information about what self-harm is as you can. Give them internet addresses like this one. Providing them with self-injury, self-harm books to read can also be helpful. People are afraid of things that they don't understand.
- Try to anticipate what questions they might ask. If they ask you something that you are not ready to talk about yet, tell them that.
- Realize that it can be as difficult for them to hear what you have to say, as it is for you to say it. Anyone that you are that close to will not want you to hurt, and will want to help. They may wonder where they went wrong and feel guilty that they did not notice. Be sure to tell them that this is a choice you made and you were not ready for their self-injury help and support earlier, but need it now.
- You do not have to accept their value judgments about your self-injury.
- Let the person know you are telling them because you trust them, not because you are trying to punish, manipulate or guilt-trip them.
- Never tell someone in anger. ("You made me cut/burn/hit.") Do not blame the person for their behaviors which may have triggered you or for not seeing your pain. They'll get defensive and angry. You want their understanding, not their guilt and besides, self-injury is always your choice.
- If you have a friend or a counselor that you trust, you may want them to be present to give you support, but do not expect them to tell the other person for you.
- It's usually best to avoid graphic descriptions of your injuries or ways you self-injure. Do not share self-harm pictures or photos. You are not trying to freak them out. They probably don't need a technicolor description of your worst incident. If they have any questions later or ask for signs and symptoms of self-injury, then you can give them the details in another conversation once they have had a chance to absorb what you told them.