Why the Fear of Creating Scars Doesn't Stop Me Self-Harming
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.
As a young person who self-harms, telling my parents what I do was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – but what is even harder is having to hear them talk about it like it is not a complex mental issue, but rather something that can just be switched off. What my parents fail to comprehend is that this issue is not just one that can be stopped suddenly. It is not an issue I am even able to control, even on my better days. It is one I am constantly fighting, and a fight I am barely winning.
So, when I manage to gain the courage to tell them I have self-harmed again — when I manage to share with them the pain I’ve gone through — nothing hurts me more than their reaction. They are not cruel in the sense that they victimize me for what I do; they are dismissive, which in my opinion is worse. Many may ask why I continue to tell them if this is the result, but the truth is I have no choice. However naive my parents are about what caused me to self-harm and how it can be resolved, they know when I’m lying. When they ask me if I’ve self-harmed again, there is little point in me saying no, because they will simply turn and say “really?” in such a sarcastic tone that I have my guilt doubled and have to fold.
When I told them today that I had self-harmed again — that my legs now held my personal equivalent of World War III on them — their response was as simple as they believe my problem is. One sentence that has stayed with me in the hours after my conversation with my parents is the simple, “So what, you can’t even work now?” They believe my scars are something I can’t let anyone see, and when I do it somewhere that would be visible at work (lifeguarding requires I wear shorts after all) I’m being “stupid” and not considering the consequences.
But the truth is, in those moments, I’m not thinking at all. All that is going through my head is that I need to let out what I’m keeping in; that this physical pain needs to outweigh my pain inside. What shows after this is not of importance at the time. The fear of creating scars won’t stop me making them. In those moments, I am not thinking about the future; I’m not even thinking about tomorrow. I’m simply not thinking, I’m feeling — feeling for the first time since I last self-harmed. I do not care about the consequences because, at that moment, nothing else matters.
What I need my parents to do, even though I know this may be a fruitless need, is to try and understand what’s going on in my head and how they can realistically help me to stop. I need them to understand that, no matter how much they will it, this will not just stop overnight because they ask. I need them to understand that, whatever happens to me, I’m still their child and I am still me. But I know I won’t be able to convince them of anything. Not truly. What I can do, however, is share with you what hurts me, so that if you are a parent, you know how to better understand and help your child.
Nothing hurts me more than their inability to even try to understand, so if you are a parent of a child who self-harms, I urge you to try and understand things from their point of view more.
They are not doing this to hurt you.
They are not doing this for attention.
They don’t need you adding to their guilt.
What can you do to help them?
1. Remind them you are there for them whenever they need or are ready to talk. Offer an ear and remind them your door is always open.
2. Don’t bring the topic to what’s going to happen in the future for them because of what they are doing now; focus on how you can help now or how you can get help from an outside source now.
3. Don’t shift the focus on how this affects you, because this is about their head, not you.
I hope this can offer even the slightest help for parents and young self-harmers alike. There is a light at the end of this tunnel, even if you can’t see it yet.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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Thinkstock photo via nixki