I have been struggling on and off with a relapse into self harm since September 2015. And it has gotten me thinking a lot about my history of self harm since I was about eleven years old.
When I was that age, I thought that "self harm" is only cutting your arms with razors...which, it is, duh. But self harm is way more complicated than that.
Self harm can be exercising until your muscles are so sore you can barely walk the next day. It can be listening to music on your headphones so loudly that it gives you a headache and makes your ears pound. It can be turning the water in the shower so hot it stings. It can be stepping out in the snow to test how long you can last before you start to get frostbite. It can be staying in a position or putting on clothing that is uncomfortable and staying like that for as long as possible. It can be trying to get hit in a sparring match so you get bruises or cuts. It can be burning your hand when you pull something out of the toaster oven...and making all of it look like an accident. It can looking at images or videos that you know will cause you extreme emotional distress.
Turns out, I have been doing all of those - and other things - since, again, I was about eleven years old. So self harm has been a problem for me much longer than I thought.
And I wish I had known what I know now about self harm. I wish someone had been there to tell me that it's not shameful to hurt yourself. That it's not about 'God gave you such beautiful skin, why ruin it?' It's about finding the cause of why you want to hurt yourself and working towards healing that part of you...and forgiving yourself when you relapse.
People should not have to cover up the cuts on their arms and legs...or, like I did, come up with ways to hurt themselves so it looks like it wasn't on purpose. But our society has yet to become more open-minded on this issue. They still treat self harm like a dirty thing, thus shutting people who self harm away from the love, care, and support they need the most.
It needs to stop.
As for me, therapy and medication have been mere stepping stones on the road to my recovery. Having a family member or a friend I know I can talk to when I go bad again is tremendously helpful. So right now I just hope that anyone struggling with self harm can find someone to talk to, stop seeing themselves as shameful or ugly because of their pain, and find the light again.