Self Injury Awareness Day- March 1st 2015

March 1st  2015 was Self Injury Awareness Day; another awareness day.

I'd just like to point out that these awareness days (following the recent Eating Disorder awareness week) are often quite toxic, largely misinforming, and inversely worsen stereotyping & 'awareness'.

The nature of these distresses/illnesses/disorders are that they are competitive in a perverse way. The person rarely feels 'sick enough' or that it's 'bad enough'. And thanks to efforts to "increase awareness" it seems there's no shortage of people to compare to.

Social media is littered with photos of people's injuries and their scars. This DOES NOT raise awareness in my opinion. All this does is worsen stereotyping. All this does is worsen comparing and misinform the public.

I think we need to focus on raising awareness that recovery is possible for everyone!

Self injury, also know as self harm or deliberate self harm, is very often cloaked in shame. But I really want to stress that it is nothing to be ashamed of. It's a form of self destruction and anyone can be free of it if they work on recovery.

I know it may sound like I'm judging (and maybe I am), but I have found these drives for awareness to actually worsen the confusion and be quite damaging.

It's been AT LEAST a year and a half since I last self harmed. I don't keep track so it's likely much longer. And I'm not white knuckling through it. I really really have no interest or desire in doing that to myself. I am officially free of self harm; I'd love an ole medal or something but I guess I'll make do with self-praise and self-credit!

Some important things to know about self harm:

  • It is not an act of self love.
  • It's often an expression of self hatred.
  • It's often done in an attempt to control emotions.
  • It's not (always) about seeking attention, though if someone does this to themselves then something is not right and that person needs help.
  • Calling this behaviour 'attention seeking' is unhelpful.
  • It can be a physical response to emotional pain.
  • There are many 'forms' of self injurious behaviour.
  • It's not always visible.
  • It's not always shocking.
  • It's not always on arms, or wrists.
  • You'd be surprised what clothes can hide.
  • It doesn't always leave scars.
  • It's often an incredibly private and shameful thing, and the majority don't put photos on the internet.
  • It affects people from all walks of life. 
  • It doesn't matter how intelligent the person is.
  • Most injuries don't require medical attention.
  • Most injuries don't require stitches.
  • It doesn't make you cool or mysterious.
  • Sometimes it's done when a person feels numb, and afterwards the pain is intolerable.
  • Just because someone doesn't talk about it doesn't mean it's not a big problem.
  • Just because it's not 'as bad' as stuff on the internet doesn't mean it's not plenty terrible.
  • No matter the reason, a person who has high self esteem and loves themselves would never dream of hurting themselves.
  • The person can feel short term relief but then feel even worse after the act.
  • Not everyone who hurts themselves has a personality disorder.
  • Yes, the very rare few can use this behaviour to manipulate a situation- but this is rare. And this is also not unique to people who struggle with self harm.
  • It can co-exist with eating disorders or other types of emotional distress.
  • It's not about what the person does to hurt themselves- it matters that they're hurting themselves full stop.
  • It's not only teenagers that do this.
  • Men do it too.
  • Many people can go months or years without telling a soul out of fear and shame. 
  • It's not glamorous. 
  • It's important not feed into the romanticised descriptions of self harm as it is anything but romantic. 
  • It can tear families apart and damage relationships.
  • Shame can lead a person to isolate and withdraw.
  • When people get better they often feel sadness about it and regret the damage done.

And more important things to know:
  • It can be overcome!
  • It can and does get better.
  • It's incredibly hard for family members, loved ones and carers to witness self harm and they often feel powerless. They need our support and love too!
  • Full recovery from self injury is possible and happens all the time.
  • It's never too late to work on getting free of this.

I think the take home point is that all emotional distress and pain is not visible on the outside, and the physical expression of this pain is not always relative to the amount of internal pain and sickness.

Just because some doesn't spend every evening in A+E getting stitched up, doesn't mean they are not in desperate emotional pain. 

It doesn't matter how 'minor' self harm may seem. It's never ever ever EVER ok to harm yourself in any way. 

And you deserve to work on recovery from this and to be free.

Forget about what you see on the internet. 

Forget about what everyone else is doing.

If you are hurting on the inside then YOU DESERVE to work on this, and get yourself to a place of self love and freedom.


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