National Self-Harm Awareness Day

Two serious posts in one week – crazy huh? I promise to get back to shopping and clothes and mayhem and foolishness next week!

Today is National Self-Harm Awareness Day. To be honest, I didn’t even know there was a day for this until about 3 days ago. However, I am insanely happy to hear that there is a day that brings attention to this widespread and serious issue. Why is this so near and dear to my heart? Let’s back up and bit and I’ll tell you a story……

It’s real – it has a ribbon!

I’ve shared my personal struggles rather openly on my blog. The way I see it, the more I am willing to share, the more others will know that they aren’t alone. I’ve lived with chronic clinical depression since I was a teenager; I take medication, I see a doctor, I have seen many therapists, and I’ve learned to live with my illness. It’s not weird or strange or bad – it’s just learning a new normal. I accept that my “normal” is much different that other people’s and I have to be ever mindful of any slight variation of that normal. It doesn’t take much to send me into  a deeply depressed state and I do my best to stave off this instances. But they happen, and I have to be gentle with myself and give my brain time to regroup. It’s not easy, but it’s life.

I have once mentioned that I was a cutter (sorry, the video was deleted – here’s a link to the song I posted), but I didn’t really go into details. I started cutting when I was 14 years old and until about 4 years ago, it was my go-to method of coping. I am well aware that it’s not healthy but it made things more bearable at the most difficult times in my life. I’m not proud of it, and I certainly avoid it now, but I no longer want to be ashamed. I do get a lot of questions and comments when people find out, so let me clear some things up and respond to them.

1- Doesn’t that hurt? Of course it hurts. I don’t have any super-human powers. It hurts just like any other time you get injured.

2 – You just did it for attention. That is correct and incorrect at the same time. I did it for attention in the sense that I needed help and I didn’t know how to communicate it. There was nothing visibly wrong with me so how was I supposed to explain my “symptoms” to a doctor? However, it also provided a comfort to me; finally I could see something that hurt. All of the pain that I felt – the sadness, the depression, the frustration and anger at myself- was in my head. I badly wanted something to point at and say “look, it HURTS!!” to validate the fact that I wasn’t insane and there was a reason to be in pain. I didn’t do it for the attention from others. Rarely did people (other than my family) see my injuries. I worked hard to keep them hidden.

3- That’s so bad for you. Promise me you’ll never do it again. This one is my favorite because it’s absolutely misguided but comes from a place of love. First of all, I know it’s bad for me. Trust me, I understand that dangers and the fact that I have to deal with an open wound. But asking me to promise never to do it again is sort of setting me up for failure. Now, I do not ever plan on harming myself again. I have found other ways of coping and I don’t plan on ever going back. However, if push comes to shove and I do, I have no desire to be bogged down in the guilt of letting YOU down. So when you meet someone who self-harms instead of trying to extract a promise, make them an offer like “If you ever feel that low again, I want you to call/text me. No matter what time it is, I will talk.” Set up a code word that they can send so that if it’s the middle of the night you know that it’s important and not just a drunk dial.

4- Can you get rid of the scars? This one is my favorite! I will admit – I am a bit self-conscious about my scars. Meeting new people has opened me up to many queries about them. If it’s a casual social setting where I’m meeting acquaintances, I will usually make up some random story about a wayward mountain goat with rage issues. Usually they understand that I don’t really want to discuss it and they change the subject. However, when it’s someone I’m close to who I trust, I will level with them. While I am self-conscious, I am not ashamed.

If you take nothing else away from this post, please take this; self-harm is not something to be ashamed of or something that needs to be hidden. If you or someone you know has an issue with self-harm, know that you are not alone, you are not a freak, and there are people out there that can and want to help.

Thanks for letting me talk about this today. I promise we will return to purses and shoes and dresses next week!

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