It may be difficult to imagine how self-harm affects others when no one even knows (at least to your knowledge) that you're hurting yourself. Pain, however, always causes a ripple effect.
When you self-harm, secrets are a priority. Self-harm thrives on secrecy. It relies on shame, embarrassment, and social taboo to survive. Contrary to the stereotype of the attention-seeking self-harmer, many self-harmers actually live in constant fear of being found out — of having their self-harm come to light.
Self-harm affects relationships negatively when you swear your loved ones to secrecy. As you know, one of the worst things about self-harm is all the lying, all the secrecy. Whether you have self-harmed once or have had a habit for years, chances are that it is not something you are open about. Chances are that, somewhere along the way, you have lied — either directly or by omission — to someone about your self-harm.
Do we owe our self-harm stories to anyone? I ask because if you are a person who suffers or has suffered from mental health issues of any kind, mental health awareness is a tricky landscape to navigate, especially nowadays. Now, possibly to a greater extent than ever, there are conversations taking place on a national level about mental health research, the benefits and pitfalls of psychiatric medication, whether there exists a link between unchecked mental health problems and violence, the relationship between the rise in ailing mental health and the rise of unfettered capitalism, and so on. With these mental health topics at the forefront, people become aware of self-harm, too. But do we owe the telling of our self-harm stories to anyone for any reason?
Keep Your Eyes on the Road and Not on Your Skin Whether or not you’d like to believe it, the uncontrolled obsessiveness many have with their phone is similar to how people feel when they need to self-harm. Here's what I mean by that analogy. When you’re driving, distractions are everywhere. You may not realize you’re distracting yourself by making your music louder or adjusting your sunglasses in the mirror, but you are. Whenever your eyes are off of the road for a second, you are that much closer to getting in an accident. We have seen so many deaths and injuries from texting related incidents and it’s extremely hard not to look down at your phone during a commute. Most of the time, you have no reason to look at your phone in the first place, but you are just drawn to it, automatically.
To Talk or Not To Talk About Self-Injury When it comes to talking about uneasy topics, everyone holds a different opinion. Many people stray away from conversations surrounding religion or politics because it makes them anxious. Maybe you feel uncomfortable when others openly discuss sex or drugs because you’ve never been that way. For some people, discussing difficult topics can be more comfortably done in a personal setting while others would rather talk about it in a large group. When I speak to health classes about my novel, Noon, I find myself more at ease talking about my past relationship with cutting to a larger group.
It has always been difficult to face my fears and discuss my self-harm with loved ones. Even after five years without an intentional mark, I still fear opening up to family members and friends about it. When speaking to health classes, I find it much easier to bring forward my experiences with self-harm and suicide. However, when it comes to one-on-one conversations, I tend to freeze. How come it is so difficult to talk to loved ones about our experiences with self-harm?
Recently, I’ve been in a major funk. In my last blog, I brought up that I’ve been in a pretty low state and haven’t felt this way since, well, high school. It’s scary when old emotions come flooding back, especially if those emotions are negative. I’ve been feeling over-tired and unmotivated. I’d rather lie in bed all day than bring my dog for a walk or clean the apartment. However, over the past week, I have been really trying to push myself forward.
This past year, I’ve spoken to numerous Syracuse high schools about my novel, Noon, and the self-injury topics discussed in the book. Like I’ve said in my past blogs, one character struggles with self-harm and suicide. A lot of my past experiences go into her scenes and, sometimes, I feel bad that I threw all of my baggage into that character’s life. However, it does work as quite the positive self-injury coping skill. Recently, I spoke to a high school about the book and realized, again, how useful it is to talk about the struggles you’ve gone through. It allows you to really open up and show your braver side. This blog was a huge step forward in my opening up about self-harm. When you have the confidence to talk about your past, it shows how much you’ve grown.
I made my last, intentional self-injury cut on the night of October 14, 2008. I was sitting in the bathtub, staring down at a bobby pin and crying about the news I’d gotten that morning. The news had been devastating and to this day, still leaves me in disbelief.