About Self-Harm – Part 1 – The Basics

Welcome to part 1 of our series about self-harm.  In this series, I aim to crack open the topic of self-harm and bring a few details to light.  It’s a topic that no one ever talks about if they can help it, which we need to change.  I must make you aware that this series comes with a *trigger warning* as it unpacks that topic.  Let’s dive in.

Self-Harm: the Basics

Why do you have scars?What do you know about self-harm?  What do you perceive it to be?  More importantly, do you know why people would do it?  If you would like to leave a comment with your original thoughts about it, I’d appreciate that.  It’ll give me an idea of what page we’re on collectively.

Self-harm, as a whole, is a topic surrounded by a lot of stigma.  It potentially carries as much stigma as depression in its entirety.  There are loads of assumptions surrounding it but how many of them are true?  Let’s take a look.

The Myths

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the myths around it.

  • Self-harm is attention-seeking: not strictly true. Granted, there will be those who do it for attention but, for the most part, people do go to great lengths to hide it.
  • Self-harmers are suicidal: again, not always.  Self-harm is mostly used as a coping mechanism to ensure survival, like in my case.  There is a link between self-harm and suicide, as there are crossovers, but most of the time it’s used to get rid of feelings, not to end life itself.
  • It’s a teenage thing: it’s definitely not just a teenage thing.  I’m not a teenager, after all.  I know others who do it and they’re older.
  • They can stop if they want to: actually, it’s possible to become habitual or addictive for some people.
  • Self-harmers have been abused in the past: again, not always.  Yes, some have been but in my case I haven’t. There are different triggers for it.
  • Self-harm is cutting: there are many different forms, that I will cover in a moment.

See, there are many myths surrounding self-harm in general.  Now let’s take a look at some of the basics of it.

The Basics

There are a number of different ways that someone can self-harm.  The most widely known one is cutting, which seems to be one of the most popular ones as well, as far as I can tell. However, other methods can include burning, scratching, head banging, hair pulling or substance abuse that can lead to overdosing.  There isn’t just one form that people can turn to.

As an affliction, it is also far more complicated.  It’s not something like a disease that can be narrowed down to a definitive cause the same way you would with a cold or an infection.  It is its own entity and it is vast because there are many different reasons why people would do it.  Some people may use exactly the same form of self-harm but they may do it for two completely different reasons. Alternatively, they may have almost identical reasons but use two different methods.  It depends from person to person as much as depression varies from one person to the next.

In a nutshell, while we can identify methods and give it a definition of its own, we cannot give a single, unified reason as to why people self-harm. While some people do do it for attention, in the majority of cases it’s done for other reasons.  Every case is different and should be treated as such.

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Self-Harm and Me

If you’re new to the blog or haven’t explored much of the site, you might have a inkling of how I seem to know so much about self-harm.  For those of you who don’t already know, I have experience in this area. You can check out my journey and Pills and Blades to see my self-harming story in more detail but for the moment, let me give you a little overview.  These will be the cold, hard facts so please forgive any abruptness.

So, the method that I turned to was cutting.  Stereotypical, I know, but effective.  I use razor blades on my thighs for a couple of different reasons, reasons that I shall be going through in next week’s post. There are two important points that I need to point out though:

  1. I’m not telling you for attention.
  2. I cannot always control it.

I know, I’ve written a post concerning my self-harm and then posted it on a public blog but it’s not for attention.  Not in the attention-seeking way, at any rate.  If I self-harmed for attention, I wouldn’t cut my thighs, I can tell you that much.  I have posted it on here so that we can draw attention to the problem and help people tackle it better.  That is why you’re reading this right now.

As for the controlling it, there are days where I can resist it but there are also days where I cannot.  Medication is helping me manage those symptoms but that’s not always the case. Despite it being my hands that pick up the blade and make the cuts, it is not always something I’m in complete control over.

Next Week

I told you I was going to go into some of the reasons why people self-harm.  In next week’s post, I’m going to be telling you more about those reasons – but not the attention-seeking, as that’s coming in part 3! Tune back in next week to read about those reasons.  In the meantime, if you have questions then please do message me.  I’m an open book.

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Author: Alex Davies

Alex Davies is the creator and writer for Pushing Back the Shadows. Find out more about his journey here and connect with him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

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