Marie Opinion Piece on Self Harm

Self-Harm is a word that means so many things, fits to many things we do to our bodies. Whether it’s cutting oneself, burning oneself, starving oneself, how much or little one sleeps, or what toxins one puts in their body. (drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, etc.) It could be countless different things we all do to our bodies. To some they find the relief in cutting that I find in lighting a cigarette; whereas others may find it in a nice bubble bath.

Some forms of self-harm are arguably worse than others. Cutting or burning ones body is more risky to ones immediate wellbeing than lighting a cigarette or not sleeping enough for a couple nights. However in the long run they all significantly impact ones wellbeing and health. No matter what one does to their body it all catches up to us eventually.

Now I personally have never cut myself; but I had friends who did.  Seeing the marks, hearing them talk about it, that scared me.  Knowing that someone I care for is hurting themselves, is hurting so bad that causing themselves physical pain helps, it’s a scary thought. The thought of them hurting themselves, cutting too deep, hitting the wrong spot, or slicing down a artery instead of across, the chance of them not being alright, or alive after that is frightening.  Something I wish no one had to go through; whether it’s the person who is harming themselves or those who care about that person and are constantly worried about them.

Many people see self harm as a sign of weakness, that the person can’t handle life.  However I don’t think it’s a weakness, it’s not healthy or good, but it doesn’t make the person weak.  It shows that the person has taken what life has to throw at them ( eg. bullying, abuse, family struggles, loved ones death, schooling, discrimination, work, harassment, etc.) and internalized it, because others words and actions do hurt. Internalizing your issues builds, it’s like this ever growing weight that you can not shake, it’s not pleasant. People need to find some way to deal with it and to physically harm your body, that’s not a easy feat it’s quite scary really.  Cutting yourself is something that takes guts, really takes that push of having being through too much to handle, it’s something I couldn’t do to myself. People seem to forget that cutting yourself is not a small feat, it’s scary, dangerous, and permanent.  So to call someone weak or belittling them for self harming does more harm then good, it’s the last thing that person wants to hear.  That person needs to see the people who care for them actually show they care, to be understanding and helpful; not to freak out, guilt them or tell them they are weak/pathetic/dumb. They need help, and they need a group of supportive, caring loved ones to help them through it.

I may not have cut myself but I did go through other forms of harming myself. I’ve starved myself eating (or drinking) the bare minimum to keep going and not have people on my back, I’ve averaged 2-4 hours of sleep a night, if I even slept.  I used to drink to excess, I started smoking in my teens, averaging one and a half to two packs a day, something although I’ve cut down I still haven’t managed to quit all together.

To me it was my way of surviving, if I didn’t sleep, I didn’t dream which meant I didn’t have nightmares.  I didn’t have a proper sleep of over 6 hours in over 4 to 5 years, my body learnt not to stay asleep that long. Although I started sleeping longer again I still sometimes can not sleep over four hours in a night and I still regularly wake up after 3 hours and have to force myself back to sleep.  It’s not a fun process and it’s caught up to me, I’m more lethargic and never feel properly rested.

Honestly I didn’t even notice how little I was eating after a while, I stopped paying attention and so did my body it seemed. I had fallen into a depression, I didn’t want food: I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t have the drive to make or buy food  never mind the drive to eat it. Eventually my body got used to the lack of food intake and adjusted to it, I didn’t feel hungry, my body didn’t want food. It wouldn’t be until I would black out that I even thought of food, by that time I couldn’t remember the last thing I ate nor could I remember when I last ate.  I went without eating regularly for over two years, until it caught up to me and I got extremely sick and weak. It was horrible and trying to force my body to get used to food again was even worse, I was constantly sick and my body would reject the food.

Despite what form of self harm one is doing to their body consciously or not it’s a scary process that needs the right type of help to get past. It takes time to truly move on and it’s always going to be a nagging little temptation in their head. The person needs love, time, support and understanding for what they are going through. All of us whether we are the ones going through the struggles and self harming or are watching a loved one go through it need to stay strong and never give up.

Please, if you are self harming, find someone you trust to confide in and get help.

If you know someone who is self harming or are worried about them please talk to them and get them the help they need and deserve.

-Marie Olsson

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