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3 Pieces of 'Advice' I Don't Want to Hear as Someone Who Self-Harms

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As a child, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression shortly after my maternal grandmother passed away. As a teenager, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder on top of the anxiety and depression. As an adult, I got yet another diagnosis to add to my “collection.” I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after being caught on fire, years upon years of bullying and an abusive relationship that was abusive in every way imaginable. On top of all this, I had self-harming tendencies.

As a teenager, my family assumed I would “grow out of it” or “get over it.” Much to their dismay, neither one of which ever happened the way they had anticipated. At 30 years old, my husband had me admitted into a psychiatric facility because of my self-harmimg. While I was in the hospital, I decided against my better judgment to reach out to my family and tell them what was going on. I told them I was in the hospital for hurting myself, that it wasn’t deep or a lot, but my husband feared for my safety and felt it was in my best interest to have me evaluated.

As someone who was in a fragile state of mind, I was hoping my family would be understanding. Well, that isn’t exactly how it worked. One member of my family actually said to me, “You’re to old to be doing this! You’re 30 f***ing years old! Grow up!”

I’m sorry… come again? Grow up? In my mind that’s quite possibly one of the worst things you can say to someone who cuts. 

So, how about we go over “bad advice” and the reason this advice is so detrimental when it comes to self-harm.

Don’t say: “Grow up”/”Get over it/yourself.”

Reason: This implies the person self-harming is behaving immaturely. This also (to some) comes off as saying that their thoughts/feelings are not right. 

Don’t Say: “Your life isn’t that bad.”

Reason: First of all, you don’t know firsthand what demons your friend or family member are dealing with on a daily basis. This can make them feel as if their pain (be it mental or physical) is being over-exaggerated in their mind. Like they are blowing a (most likely) devastating situation completely out of proportion.

Don’t Say: “You’re just doing this for attention”

Reason: This is seriously no better then telling someone “Your life isn’t that bad.” This, once again, makes them feel invalidated in their mental health struggles. Some people may self-harm because it is the only way they feel any control in their life. 

There are so many other ways to approach someone who has resorted to self-injury. Ask them why they feel the need to hurt themselves. But do it with no judgement. Let them know they aren’t alone in their battle. Show them compassion and understanding. When I realized I had a support network (though it was small, some is better than none) it helped tremendously to hear I had someone in my corner to fight off my inner monsters. To know someone actually cared weather I lived or died, to know I wasn’t alone… that was what was needed more than anything.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Originally published: October 13, 2016
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