Self harm: Rhian's perspective
Posted Tuesday 1 March 2011
A guest blog post for Self-Injury Awareness Day.
I’m one of those people who believes that you can’t understand something until you’ve experienced it yourself. I can never answer those hypothetical ‘what if?’ questions, because I just can’t be sure what I would do in any given situation, until I am in that situation. So I can get why some people don’t understand why others self harm, and why I self harm.
It is hard to truly explain the reasons behind why I cut, though other people may find it easier, and their own reasons more tangible. I suppose mine aren’t vague as I think, they just feel out of reach whenever I have to try and explain exactly why I cut. I often think I shouldn’t have to explain why, and maybe I shouldn’t, but the problem with that is everyone asks. Family, friends, doctors, kids, partners, strangers: everyone asks why. Of course, sometimes there is no 'why?'.
In the beginning I suppose there was a reason behind every time I self harmed, but that was over ten years ago and I'm long past those days when it was a desperate course of action, and into the days when it’s become an addiction. When it’s addiction it just becomes something you do when in crisis and also on a normal day, when there isn’t a reason, except that you haven’t for a while, or you have been cutting every day for a long time anyway.
I managed to stop for over 18 months, what people call an accomplishment, and I don’t deny that it is, but I was so convinced that it was over and done with, gone, another addiction I have battled and beaten: people told me the slip is nothing to beat myself up about, but I see it differently. Not necessarily as a failure, but nothing so simple as a ‘slip’. It was so much more than that, and another confirmation to me that self harm, self injury, cutting, whatever you want to call it, is addictive. You get past the place where you’re used to using it to cope, and get to a place where you can’t go without, regardless of what you may or may not be feeling.
Self harm has a bad reputation, and self harmers hate this: we’re called attention seekers, 'emo', 'mental', etc, but I kinda realise that it’s never going to be any better. It’s not like self harm can have a good reputation. Addictions are never good things. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever been addicted to that was good. I think what we want, as a community, is understanding and support. As an individual I want a little latitude, a little leeway — less questions.
Everyone is different, everyone has their own reasons for starting, for continuing, for stopping. Their own triggers and troubles. There is not one answer for everyone: some people respond to therapy, some to medication, some to a combination of these. Some people will grow out of it, for some it’s a phase; some will be self harming until they reach the grave. It’s the sad reality of it. I have no rose-tinted glasses when it comes to my own self harm and mental health.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Not for me, and no for self harm in general. I’m better, despite a 'slip' in January. I no longer plan to kill myself at 35 if I’m not 'better', whatever that may mean. And I haven’t cut or even wanted to cut for a month or so.
For self harm, the support increases more and more every year and the awareness continues to improve. It’s slow progress, and it’s always going to be constricted by the money available to charities and organisations. I am by no means an expert, just a woman who’s been self harming, on and off, for ten years now. Athough it's hard when I'm feeling vulnerable, I believe in speaking out and being honest about my experiences.
This post was originally published on Rhian's blog.
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