Friday, May 11, 2012

Quotes from the Borderline

"Every time I say something they find hard to hear, they chalk it up to my anger, and never to their own fear."

--Ani DiFranco

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Personal Awareness and Self-Harm

Happy Thursday! Are you tired of Self-Harm yet? I’m fast approaching my limit so I think I’ll just do two more posts (unless you have questions that I haven’t addressed then let me know!).
The two things I want to address are:
1.      Becoming more self-aware of your self-harming behavior.
2.      How to stop or even just get through the moment.
Today let’s look at becoming a little bit more self-aware when it comes to our self-harming behavior.
This is a Self-Harm 30 Day Challenge – Since I don’t want to talk about this for the next 30 days, I’m going to jump right in and do them all briefly.  However, you should sit down with one question a day and really take the time to think about it and write as long of an answer as you can come up with in order to help yourself really get an idea of what is behind the self-harming behavior. It’s easier to overcome something when you have a fundamental understanding of what causes it. So let’s begin!
Self-harm 30 day challenge.
1. How long have you been self-harming? Discuss why you started.
            I have self-harmed for almost 18 years (not including the time I’ve been self-harm free these last 17 months). I started at a time when I was beyond suicidal ideation and was considering taking my own life. I was 13 years old. I began cutting my wrists and discovered, much to my surprise, that it made me feel better. It helped me relieve some of the pressure I was feeling and helped me cope in a way without turning to suicide.
2. What part of your body is most affected by it?
            My arms.  Followed by my inner thighs, shoulders, hips, and ankles.
3. What is your motivation to recover?
            Other people. I don’t really feel shame in doing it, but I know how disturbing it is for the people around me. Having to explain fresh wounds to someone that doesn’t understand makes me fear being rejected by them and abandoned. I don’t want to see how upset they get. I don’t want to upset them at all. I hate the feeling of judgment.
4. Do you consider yourself “addicted”? why or why not?
            Oh yes. For a long, long time I absolutely was addicted. I would think about it all day, every day, until I could get someplace where I could be alone in order to cut if I needed to. The thoughts were constant, the need for that high and release were constant. But as you can see, it’s possible to overcome that addiction and find healthier alternatives in order to cope.
5. What part of self harm do you dislike the most?
            Waiting for deep wounds to heal. When they’re just red, raw, and angry. When they look too new to explain away easily but are too healed to make them worse. And of course,  having to hide healing wounds that I don’t want to have to explain or have anyone see.
6. What about it do you enjoy?
            The release of pressure. The feeling of calm. The feeling that I’m in control of something that is happening to me. The reminder that I have the strength to make it through whatever I’m dealing with.
7. List 10 activities that help you calm down.
            Running, painting, playing with my cat, going for a walk, cooking, beating on my punching bag, talking to my sister, writing in my journal, cleaning like a madwoman, sleeping (not gonna lie, there have been times when I’d pop a Xanax and just knock myself out because I knew by the time I woke up things wouldn’t be so end of the world).
8. What the most supportive thing anyone has said to you about self harm?
            As long as it helps, that all that matters.
9. Have you ever taken pictures of your wounds? Discuss.
            Yep, lots. No, I will not post them. Because I wanted to remember. I’ll always have my scars, but I wanted to remember the rest. The blood, the raw skin, all of it. Sometimes seeing the results of what I had done was enough to keep me from needing to do it again. I can remember how I felt at the time, see what I had done, where I had done it, see the immediate result, and also see the scars that are now left; live the whole process in a picture without having to repeat it.  I don’t ever look at them now. Now, they’re just triggering.
10. How do you feel about your scars?
            I love them. I think they’re beautiful.
11. Strangest place (school, park, etc) you’ve ever injured yourself?
            I can’t really think of strange places. I know I’ve cut at school before, but in general I am in a place where I feel relatively safe and won’t have to leave soon which usually translates to my current home. I don’t want to injure myself where I don’t have the ability to clean it, bandage it, where other people will see it immediately… all those things would just make me more anxious and the whole point is to feel better.
