March 1st is World Book Day, you’ve probably heard something about it on TV, or maybe there’s something going on at your local library. WHat you probably haven’t heard much about is that March 1st is also Self Harm Awareness Day.
I used to self harm. Maybe some of you already know this, may be some of you did not. I am not ashamed of this fact, it is part of who I am. To contribute to Self Harm Awareness Day I wanted to share a couple of things I penned a while ago, but until this point had not felt ready to share. I hope the reasons for me doing this become clear as you read on, so I won’t say too much more. This is for all my fellow self harmers.
Crimson Diary/Scarlet Embrace
My cuts weren’t the deepest there have been, nor the merest. The places that my scars lay vary from the places that others have laid theirs. The pain I felt inside, that eventually bled out through the wounds I created, no doubt was similar and different to every other person who has ever let their pain in the same way. The tools I chose were as assorted as the many that self harmers the world over have selected.
I am one of countless many. I am not the first, and I will not be the last, who has cut, burnt, picked, bitten and scratched at their own flesh. Something in me, like those innumerable others throughout the tapestry of history, found a tender and precious thing in harming myself in these ways.
I am not a psychologist or therapist, and I don’t have to hand the statistics of the how many, who, when or where surrounding self harm. I have read books about the subject; I have read good and helpful books and guides. They have helped me understand myself more, as has the counseling I’ve received. My only claim of expertise in the subject really is that which I have experienced. Most helpful in the pages I’ve read was often the first hand accounts from other self-harmers. The accuracy with which their words twinned with my thoughts gave me comfort, and the hope I felt when I read that some no-longer self harmed at all was like the distant sight of a boat on the horizon to a desperate shipwreckee.
And now I find myself among those who can say ‘I used to’. Long years I thought with all my energy that I would continue to feel and express in that same way forever. In that deep, dark place it is often impossible to imagine another way, another time, so blinded are you by the thickness of emotion that envelopes you. And yet… There is another time, a time in the future, which has become my present; a time when you have grown and its not always night time any more. A time when the memory remains strong, and at moments, the urge strong also, but when you have become stronger still; A time when you don’t cut anymore.
It’s so massively difficult to put into any kind of comprehensive words every thought and feeling I have about self harming. Often I find that I am contradicting myself. But paradoxes exist, and I have learnt that they exist boldly when it comes to self harming. I hate it and I love it. I wish to be rid of it, and I cherish it like a best friend. It makes me feel good, and it makes me feel terrible. It is my lover and my enemy. I am glad it is gone now, and I miss it.
My sincerest hopes for this effort are primarily two-fold. Firstly this is for the many many others who have shared this encounter with me. I dare to hope that reading my thoughts will offer them comfort in the same way that my glimpses of theirs helped me; that maybe I can offer a glimmer of hope to those still in the scarlet embrace; and that, so importantly, they can shed some of the shame they may feel and somehow know that they are not alone.
Secondly I hope that non-harmers will look on these pages and glean some understanding, and in understanding more will judge less. Unfortunately self harm has become a taboo subject. People don’t like to acknowledge it is there. It is messy and ‘unsightly’ and continually misunderstood. Biased I may be, but I don’t believe that self harmers need or deserve pity, but rather respect and understanding. So often perceived as weak, we are strong. (We and they must hear that)
The following is something I wrote to try and explain why I self harmed.
You look and you see. You see the stripes on my arm. What do you see?
What shape forms in your thoughts of who I am and I why I do this thing I do?
This other thing, this thing that is alien to you. This action you associate with death, with a desire for death. It is not death, it is life. It is not dying, it is staying alive. It is being alive.
From the bottom of the darkest, dankest, empty pit; I do this to wake up. Not to go to sleep. I do this to feel, not to cease feeling. I do this to breathe again, not to hand life my notice.
When the desire to die grips me like poisonous vines that curl around my every thought, this thing I do cuts through them, as it cuts through me.
The frustration that winds me like a tightly wound coil, fit to burst; The overwhelming emotion that threatens my stability like an approaching tsunami, that is daylight robbery stealing my breath and my foothold; the anger and the hurt that throw knifes at me striking the bulls eye of my heart.
This thing I do is my rescuer. My Tarzan swooping in and swiftly lifting me out of the impending doom of what I may do if I am left with these feelings. It is the diversion sign that forces me to drive around the dead end road that leads over a drop I won’t return from.
This putting apart of my flesh, pieces me together again. It halts the hurricane dead in its tracks. The speeding car-chase of emotions stops when the light turns red. It is the blood that flows through my body, the circulation that delivers life-giving oxygen to my organs, which now gives oxygen to my soul. I can breathe again. I can see again. I’m safe and sound, and not deathward bound again.
I’m still alive.