World Mental Health Day: Self Harm

Thursday, 10 October 2013

***This post may be triggering.

You've probably seen the deather children, swathed in shining black as they profess black roses and doom or the radically fringed emo's who's tears are star shaped and coated with gel.  Their scars are part of their uniform.  I remember in my youth, walking into pub toilets, all fishnets and pvc to touch up my armour of black kohl.  A young waif of a girl stood in a wisp of latex, her pale arms fully exposed, on show even, proudly advertising her ruby scars as accessories as a cruel smile twisted upon her lips.  Even a neon arrow couldn't have made them more obvious.  Her outfit appeared designed to showcase them.

I never showed mine. I didn't want people to see. Long sleeves and a wrist full of bangles.  Should they slip, a nervous laugh and a roll of the eyes as I cursed my frisky pet rabbits for having scratched me.  It was plausible.  People didn't suspect a thing.  They were hidden.  They were mine.  My secret.  My shame.  My release.

Self harm can take many forms be it blood letting, starvation, burns, alcohol abuse, drug abuse etc they're all a form of inflicting harm upon oneself.  I was a blood letter.  It started when I was barely a teenager.  I wasn't even aware it had a name nor that other people did it.  It started with nail scissors, jabbing them into my wrist and dragging them, again and again.  Sometimes it would be my thigh or my stomach. Often methodically and slowly.  Other times frenzied slashing.

It isn't about suicide.  You're not trying to slit your wrists.  You're not trying to die

It's about control.  An attempt to externalise everything that's within.  To make something visible out of an illness that is invisible.  To try and release the poison that's within you.  Sometimes it's a punishment, for being stupid or ugly or fat or disgusting.  Other times it's cathartic.

Physical pain is infinitely easier to deal with and to understand than mental pain.  So you try and make the pain in your head physical instead.  To extract the venom.  To cleanse.

I started at about age 11 and didn't stop until I was 23.  As I got older, scissors were often traded for razor blades.  It became a ritual, the removal of the bangles, the attack then the aftermath, that eerie silence as you watch the blood flow.  Then come the tears.  The sobs.  You're near convulsing with them.  You only stop because you run out.  Your head feels about to explode pain from the sheer strength of crying.  You clean up, hide your tool of choice.....back on go the bangles and down go the sleeves.  It's like it never happened apart from the reminding sting.  It feels good.  It feels real.  It's something to focus on.  You feel in control for a while. You feel alive for a while.

It didn't get better as I got older, it got worse.  More vicious.  The insatiable need to do it increased, it was like some throbbing in my veins begging to be released.  A white noise in my head that needed silencing.  Yet throughout it, there was control.  I never went too far.  Never needed medical attention.  Nobody had to know.  It was something I could finally do right.Even at work, I'd sneak to the toilets with scissors from my desk tucked under my sleeve, sat on the closed toilet lid, shaking.  Choking on silenced sobs. Everything was spinning and only this would make it stop, for a while.

Other times it was near daily ingestion of painkillers in some futile attempt to kill this inner pain.  To try and make it stop.

The thing that finally stopped me was having children.  I made a vow.  I couldn't let them see how vile I was.  How much I repulsed myself.  How faulty I am.  I haven't done it since.  That was ten years ago.  The urge is still there, it never went away.  It's worse, without an exit.  There's no way to let any of it out and it's filled me to the brim.  I'm drowning in it.  Poisoned.

I recently got a tattoo, to cover the scars.  The tattoo is representative of The Husband and The Spawn.  The very people who made it stop.  It's beautiful.  They're beautiful.  It's beauty ensures I can't go back.  It isn't my arm any more it's theirs, and I can't ruin that.


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