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Speaking Out About Self Injury

Kayla Chang
Learning better communication skills can help you end self-harm, and communication does not always have to be verbal. Everything about the way we present ourselves in front of other people is intended, whether consciously or not, as a way to communicate something. Communication is not just limited to verbal interactions. It is not even limited to just deliberate physical movements and facial expressions. Everything from the way we dress, the way we walk, what we order at a restaurant, and even those parts of ourselves we think we are hiding, including -- yes -- our self-harm, are ways of making our thoughts, emotions, and sense of identity socially readable. Self-harm is an unhealthy communication skill, and learning new skills will help you stop self-harming.
Kayla Chang
Our expectations about self-harm recovery sabotage us. You see, when you are in the depths of your self-harm, it is hard to imagine life without it. Even if you want to stop, it feels overwhelming and daunting because you figure that in order to be able to stop, the problems that made you turn to self-harm in the first place would have to be resolved. In other words, the circumstances surrounding your recovery would have to be completely different from the circumstances surrounding your self-harm. But this is a lie we tell ourselves that will sabotage our self-harm recovery.
Kayla Chang
It is common — and not entirely accurate — to assume that self-harm is a sign of suicidal thoughts and/or urges. Self-harm is a maladaptive coping mechanism with highly complex psychological and neurological underpinnings and cannot be reduced to simply a reaction to suicidal feelings. Not all of those who self-harm are suicidal and not all of those who are suicidal self-harm. This is an important point to remember when talking about self-harm in relation to suicidality, which can be a touchy subject for many. 
Kayla Chang
The root causes of self-harm are as varied as the people who are affected by it. Though self-harm is a problem in and of itself, it is often a response to an underlying stressor of some kind. The reason behind the stress is the cause of self-harm.
Kayla Chang
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?
Kayla Chang
Self-harm stigma is a bit different than the stigma surrounding, say, something like schizophrenia. Whereas there is no overarching societal perception of schizophrenia as an embarrassing condition to have, there is certainly an element of embarrassment that is created by self-harm stigma.
Kayla Chang
There are several milestones leading up to the early stages of self-injury recovery. First, is the recognition of the problem. Second, is the recognition of wanting to do something about the problem. Third, is actually taking action to address the problem. Fourth, is arriving, finally, to a point at which what you have gained from your efforts to recover from self-injury outweigh the problem of self-harm itself. 
Kayla Chang
Spreading self-harm awareness is difficult because of self-harm stigma. Self-harm is often either cloaked in taboo or ridiculed as a kind of punchline. If you or someone you know struggles with self-harm or has struggled with self-harm in the past, you may find yourself frustrated by our culture’s general lack of empathy, understanding, and nuance in its approach to self-harm. But there is no need to feel helpless in the face of this frustration. Instead, think of it as an opportunity: an opportunity for you to speak your truth, so that others may hear it and finally know. You can spread self-harm awareness.