From the outside looking in, self-harm doesn’t make any sense; harming oneself because it helps cope with the pain or anger inside. How could that possibly help?
I found something interesting several years back when I taught 8th graders where cutting was so prevalent. I had heard of it, but I had never seen it. Once I went from teaching high school to middle school, I was shocked by the amount of students who did this to themselves.
“What’s the interesting part?” you might ask. What I found interesting was that I looked at the students who were cutting on a regular basis, and I completely understood it. How could it be that I understood why they did what they did? I had never even seen it before. Why did it make sense to me when most people thought it was weird and stupid?
I never knew the answer to that until I wrote, Perfect You. One of the chapters is about self-harm. It’s not about cutting, mind you. It’s about self-harm.
What is Self-Harm?
When you hear the word self-harm, you probably immediately think of someone cutting. According to HoustonPsychotherapists.com, self-injury happens many different ways: cutting, burning, excessive scratching, interference with wound healing, hitting or bruising, excessive nail biting, pulling hair, and breaking bones.[i]
The more I researched and wrote in this chapter, the more I realized why it made perfect sense to me when my students said they were cutting because they didn’t know how to deal with their feelings and emotions. They hurt inside so deeply that the only way to get rid of the pain was to cause physical pain to themselves. I didn’t condone it by any means, but I understood it.
When I was younger cutting wasn’t heard of. I don’t even think I had ever heard of self-injury or self-harm. But you know what? It didn’t stop me from doing it.
That’s right. I fell into this category as a young girl, and I didn’t even know it until last year! I want to share a small excerpt from the book. It’s part of my story. It’s one that no one, other than my husband, knows about.
I come from a family where most members don’t know how to control their anger. I never knew what it was like to be in a home where yelling wasn’t the norm. Even when my husband and I dated, it didn’t take long for me to begin my own tirades. I thought that’s how it was supposed to be.
At a very early age, I remember screaming into a pillow when my parents fought. As I grew into preteen years, my relationship with my mom grew more volatile. At any instance fuel was doused on the fire between us, and it wouldn’t take long for one of us to explode. I had rage pulsating through my veins, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I yelled at her, but it didn’t release the rage bubbling inside of me. I ran to my room, slammed my door, and I pulled my hair as hard as I could, clawed myself with my fingernails, scratched myself with anything sharp I could find (pencil, paper clip, whatever was in site), and I sometimes bit my wrists until I couldn’t stand it anymore.
This was the only way I knew how to cope with the overpowering wrath inside of me. When I got angry, it was as if there was a war going on inside of me, and I was being ripped apart from the inside out as the ones fighting the war tried to force their way to the outside. I truly had no idea how to control it other than to hurt myself silently.
Is this You?
I understood my students because I had done the same thing but in a different manner. People harm themselves for different reasons and in different ways. Maybe you can relate. Unfortunately those looking from the outside in don’t know how to help you. They love you dearly and may do whatever they can think of to help you, but sometimes it makes it worse. The key is to speak to someone on a regular basis who can help you understand your emotions and how to handle them.
Whether it’s raging emotions or horrible pain from a secret you’ve buried deep inside, you need to let it out. Talk to someone about it. Self-harm is a dangerous game regardless of your method. I am not an expert on this matter, but I have seen the dangers. You may feel helpless and like there’s no one in the world who can understand or help you, but that’s not true.
Start searching online for counselors near you who specialize in self-injury. Go to your parents and let them know you need help and would like to visit a counselor who knows about these things. It doesn’t mean you’re “crazy.” It means you need help learning how to cope with certain things, and they really can help.
As a parent, I hurt when there’s nothing I can do to ease the pain my children feel when they fall and get hurt. I can only imagine what God feels when he looks at his precious child who is hurting so badly that she desires to cause even more pain to herself. Your life is worth living to its fullest. Take the first step today in making it a better one. God has big plans for you!
The Battle Within
I want to leave you with an amazingly written look into the inner battle of a “cutter.” This is a journal entry from one of my youth girls who has since overcome her destructive behavior, and it’s a part of her story that’s written in Perfect You.
I’m scared. I feel like that’s okay though. The sense of fear sliding through my veins will be gone one day. One day soon, maybe, maybe not. I’m caught up in everything I know I’m not supposed to be. These insecurities have me tangled by the throat. I’m killing myself, oh how I want to kill myself.
You know that feeling that rushes over you? It overtakes you like a drug, pulling you under. That feeling when having hope seems hopeless, when you can’t count a night you didn’t cry yourself to sleep, when you sit in the bathroom at school during your 3rd period class, slitting your wrists. Is that what they call addiction? Or is that what they call crazy?
I just want to sleep for a thousand years, or not exist, or just not be aware I exist, or something like that. I’m trying to keep everything from spinning, but my mind has been wandering to those nights. The nights you whispered into my ear and said “this won’t hurt a bit.” It hurt though, oh how it hurt. A 14 year old girl, a 21 year old man, and stolen innocence. Can you paint the picture now?
I suppose I am lonely, lost, broken, confused, crushed, and searching. I need a way out. So, I’ll make my arm the playing field and death the game, here goes nothing, let’s hope I win.
I urge you. If you are harming yourself, please don’t let it get to this point where it becomes a game of you versus your method of harm. I don’t want you to lose that battle. You are worth so much more.
[i] “Self-Harm.” Houston Psychotherapists. Houston Psychotherapists, Inc., 2009. Web. 18 Nov 2011. http://www.houstonpsychotherapists.com/selfinjury.html.
Perfect You is currently being considered by a publishing company, and this post, as well as all other posts, is under the copyright of Fearfully Made Ministries, LLC.