Social Stigma of Self Injury

this blog is far too long and blathering and personal and triggering
feel free to skim, I don't start making my point until the 8th paragraph or so, but I really hope at least someone reads this

The first time I engaged in self harm was in the sixth grade. I hated myself in the sixth grade. I was alone all the time. I was bad at sports. I thought I was ugly. Most of my classmates were referring to me as a "goth" and a "satanist" at this point. I hated most of the people I was supposed to be friends with and I didn't fin in anywhere in my small community.

So one of these days after I came home from school, tired and lonely, I fell asleep. I woke up a few hours later to my mother screaming at me. I had forgotten to start dinner and she had to work late and my stepdad would be home any minute.

I freaked the fuck out.

i started screaming into my bed sheets and throwing my head at the wall. You know that bubble gum that comes rolled up in those round, pink containers? The ones where you open it, pull a strip of gum out and close the container to break it off? I broke one of those in half and frantically scratched at my arm for a while. They just looked red, irritated, and kind of bumpy. They bled a little, not very much, and the next day they just looked like cat scratches. But it hurt, and that was the point. I was eleven years old so I didn't really know about cutters or burners or fashionable depression. I just knew that when I was angry or humiliated with myself physical pain neutralized everything. The situation seems so silly now but its how it happened.

It didn't become a habit though, I didn't start ritualistically hurting myself until a little over a year ago. The reason I'm mentioning it is because of the idea, the very widespread idea, that people who hurt themselves are only doing it to "fit in" or to "look cool/deep/fashionable" et cetera. Or only for attention. The first time I used pain to cope I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew it was working.

That attention thing has some merit though.

Now the first time I busted a blade out of a razor and cut myself I do not remember very well at all. I remember a few months earlier I had been cutting my legs with kitchen knives. It hurt, it made me feel better, but I became unsatisfied with it for some reason. I think I wanted scars, as proof. So I went into the bathroom and got a blade and I guess I cut my forearms. I don't remember what I was thinking or feeling or if anything had happened recently to set me off. I don't exactly remember how I felt afterwards.

I can only imagine it worked pretty well though, since I kept doing it every night at my desk for around three months. Then I got caught. After three months. It was humiliating. People go years with this secret and in three months I get busted during a school physical. It was an awful experience having to admit to people I was cutting. I was so embarrassed, but at the same time I was kind of glad. I was very much ignored at home and I didn't really think I was allowed to talk about my feelings since my parents were struggling with divorce and alcoholism (well, divorce anyway, they don't "struggle" with alcoholism, they're just fucking alcoholics. But thats another blog).

I thought now they'd help me, listen to me, take me seriously. They didn't. My mom didn't even talk to me about it. Even my guidance counselor was a complete asshole and acted annoyed the whole time she was talking to me, like I was wasting her time. Truthfully she probably does this a lot. But still, when you're a counselor at a high school I expect a little more damn tact.

If we are being totally honest here I think one of the reasons I kept hurting myself as much as I did is because I wanted visible "proof", if you will, that I was fucked up. I didn't think my feelings were important unless I was damaging myself in a way you could see. In that sense, yes I was doing it for attention. But how does that invalidate the seriousness of cutting? If a person is willing to pry blades out of razors and cut their arms and bleed everywhere, why should we write them off as "attention seekers" and nothing more?

The worst thing that happened after I got caught was my alleged best friend's reaction. At school we had a free period in our second class and the night before she was at a concert. She just kept going on about how awesome it was, and spending the night with her boyfriend and how great everything was. Hurray for you. I waited politely for her to finish and then this conversation happened:

"So yeah... remember yesterday when I was really upset about having to go to the nurse?"
"Yeah...."
"Well I kind of got caught with scars on my arms..."
"Ohh... really?" here she kind of awkwardly chuckles and looks away from me
"Yeah. They're sending me to therapy and stuff now. I don't really know what to do.

"Yeah well... isn't going to therapy for that kind of gay?"

I was so horrified by this I don't remember what she said afterwards. I just remember abruptly dropping the conversation and then going back to listening to her complain about her problems, like her stepdad being pissed at her boyfriend for bringing her home late or some shit.

It hurt so much. And it still hurts, it hasn't lessened in intensity a year later. She didn't ask why I had done it, how long I had done it, if I was okay, if anything was happening. She had no idea what was wrong and she calls going to therapy for cutting myself "gay". From that point on I was terrified to talk about my feelings. She made me feel like I had to keep everything to myself otherwise I would look stupid. I mean if I can't trust my best friend to give a shit about my problems who can I trust? All my other friends pretty blatantly make jokes about cutting. You know, "emo fags" "oh my god how sad why don't you just go cut yourself" blah blah blah. So going to any of them was out. General high school consensus says "cutters are weird". I was alone and so afraid that this is what everyone thinks.

I'm still scared. I haven't even told my own father about any of this for fear of being ridiculed. If I think about it logically I know he most likely wouldn't be anything except understanding, cause you know he's my dad and all. But this fear of being labeled as a freak or needy or an attention whore has made me want to hide from even my own family. I don't date boys but I very much would like to... only there is this terrible scenario that plays itself out in my head whenever I think about being involved with someone. They see my arms and my legs and they leave. Because I am too weird and fucked up for them. So they abandon me.

I am not looking for pity anymore. I was at first but it didn't work so now I'm not. Right now I am trying my hardest to stop but the scars are still there, bumpy and dark pink for the moment. There are ways to lessen the scars and I have tried some but I still relapse. And even when they're physically gone it wont change what I did. I don't want to be so afraid of those who are important to me knowing this secret. I'd like to have enough faith in people to maybe say something to someone about my experience with this and not be totally consumed by fear of judgment. But it just seems so socially unacceptable, like nobody would want to put up with me if they knew. I am trying to stop but I am already branded as a freak and sometimes it hardly feels worth it.


All I am really saying is this: if you ever find out someone in your life is engaging in self harm, if you think they have a problem, don't treat them like they're crazy or stupid. If they come to you for help please listen. I know its so far outside everyone's comfort zone but trying never hurt. The worst thing you can do to someone in this situation is disregard them and blow it off like its nothing or blatantly call them names. Please at least try to show you care and that not everyone in the world thinks what they're doing is meaningless, that they're not completely alone.

And if you actually made it this far, then thank you.
Posted on December 7th, 2009 at 11:09pm

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