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Speaking Out About Self Injury

Kayla Chang
Many people misunderstand those who self-harm. One of the things that make self-harm an inaccessible subject so prone to misunderstanding and even ridicule is that it is something most people cannot imagine ever wanting to do. The less we understand a behavior, the more tempted we are to look beyond the behavior to the person behind the behavior for an explanation. We assess each person’s background, history, personality, and even physical appearance to probe for similarities, the thinking being that the explanation for the behavior can be found in these similarities. 
Kayla Chang
Accusations are often made that movies and television shows glamorize high-risk activities among teenagers. This is not a controversial stance. “Mainstream” cultural media provably produces content both referencing and explicitly centering on teen sex, drug and alcohol use, and other taboo subjects — appropriate for entertainment purposes, but at the cost of implying to a potentially young and impressionable audience the inherent glamor in those choices. 
Kayla Chang
Most of the time, self-harm is not inflicted with the intention of causing serious damage, but even so, there are physical risks of self-harm. Typically, the resulting physical wounds of self-harm tend to be superficial, especially in those for whom self-harm is relatively new. However, self-harm has a way of escalating quickly and can, if left untreated, pose a physical danger.
Kayla Chang
There are few things that make you feel more helpless than seeing a loved one suffer from self-harm and not knowing how to make the suffering stop. Suffering, in most cases, is out of our hands. It is not within our direct control. With self-harm, it can be doubly frustrating because not only is it something outside of our control, but it also something that we often cannot even comprehend. It is a suffering that's both foreign and cruelly over-familiar, affecting everyone from our closest friends and romantic partners to members of our family.
Kayla Chang
In an ideal world, no one would feel the need to cover self-harm scars, and no one would be made uncomfortable by their exposure. But as it is now, many people struggle in their daily lives to judge whether, when, and to what extent they should cover self-harm scars.
Kayla Chang
Are you sure it's not that bad when considering the damage self-harm is doing to you? One of the strange things about self-harm is that we all know it’s bad. Rarely are any of us truly under the delusion that it is making us happier in any way. In fact, most of us acknowledge that it actively makes our lives worse. And yet, we don’t stop.
Kayla Chang
Self-esteem and self-harm do have a relationship. While self-harm can stem from a wide variety of root causes, issues regarding self-esteem is often brought up in discussions as one possible culprit. It would be reductive to draw a straight line connecting self-esteem levels to self-harm activity, but it would be equally reductive to deny that a relationship between the two does, in fact, exist. 
Kayla Chang
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.
Kayla Chang
Sometimes the scariest thing about self-harm is just knowing our brains are capable of having such dark thoughts. It is not always obvious at the time, but looking back at and reflecting on those moments, especially if your struggle with self-harm is a thing of the distant past, it can feel strange to recount all the thoughts you had before, during, and after engaging in self-harm. Because of the intense physicality of self-harm, it is easy to overemphasize the literal action of self-harm when in reality it is the thoughts surrounding the action, not the action itself, that hold real power over us. 
Kayla Chang
Some coping mechanisms for self-harm act immediately to help stop the urge. In fact, sometimes all we need to get us committed to stop engaging in self-harm is knowing that there are alternative ways of coping with distress and satisfying self-harm compulsions. An important step toward self-harm recovery involves familiarizing ourselves with these alternative coping mechanisms for self-harm, figuring out what works for us, and creating a toolbox (whether that be a mental toolbox or a literal collection of physical objects) of things that we can turn to in our more vulnerable moments.