by Katie Kirtley
"What comes to your mind when you think of self harm?
What if I told you that you probably have someone close to you that struggles with self harm? You don't believe it?
What if I told you that 4% of the population in the United States, suffer from self harm? Would you assume they were all teenagers?
You would be very wrong.
I began cutting myself when I was 15 but it has continued throughout my life.
My depression and anxiety were at an all time high in high school. Many times, when people think of a teenager who struggles with self harm, they think of a girl, dressed in all black, listening to emo music in a dark room, crying and thinking about how she can use it to get attention.
And here lies the misconception. I mean, I listened to pop and country music mostly.
Seriously though, I was the bubbly girl known for her contagious laugh and good personality. I was involved in all kinds of activities. Involved in church. The whole nine yards.
People that legitimately struggle with self harm, don't want attention. It's actually the worst thing that they can imagine. They don't want the people that they care about to know that they hurt themselves.
Think about it.
Do you think if you told someone close to you that you feel a sense of relief when you cut your skin open and see blood run down your body, that they would say "oh we're happy you found something to help relieve stress"?
I hid my cutting from everyone. I did it in areas that people couldn't see or could be easily covered. As the depression got worse, so did the self harm. I began getting sloppy and cutting more visible areas. I had rabbits at the time, so it was easy to explain bandages on my arms. Long sleeves and pants were my regular attire regardless of the temperature. I just said for years that I didn't want to wear anything but jeans. I rode horses a lot at the time as well. So again, easy to get away with.
Two of the biggest signs that someone might be a cutter, I had explanations for. There is usually always an excuse of some sort. We learn to come up with lies to explain the cuts pretty quickly.
Now don't get me wrong, cutting is not the only or even main form of self harm. It's just the main one for me. I've dabbled in other things but always received the most relief/euphoria from cutting.
The definition for self harm is: Non-suicidal self-injury, often simply called self-injury, is the act of deliberately harming the surface of your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It's typically not meant as a suicide attempt. Rather, this type of self-injury is an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration.
The other big misconception about people that self harm, is that they are suicidal. The opposite was true for myself and many other "cutters" that I've asked. I was literally scared to death of death. Still struggle with that today. I don't want to die
We don't want to kill ourselves.
Most of the time.
This isn't one size fits all.
If someone you know has been making suicidal comments or plans, that's a whole new ballgame and you need to seek help for them.
But for the most part, the two reasons that people tend to use self harm is because they don't feel anything and desperately want to feel. Or they are feeling way too much at once and need one thing to focus on to calm down.
You know how if something hurts, sometimes people will say to pinch yourself somewhere else to take your mind off of the pain you felt originally? That's what a self harmer is essentially trying to do. Distract themselves from their internal pain. Is it healthy? No. Is it the right way to express emotions? No. Is it a good coping mechanism? No. Do I recommend it? Hell no.
I want to shine some light on this subject. I want it to become a topic that people can talk about without judgement. I want there to be support groups for the self harmer besides the psych ward at the hospital. I want like a Self-Harmer Anonymous vibe going on. A safe place for people to come to learn good coping skills. To get through an urge as it's happening. Let's support each other. Get rid of the stereotypical views and stigma surrounding this topic. Reach out. Get help. I'm here for anyone, anytime."
Are you struggling with self harm? Are you willing to share your story with us? Send us an email! We'd love to hear it.
Katie struggles with BPD and bipolar disorder. You can read her posts on her blog, find the link below.