**There is a discussion of self-harm, and self-mutilation in this post. I am not a professional in any sense of the word, I am just a girl and this is just my own experience.**
Me again! How have you been?
I am very excited to be back writing for you and I thought to start off this new writing term I should talk to you about something that was a huge part of my life, and my journey, and is a part of many other people’s stories.
Even just typing it feels dark and heavy. But there it is, just one word that impacts my life daily and so many others all around our world.
Cutting is a form of self-harm, and self-harm is a rising issue among youth in our country. A significant portion of the people I know in my personal life have engaged in some form of self-harm. Not necessarily cutting, it could be pulling your own hair, burning, poisoning, for me self-harm looks like cutting.
If you know me you have probably seen a cut or many on my wrists or thighs, and if you haven’t seen a cut you’ve probably seen a scar. I started when I was 15 after school one day in my shower, and I cried all the way through. It gave me what I needed though, relief, distraction, to me it was a raging success. So I carried on, with my razor in my shower every day after school for months. Eventually, I didn’t need my shower, and I was cutting multiple times every day for years, the tears were replaced with a stone cold lifeless expression, and I carried on about my life in long sleeve shirts.
I couldn’t go anywhere without a blade somewhere nearby, it was my lifeline, kept me afloat at a time when there was a constant threat of drowning.
When people started to find out they were absolutely horrified, like this was the worst most disgusting thing that could ever happen to a person. I must be insane. Time and time again I was treated like a leper, once they found out about my cutting I wasn’t a person anymore I was a thing, a cutting thing. People were angry with me, scared for me and of me, confused as to how this girl that looked so happy could be doing something so dark. The reactions varied from being yelled at, being avoided, sometimes there were tears, I’ve had jobs taken away from me, restricted from being anywhere near scissors or safety pins, it was definitely a roller coaster of emotions.
I could not for the life of me understand why the people around me were reacting in this way. Everyone was scared of the cutting, all anyone could see was cutting, but to me, the cutting was a saving grace, the thing to be feared was my brain and everything happening inside of it, not the cutting.
The big question is WHY? Why are you doing this? What is so bad that you have to do this? What is the motivation behind it? Why? Why? Why? Why?
There were several reasons behind it when I look back.
it took me out of my head for a short while, it was an escape, giving me a second to catch my breath and distract me from all that was happening
it validated my pain for myself, I didn’t understand why everything was hurting so badly, and so intensely but if I looked down and saw cuts it justified the pain and all the feelings that came with it
I am sad to write this, but at the time I thought that people took me more seriously when they could see the pain in a physical way. It is only when I started cutting that I went to therapy, only when the cuts were too deep that I could go to the hospital, or try a new medication.
It all made perfect sense in my mind and was all totally normal. Eventually, the thing that I thought was saving me became an addiction and I didn’t know how to stop or if I could stop. It wasn’t until therapy this past fall where she asked me what I was gaining from it that I started to think maybe I should take this more seriously. Cutting was my addiction, just like alcoholism is an addiction to some, it was the same concept. So I had to start saying goodbye, and it was like walking away from a longtime friend, cutting was the thing I counted on to carry me through those scary times so how could I say goodbye to something that was so “good”.
So I said goodbye to self-harm, I thought that with flushing the blades (even the backup, back up one) that it meant I was done. That would be too easy though, me being me whenever things got bad, or too much, or too scary I found a new escape route since the blade was no longer an option. Drinking, drugs, partying, sex, and restricted eating were my most popular ways of escape. I fooled myself and everyone around me thinking that I was okay though, because I wasn’t cutting, or overdosing – drinking, drugs, partying, sex those were normal 20-year-old things, that everybody does, so it’s ok.
It wasn’t okay.
It was transferring the same destructive mindset and habits to more socially acceptable habits.
I wrote a list of things I learned as a 20-year-old and number 8 was
Be careful with escape mechanisms that are disguised as “fun”. Every single one of those behaviours that were supposed to be “fun”, left me feeling empty, used, and absolutely ashamed. That doesn’t really sound like fun.
So I am learning more, and starting to recognize what is healthy and what is destructive in my behaviors. Maybe I’m the only who thought like this, but to me self-harm was cutting, burning, poisoning, ripping hair out, inflicting physical harm upon one self. As I get older, and as I am reflecting more I’m starting to think that maybe it is so much bigger than that.
What if self-harm is also me not eating, or me letting doubt seep into my first healthy relationship, or talking negatively about myself, or thinking negatively about myself. What if self-harm is more than the big physical acts?
My friend and I call it self-sabotage now, and I am so guilty of it almost every day.
We are taught from just about everyone, everywhere in all facets of life that we are not good enough, not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not happy enough, not smart enough, not funny enough, not athletic enough, not adventurous enough, not cool enough, not enough.
So in my adult life, my self-harm habits have evolved from the big scary physical act to almost small unnoticeable acts. They both make me feel safe from the world because I then have the control. If I hurt myself, if I sabotage myself, then it won’t hurt so badly when the world hurts me.
Then that’s living a life of fear, and of harm. That’s not a way to live. You and me, and everyone around us, we are all enough simply because we exist. The world is going to hurt us that is inevitable, so why add to that by hurting ourselves too? As the summer is ending and school is soon starting, my goal is to move beyond this self-harm thing, it is not adding to my life, I don’t need it to keep me alive anymore, there is growing to do. I wouldn’t take it back though, the five years of cutting, and this one-year of new escape routes, I am so grateful for the lessons it has taught me and continues to teach me. I am definitely not self-harm free, it is a work in progress, but I am four months razor free, which probably sounds like not much, but it certainly feels like a lifetime. If it happens again I will be gentle with myself, learn from it and carry on, and when I look down at the scars on my thighs or my wrists I will try to replace the shame and disgust feelings with pride because you can’t escape a battle without a few scars, and this whole mental health thing is one hell of a battle.
You are enough. You are loved. You are valued. You are worthy.
I am so excited for this next term of writing, I will see you soon!
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About Chelsea Moore
My name is Chelsea! I am in my third year of university studying Anthropology and Sociology. I started self harming when I was 15, had my first suicide attempt when I was 16, and that is when I was diagnosed with Depression. Since then my life has been about recovery, and throughout this journey writing has been my safe place. Throughout my journey I've learned that everyone has a story, and hurting together feels a lot better than hurting behind closed doors.I am passionate about bringing awareness to mental illness, and couldn't be more excited about this opportunity to write for Healthy Minds Canada!