March 1st is a day that calls attention to a sensitive subject that takes on many meanings and forms for people. Self-injury, or self-harm, is the act of deliberately harming oneself physically, usually as a mechanism for expressing distress or coping in difficult situations. Self-injury is commonly associated with cutting, but can also refer to burning, scratching, bruising, bleaching, overdosing, some forms of hair pulling and picking, and breaking bones. Binging and purging may also be considered self-injuring behavior.
The reasons behind self-injury and the people who self-injure vary greatly, but one thing to keep in mind is that it does not matter what culture, ethnicity, gender, or age you are: there are people who have injured themselves from all walks of life. Triggering events like bullying, trauma, abuse, school, work pressures, bereavement and difficult relationships can all contribute to the distress one feels that leads them to self-injure, but there doesn't necessarily need to be a trigger for someone to harm themselves. Periods of low self-esteem can also contribute to coping with self-injury.
Stories From Us to You
When I was younger (in my first and second year of high school), I started cutting. I think there was a combination of reasons I started cutting: feeling weak, feeling like I was scared of everything, feeling like I wasn't in control, maybe it was even related to the idea that "everybody does it," and it kind of made me feel cool. I didn't really cut much, or deep, but I still have a few scars from it. When I did it, it really did make me feel stronger. Just the idea that I wasn't afraid of pain made me feel better; it wasn't so much the cutting, but the idea that I could overcome one fear made me feel like maybe I could get over all of them. After about two years, and with the help of a mentor, I realized that the ability to inflict harm on myself wasn't what made me strong or weak. =AzizrianDaoXrak
I began pulling my hair out when I was around the age of 13. I've always grown my hair very long for a guy, so it became an easy target when I was stressed or depressed to pull a few strands out. It always began just by running my hand through my hair casually, but it would reach a point where I was actively tugging on the ends fully aware of what I was doing and making sure that I had pulled hair out every time I tugged. At one point in time it was so bad that my scalp was blistered from irritation and I was developing bald spots. People at my school would point it out to me, and that was when I realized how much damage I was doing, and that I had to make some changes. ^NicSwaner
My second youngest sister started cutting when she was 13-14. Never enough to cause real damage, but she does have scars all over the soft side of her arms. I didn't understand what could make people want to self-harm when she was going through it, so I just thought she was attention seeking or acting out but now that we're older I've talked to her about why she did it and why she stopped and she said, "I started because it was the one thing in my life that I could control. I stopped because I found other ways to feel in control." That I can understand because it is the same reason I flirted with bulimia and anorexia. It takes a certain kind of strength and maturity to understand that feeling in control is not the same as feeling secure or confident. `Kneeling-Glory
As a teenager I had band-aids on most of my fingers, because I was ashamed of my picking. Often though the damage reached too high for a normal band-aid to hide, when that happened, I lied about my picking and said I had bad cuticle eczema. When I met my current best-friend, she knew right away that it was caused by self-harm. She spent enough time with me to see me do it, while watching a movie. She tried to help me by telling me to keep my nails very short and to try to keep my hand busy by doing other things instead. Thinking about it now, this is how I was introduced to the world of Artisan Crafts, through jewellery and then polymer clay. I have not overcome it. It is something I struggle with every day. I feel like a junkie, I know that it will always be a battle but I know now that I have ways to keep it under control. ^maytel
There have been many times. Something would happen, I'd let someone down, or upset someone. I've never set out planning to injure myself. It just built up until I couldn't hold it inside anymore. I had to act. Without really considering it, I was hurting myself. I hate pain. I really do. But when I get like that, all I can think about is how horrible I am. I need to be punished. I deserve it. Most days, I know better and I hate those feelings of desperation and turmoil. But when an episode strikes, I just can't think clearly. =SingingFlames
It all started in middle school, around the halfway point of seventh grade. I was never very “popular” and was, more often than not, the target of some violent attacks. In the prior years, I had been able to just brush them off as though they were nothing, but something had changed. I simply couldn’t take it any longer. This continued for a few years until it finally happened… The relief was gone. I no longer got the same physical distraction that I so desperately needed and craved. There was simply nothing. I’d like to say that this was when I stopped my self-injury, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I began abusing harsh chemicals and mixing them into my own concoction. It has been this way since freshman year of high school and has persisted. ~Adhania
Turning Things Around: Fears vs Dreams
But we're not only writing this journal just to explain what self-injury is and is not. By taking a page from To Write Love On Her Arms' playbook we would like to address what self-injury is motivated by (our fears) and what it can prevent us from attaining (our dreams). The video below is about how much we all have in common with our fears and dreams and that someone is never actually alone in their struggle for understanding and sanctuary.
Last year ^Beccalicious asked you to share your experiences with self-injury, but this year we would like to ask something different of you. In the comments, we would like you to share your answers to the following questions:
- What is your biggest fear?
- What is your greatest dream?
A fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Some fears are entirely rational, but many are completely irrational and not thought through. On the flip side of the coin, a dream can be an attainable goal (getting a college degree) or be completely unattainable (gaining superpowers).
If you don't feel like sharing your answers to the questions above, we encourage you to respond to others' comments by discussing the rationality of one's fears and how they interfere with their dreams. It is when you begin to question your fears that your dreams in life become graspable.
Make It Orange
Thank you for your time, if you would like to further spread the word of self-injury awareness, wear orange March 1st-- whether through online avatars or real life clothing. An avatar and journal skin for the day is available above.
^NicSwaner, on behalf of the CR team
Resources, Groups and Organizations
To Write Love On Her Arms