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For Those Who Wonder Why I Self-Harm


Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

To someone who doesn’t self-harm, the thought of purposely causing yourself physical pain for the purpose of ridding yourself of emotional pain seems backwards, scary and quite frankly, weird. For me, when I’m feeling the urge to cut, it’s the only thing that makes sense.

The first time I cut myself I was 13, and I remember feeling warm, calm and, for the first time in a while, my mind was quiet. I didn’t have racing, intrusive thoughts. I wasn’t crying anymore. I was still. The only thing I could feel was pain in my right wrist. From then on, whenever I felt any overwhelmingly negative feeling, I felt like I had to cut. I felt like I needed to cut to quiet my mind, to stop my crying, to keep me from going “insane.”

The best way I can explain it to people is like a balloon that’s overinflated. It gets bigger and bigger and bigger until it just has to pop. Cutting myself is like the pop. The final blow that stops the inflation and finally lets the air out.

I’ve been in therapy for most of the last eight years. I know how to talk about my depression and anxiety, and I know coping skills like the back of my hand. I know what I can do when I’m starting to feel depressed, anxious, defeated, overwhelmed, stressed and even suicidal. Most of the time, I can manage those feelings. Sometimes, however, it’s too much. I can’t talk about it. I can’t find the words. I feel like there is too much going on inside and I need a way to release it. This is when I want to cut. It feels like I’m going a million miles an hour and then suddenly, I stop.

That feeling never lasts, though. It is always followed by intense feelings of guilt and shame. After the cathartic post-cut feeling fades, I’m left with a mess to clean up and I need to think about what story I’m going to tell this time.

Eventually, I did stop. For now anyway. At 26, I’ve been self-injury free for eight months, and before that for about a year. I’ve had a few other long stretches of being “clean” and eventually relapsed, but I’m trying to focus on the present. For now, cutting is not something I do regularly, although that doesn’t mean the urges aren’t there. I have about 15 scars on various parts of my body, most of which will probably always be there. I used to be ashamed of them, but now I don’t mind. They are part of me and part of my story.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via ipopba