The Blame Game
With the current ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’ culture, there seems to be a notion that someone is always to blame when things go wrong. Finger-pointing and trying to make someone culpable has become the norm. But who is to blame when I self-harm? It’s actually a more complicated subject then you might think.
You see, on one hand I would say well, I am to blame of course! I pick up the implement to cut, I make the marks. No-one does this for me. It’s my fault. (Which is why I probably apologise repeatedly when it happens!)
However, there is another side of this I’ve come across. Some people who self-harm and blame it directly on another individual or group of people. It almost comes across as ‘look at what you made me do’. Each cut or injury has someone’s name attached to it in a very deep and personal way. To the person who has self-harmed like this, they focus the blame entirely elsewhere. To me, this seems a dangerous way of thinking and teeters very close to harming for attention seeking purposes. Almost calling out someone else and laying the blame at their door for your own actions. Is that self-harm due to depression or a cry for attention? I’ll be honest, I don’t know, it doesn’t jibe with my own experience and the experiences of others I’ve spoken to. Most self-harmers do their level best to hide the fact they do it and turn any blame only against themselves.
Bullying and Blame
You see, when we start attributing blame either on to ourselves or others, we are not looking at the real issue.
When I wrote Words Hurt, I really wanted to bring home the damage that can be done by bullying and name calling. How such behaviours can be contributory factors in depression and suicide. They are. There is no escaping that fact. But are the bullies completely to blame?
Now, some would argue yes and I can see why. When you lose someone to suicide after months and months of relentless on-line bullying, the feeling would be to lay all blame solely at the door of the bullies. Their behaviour led to that death.
But is that the whole story?
The reality is that by tapping into the blame game, we lose sight of something very important. Depression is an illness. Self-harm and suicidal feelings are symptoms of this illness. Not everyone who suffers will experience them, but for those who do it can be devastating. Likewise, not everyone who is or has been bullied will develop depression. Nor will all of those who do, then go on to harm themselves in some way.
This doesn’t completely absolve those individuals who bullied and persecuted someone else. Depression and anxiety can be triggered by trauma like this and when in a depressive state where suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self harm are already lurking it can be a very small step to cross the line.
I can recognise incidents in my own life that have occurred that have resulted in a situation where my depressive state was worsened by the actions of another. To be already teetering on a knife-edge over the abyss and then someone says something hurtful or cruel? Yes, it can have an impact. But does that mean every time someone hurts me I run to the nearest blade? No.
The difference is down to resilience. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety can rob us of resilience. There are times as sufferers we have more, other times we have none. Is someone else to blame because an illness has robbed us of our resilience? No. They may have contributed to our feelings of low self-esteem and self-loathing, but the illness is preventing us from dealing with these effectively.
I agree that more needs to be done to stop bullying. It’s pervasive and corroding and is doing untold damage to people. But maybe we also need to work on building our own resilience up too from an early age and look out for others who are lacking it. Each time we let an act of bullying go by without correcting it we are allowing the corrosion to continue. We are knocking another chip off the wall that someone should have to protect themselves inside. Each time we sit by and let it happen we are allowing the dissemination of someone elses’ mental health, sometimes even our own.
So, who is to blame when I self-harm?
That’s where it becomes complex. I am, but due to an illness that robs me of resilience. In turn, my resilience can be diminished and destroyed by the actions of others. This can be from one event or the culmination of lots of little injuries that have eroded my self-esteem over the years. Either way, the answer to the question ‘who is to blame when I self-harm?’ comes with a lot of answers. Me, you, no-one and everyone? Or do we lay it all at the door of the label of depression and mental illness? I think it’s all of these, combined. No one person is to blame. What we need to look at is understanding more why it happens, work with our children and each other to stop judging and commenting when people are ‘different’ and treat ourselves a little more kindly too.
After all when it comes down to it, when the question a sufferer asks is ‘who is to blame when I self-harm?’, they’ll be a lot of names including their own in the answer.
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