Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Do you know anyone else who injures themselves?
I’ve known many people in my life. You wouldn’t know that now, of course, given the socially isolated state I find myself living in, but once upon a time I had several good friends, a dozen or so acquaintances and a plethora of random people who didn’t fit neatly into either category. I’ve known people who are mentally sound and those who battle mental illness on a daily basis. People who deal with depression, with BPD, bipolar, schizophrenia and ADHD. But amidst all those people, amidst all those wonderful, beautiful souls, I’ve only known three people who self-harm.
One, is my mother. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind you knowing that, given how fervently she believes mental illness should be talked about. Even though I know my mother has dealt with self harm, I’ve never had all that many conversations about her history with self harm. I don’t know when she started. I don’t know how long she self harmed. And I don’t have any idea what triggers her. I do know however that she has worked hard to get her self harming under control. I know how hard she’s worked to not given in to her urges. And I know how much she wants to remain self harm free. I’ve always admired my mother for her battles with self harm. She is one of the most inspiring people I know and is a source of tremendous strength in my own battles to remain self harm free.
The second person I’ve known who self harmed is Samantha. She didn’t do it all that frequently, but she did dabble (her word) with cutting, hitting and burning. It’s something that drew us together, something that cemented our friendship, and is one of the primary reasons she remains one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever met. Her own dealings with self harm meant she never judged other people. About anything. Samantha just accepted people for who they were, warts and all. I don’t believe her self harm was solely responsible for this, I think it was just who she was as a person, but her desire not to be judged for her actions certainly inspired her own belief that you should never define a person by just one aspect of their personality.
Lastly, Grace admitted to me during an emotional phone conversation that she self harmed. Out of the blue one overcast weekday she called me in a panic; she was close to self harming and wanted someone to talk to, someone to distract her from her internal pain. Knowing that I myself had been in similar situations in the past I talked to her. I talked to her about the weather. About university. About her favourite Aussie Rules Football team. I talked to her about anything that popped into my head in order to stop her from retreating into hers. What I didn’t do was tell her about my history of self harm. At that juncture in my life I wasn’t ready to talk about it. I wasn’t ready to tell other people about my secret, painful activities. I’ve always had tremendous respect for the strength Grace displayed during that telephone call. To ask for help is difficult. To ask for help in a time of mental distress is nigh on impossible. Yet she fought her demons and made the call; she asked for help, and I like to believe I answered her call in the best way I could.
After the call I talked to Grace about self harm on several occasions, eventually finding the strength to tell her that I did it myself. Like Samantha, she never judged me. She knew what it was like to feel the cold steel of a knife against your flesh. She knew only too well how quickly darkness can descend over your mind.
I’ve always believed self harm should be talked about; that it should be discussed. And I’ve had conversations with all three people I’ve known through my life who self harm, about self harm. I’ve also had conversations with several other of the old friends and acquaintances I used to have about self harm. It is a subject that shouldn’t be shied away from. It is a subject of such seriousness that it deserves to be spoken about, at length.
So if you know anyone who self harms. Or even if you don’t. Never be ashamed to raise it in conversation. The more people who do, the better.