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Monday, 24 July 2017

Understanding Self-Harm

Everybody has habits. I have a habit of not finishing books. I read a lot and my mind is fast paced, so I get so frantic towards the end that I don’t finish it and go on to another book. I have another worse habit that I don’t talk about much; starving myself. That sounds more extreme than it is. I don’t have an eating disorder, but for years I’ve had a habit of feeling hungry and then letting myself go hours without food, then eat when I’m about to pass out. It’s stupid and terrible and I don’t know why I do it.

I had a bad drinking habit, but thanks to AA that’s stopped. This post is going to address an ongoing habit I adhere to and many others do; self-harm. There are many different forms of self-harm, but the most common one that we think of is cutting one’s skin, either with a knife or razor.

A friend of mine who also does this said to me how silly cutting yourself is. We had a good laugh over it. Laughing helps to cope with pain. Cutting is silly. It doesn’t help anything. So why do we do it? When I was fourteen I used to put knives to my skin and pretend like I was going to cut but I was too afraid of the pain. At nineteen I came into AA, and needless to say began replacing alcohol for cutting. Cutting has not been as frequent; I drank more or less daily but cut every few weeks and it’s decreased to every few months.

When I feel deeply miserable about something, I want to escape that feeling. Always have. I want to run away from it. As a child I used to bite into my bed sheets a lot, or read; as a teenager I used the internet – YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and music – in later teens I used alcohol. I’ve used smashing up bottles, attention from guys, marijuana; anything to change the way I feel.

Cutting is a release. It makes you feel numb and relaxed in a zombie sort of way. Rather than feeling the emotional pain, you feel the physical pain of dragging a knife through your body. The pain (it’s not that painful but then I don’t cut that deeply; it more ‘stings’) is a comfort. Afterwards I feel relaxed. Then I feel bad and kiss my wounds and apologise to myself for what I’ve done. It’s like a man who beats his wife and then cries and says he’s sorry. Sometimes I put aloe vera gel on them afterwards because they sting.

I know self-harm is a massive problem for a lot of people, particularly young people. As a coping mechanism I must say it is pointless, silly and unhelpful. I know it feels good, but it’s wrong to do. I know, we’re in a classic ‘do as I say not as I do’ scenario. If my brother or close friend started cutting their skin it would break my heart. Hurting yourself may feel good at the time, but it won’t solve the emotional pain that you’re feeling. Talking and expressing how you feel solves emotional pain. It needs to be let out in a healthy way. By cutting your skin and potentially harming your health you’re holding your feelings in.

Find a better way to let them out. Use art, sports, talking, meditation, dance; anything else to let your feelings out and channel them. A big one for me is drumming. Like Moses, let my feelings go! 

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