The temptation is understandable. It can be connected to anything, from depression and anxiety to shame and loss. Perhaps you feel the need to punish yourself for something you’ve done wrong, or release some sort of tension built up from negative feelings or experiences. Maybe you need to express the way you feel or just feel something other than numb. It may look to you as if there is no alternative. It’s understandable, but it’s not okay.
Self-harm isn’t limited to cutting. It can arise in many forms, such as pinching, scratching, burning, hair-pulling, etc. I know it’s not a pleasant subject in any way, but it needs attention. Desperately. One study states that one in twelve teenagers self harm today (Patton, Center for Adolescent Health). The lack of attention we show to such a statistic is appalling.
Self-harming has almost been romanticized to an extent in our culture, but if you are genuinely battling the temptation to self-harm, you know there is nothing heroic or poignant about it. It is real, and it is scary.
Through my own battles with self-harm throughout middle school and into high school, I felt completely alone and helpless. I pinched myself until I bruised and bled, broke my skin with pens and paper clips, and eventually resorted to cutting with razors to punish myself for being a burden on those around me. But what I didn’t know was that all I had believed about others’ perception of me had been founded on lies. I was not a burden. I was never a burden. I am so precious to so many around me, but my own brain was blinding me to their love and care. I was refusing to see the beauty in myself and the immensely valuable gift that is my life.
I encourage you to open yourself up to seeing that you are worth love. You don’t need to be perfect. Messy is SO beautiful. In fact, I prefer messy. It shows that you are human and you are alive and you are a gorgeous individual capable of your own decisions. See that the messy is what makes your life worth living. There will be downs: you will lay at rock bottom hoping you drown. But you will always come back up again. Live for that.
Take a minute just to look yourself over. Instead of pointing out the things you hate about your body and mind, point out things you love. If you can’t quite see those, pick out a few specific things you dislike about yourself and then come up with reasons why each one is appealing. Don’t skip over anything. Show yourself the compassion you show others.
Think about someone you love very, very much. Would you ever hurt them? Would you criticize and punish them the way you punish yourself? And then remember that you are that person for someone else, whether you see them or not. There are more people than you realize who would be heartbroken to discover how you treat yourself.
I know from personal experience that this is a really difficult subject to open up about. There is so much stigma surrounding self-harm. But please, tell someone how you’re feeling. If there is no one you feel you can trust, call a hotline. You can also text the word REMEDY to 494949 or start an online chat from the website I have linked if it’s easier for you to put your struggles in writing instead of saying them aloud. Also, consider seeking a therapist who can hold you accountable at regular visits to make sure you are not harming yourself.
Be kind to yourself. You have done nothing that could merit physical harm. You are so precious and your life and wellness has so much meaning. One day, this will be in your past, and you will fully know just how valuable you are.
-Emory Grace Doster