This is a difficult post for me, as I know several of the people who read this blog in person and the subject is touchy (pun intended).
A few years ago my former significant other pointed to a scar on my leg and said ‘I don’t know what that is, but it isn’t normal even for abuse.’ That got me laughing and made me think about the various scars on my body. Most of them come from SRA stuff, some come from my mother’s handiwork all on her own, and some of them, admittedly, come from me. Self injury is a topic that’s very familiar to the abuse and trauma community, but it’s always difficult to bring up. My method of choice is cutting, and I’m not proud of it. However, I also realise that I’d probably be dead without it.
Self injury isn’t usually about suicide. It’s about release. It had been almost eight months since my last problem with SI until just the other day. Now we’re working on almost four days. I’m rather angry with myself about this, but the frightening part is how much of a release it truly was. My problems with SI started in an odd way– I wanted to cover a particularly gruesome scar on my arm, so I carved right over it. At least it gave me *some* control over what was happening to my body. Soon, though, it turned into a way to let out emotions that was acceptable in my environment.
Over the past eight months I’ve definitely had the urge to cut. However, I’d successfully managed to talk myself out of it until this very last bit. It’s like things build and build inside until I’ve got to find a way to let off some of the pressure, and since I can’t seem to let myself react openly with any strong emotion even while I’m alone, SI eventually won out. It’s been quite some time, though, since I felt the sort of immediate lessening of pressure that made things tolerable. My mood has definitely improved, but this is *not* a long-term solution. It was a momentary lapse of judgement and a somewhat desperate attempt to get some stuff off my chest.
So yes, it won out this time, but I’m not going to repeatedly berate myself because of that. I’m going to recognise my mistake, the factors that led to it, and the possible ways to handle it better in the future. And then I’m going to go on with life. I guess that’s the moral of this little post– if you have a problem with SI, it definitely needs to be addressed. However, don’t get bunged up in the process.
Departing from the heavy tone of this post for a bit, I think it’s interesting that there are some forms of what could be considered self injury that society accepts. I have three tattoos, one of which is somewhat large and took nearly three hours to complete. I’ve heard tattooing describe as a sewing machine like process done on the skin, and they are largely ornate and purposefully drawn scars. My tattoos are easily covered by trousers and socks because, right or not, they can be a cause for discrimination. They were absolutely my choice, though, and for the most part society accepts tattooing.
I guess my point is, even among people who hate the thought of tattoos, I can typically mention mine without causing abject horror. The same is definitely not true for SI. The scars I have from self injury and the more recent examples are easily hidden, just like my tattoos. Self injury is *my* problem, and I don’t intend to put that off on others even by the simple act of making the cuts and scars visible. I don’t typically have a problem with people seeing my tattoos (which are not in any ‘personal’ areas), but I’m very careful to hide the SI stuff. In my opinion it will never and should never be appropriate to stand up in a crowd and announce that you self injure, aside from group therapy situations where the topic is part of the process. Still, facing the looks of horror, blame, and anger that admitting to SI can sometimes bring often prevents people from telling even therapists about their problem. If even the slightest bit of stigma attached to SI could be removed, it would be much easier for people who deal with it to get the help they need.