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Why I'm Finally Sharing My Self-Harm Narrative

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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.

I don’t talk about my self-harm when I talk about my mental health history. I should, but I don’t. I am more than willing to talk to people about my bipolar II, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder with agoraphobia.

But the idea of talking about my self-harm makes my stomach turn.

I am still buying shorts and dresses and skirts that will cover the brown and pink scars on my thighs. It makes shopping online very hard.

But why is it so hard for me to talk about my self-harm?

My primary method of self-harm was hitting myself. To me it made the most sense, bruises would last for three or four days and no one would question it. When I got angry or upset, it felt like a natural reaction to hit myself. So natural I would have assumed everyone did it.

I have worked really hard to quit cutting and burning, but there are some days I find myself hitting myself again. This is something I should be able to share with the people who care about my mental health.

The first time my mother saw my healed scars, I was sitting on the couch and my skirt slid back to expose them when I wasn’t paying attention. She asked me what they were and I didn’t know what to say so I said scars. She said “I’m sorry.” I think that’s the best response you could hope for from someone when you admit to self-harm.

I think the reason I don’t share myself harm history is because the response I get most often is “why?” and I don’t have an answer. I have a general psychology answer involving pain and serotonin, but I know it’s not the answer you’re looking for.

No answer will satisfy the why question, because I myself do not know why.

When I first began cutting, there was a reason behind each and every cut. I got a D on a math test, my best friend and I fought, my crush didn’t like me back. And I could recognize each one with the distinct memory. But as time progressed and I continued to cut, there was no pattern or rhythm to my cuts anymore.

I myself even had different reasons for self-harming. One night while I was manic I truly believed I was creating a work of art and cutting was my medium. When I burned myself, I was severely depressed and I wanted to know if I could handle the pain of burning. I just wanted to know. None of these things are easy or comfortable to share and if you haven’t lived them, they might not make sense to you.

My self-harm history is likely completely different from someone else’s and I couldn’t comprehend what that person has been through. All I can do is empathize and share my self-harm story.

This was difficult to write, but the more I think about it, it shouldn’t have been. Like most mental illnesses, self-harm is heavily stigmatized and misunderstood. The difference is the misconception those who self-harm are attention-seeking juveniles, but I’m an adult who is only sharing this with the hopes it will make others more comfortable with their recovery or current situation of self-harm.

Because even if it’s ignored or dismissed, self-harm is an important part of the mental health narrative.

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.

Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: February 2, 2017
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