Life isn’t easy, and it’s not meant to be. We all experience difficult things in our lives differently, and we approach those difficulties differently. Sometimes, the ways we handle those difficulties is unhealthy and can cause damage to ourselves and our lives and those around us. Sometimes, that involves self-harming.
I truly started self-harming in the sense of cutting only two years ago. Before that, I harmed myself through an almost four-year-long eating disorder and alcohol abuse. I was reckless to my body. I hated my body and myself and the world around me for being too difficult for me to handle at the time. Eventually, I recovered from my eating disorder and alcoholism, and I learned to cope differently with the world that I hated so much, the world that hurt me so much as it stood there allowing me to hurt myself. Things changed, I changed, and the way I harmed myself changed, and I turned to self-harm through cutting.
Growing up, I knew several people who cut themselves regularly, but at the time, it was more of “thing” for people to do. It was, for most people I observed at the time, for things like attention or trying to figure themselves out and who they were/wanted to be. It was the weird struggling of growing out of adolescence and realizing that you weren’t a kid anymore kind of thing.
I remember trying to cut myself once in middle school since so many people I knew were doing it at the time, but I hated and was terrified of pain and blood at the time, and I couldn’t bring myself to actually do anything. Fast-forward several years later, and I find myself in a frantic one night, home alone, in my sophomore year of college, and trembling from sobbing, and those fears for that sort of thing went away with the scissors I held in my hand that night.
That was two years ago, and I’ve struggled with self-harm through cutting ever since.
The pain is for myself and myself only. No one can know. So I cut carefully, I make sure the cuts can’t be discovered so I can go about my day-to-day life without anyone worrying. But people close to you find out one way or another. Your therapist gets more and more concerned. You begin to hate yourself more and more when you wake up the next day and see the damage that’s been done. You can’t erase the scars, so you’re always reminded of what you’ve done.
But you don’t stop.
Self-harm is an addiction. The temporary pain is relieving from the pain you feel inside your head. Addictions are temporary solutions to a problem that you can’t stop going back to, even when you know it’s not right to do.
Self-harm is a real and serious issue that needs help. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to receive help from friends and medical professionals, and because of that, my tendencies have receded some. But not everyone is as fortunate. In the United States alone, 4% of the population has reoccurring self-harm tendencies, and within college-aged kids, 17-35% report having done self-harm, which, as a college student myself, is a terrifying statistic. I’m not the only person I know in my college who struggles with self-harm, but it is by no means something to brush off.
But the important thing to recognize about self-harm is that it isn’t just about “wanting to die,” like so many people seem to assume, and unfortunately, like so much of the media tends to romanticize. In fact, most times, an attempt to commit suicide is not the case when doing the act. Self-harm is almost always about wanting to temporarily relieve some sort of mental pain with physical pain instead. And I feel like a lot of outsiders to that feeling don’t understand that.
There were times in my life where, yes, I’ve wanted to die and I’ve attempted to do just that, but I wouldn’t cut to reach those means. There’s so much in life and in the world around me to experience, so many wonderful, beautiful, extraordinary things that I couldn’t imagine dying just yet. So instead, when life gets overwhelmingly negative at times, I find a twisted relief in self-harm, and so do many other individuals. With the act, you can calm down and continue about your life and try to experience all the lovely things the world has to offer, you just have to feel a different pain that’s not in your head along the way.
Self-harm comes in so many different forms for people you may even least expect to be entangled under its web, and those people need extra care and help in order to break the addiction or at least lessen it. Most of us still want to live; we just want the stress of day-to-day life and difficult times to go away. But that’s life, and life isn’t meant to be forever sunshine-y and happy. We still want to live, it’s just like we don’t know how to exactly.
If you feel the need to self-harm, the urge to do so screaming at you in the back of your head, if you feel like it’s the only thing you can do to make the moment feel “better,” don’t cave in. I promise you, the self-harm isn’t worth the pain, the guilt, the mess, the judgement towards yourself, the hatred you’ll feel for doing such a thing, again. It’s been a long, steady journey myself to slowly stop the cutting and fighting the urges, but it’s a journey that’s so worth it.
I don’t want to die. I want to live. I have goals and aspirations to achieve, just like most people do, regardless of self-harming or not. But the act of self-harm can get in the way of achieving those dreams. You never know when you’ll accidently take it too far and the damage becomes irreversible.
It’s never, ever too late to seek help. People care, I promise you that. Life is greater than you think. It’s also scarier than you think but there are other, healthier ways to relieve the pain that doesn’t involve creating even more pain. We don’t all exactly want to die, and most of us will need help to live the best way we can, a way that doesn’t involve self-harm. It’s a slow and steady process to recover, but it can be done.
Seek help. Don’t hesitate or be afraid to reach out. Life can be lived in a wonderful way without self-harm.
**If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm, reach out to credible sources and people you know and trust to help.**