12. Where do you keep your ‘tools’? (Your room, in a box, disposed of them?)
            My knives and scissors I always kept in my room. If I had a special knife I would hide it in my nightstand. I’ve never used razors. Other times I would use what I had available. I’ve broken glass and mirrors to use then thrown the shards away. I’ve dug my nails into my skin until I bled, so eventually I trimmed my nails or they broke? Not like I can cut off my fingers.
13. What is the biggest realization about self harm you’ve had?
            The results are permanent and sometimes you slip even when you never intended to hurt yourself so bad. It helps in the moment, but it’s not a solution. In the long run it can actually make things worse and doesn’t deal with the issues that are really causing your pain. Heal the real root of your unhappiness and the habits you develop to cope with them are no longer necessary. Why go for the quick fix, when you can ultimately achieve a permanent state of --- I want to say happiness, but let’s be honest, it’s really a more stable state of contentedness.  Life is never going to be all happy all the time. The world doesn’t work that way. But it doesn’t have to always be the rollercoaster of devastation it sometimes seems to be. That absolutely can get better. But it won’t get better unless you choose to face it and put some work into yourself. You deserve the time it takes to truly heal.
14. Is there anyone you consider to be an inspiration in your recovery?
            Nope. Myself. Sorry. No modesty there. This was my decision and I did it.
15. Do you visit any websites about self harm? If so, what are they?
            I used to moderate a self-harm recovery and prevention forum. I would help counsel people that needed help in the moment. But that’s it. Otherwise, no, I never visited sites about self-harm until I started doing some research for these blog entries. I didn’t even know what self-harm was when I started doing it. It wasn’t until years later that I heard about it and realized it was ‘a thing’. Going to those sites, even doing the forum moderation, is very triggering for me. I learn my triggers so I can NOT trip them.
16. What advice would you give to someone about self harm?
            Do what you have to do. I can’t tell you stop, and I wouldn’t even if I could. It’s a personal choice and I’m not interested in imposing my beliefs on someone else if they’re not at a place where they can cope without it. However, I would say that while I acknowledge it does help, it’s not a solution. That pain, and those feelings are going to keep coming back, which is going to cause you to keep hurting yourself, until you figure out and face what is truly creating your pain. If you want to end the suffering, instead of running from it… face it. It’s a scary fucking though, and it’s even scarier to try… until you actually start doing it. Nothing is ever as scary as we fear it will be. Find someone you can confide in, a friend, relative, or preferably a counselor and work through the real heart of what is creating your inner darkness. Once you do, you won’t need to harm yourself anymore, because you won’t be in the same kind of pain anymore.
17. Do you know anyone else who injures themselves?
            Yep. Quite a few. Many of them are also “recovered”.
18. Write a letter to the future (recovered) you.
            I’m pretty much there now, so you can do this, but I’m gonna skip it. I tend to ramble.
19. List 5 reasons that recovery is worth it.
            Less fear of rejection and abandonment.
            It’s one less way I upset the people I care about.
I don’t have to hide and isolate myself while I heal = it’s less lonely and I don’t have to always feel like I’m hiding a secret.
            Nerve damage and stitches aren’t fun and I’d rather not have more.
            There are better ways to cope, ways that actually make me feel better in the moment AND after I’m done. Running and hard exercising for instance. I burn off my energy, anger, and frustration while I’m doing it, and then when I’m done, I have an endorphin high and I’ve done something good for my body. Win-win.
20. What is the most vivid memory you have of self harm.
            I have many, many vivid memories of self-harm. You list yours, I have too many to count.
21. Have you tried to stop in the past? What are you doing differently this time?
            Success! This time I’m finding things that engage me more fully, for a longer period of time. Also, intense therapy and medication.
22. Where do you feel the most calm?
            With my sister. With Zoe. With Roommate. You might not think those are places, but the geographic landmark isn’t what matters, it’s who I’m with that does. So wherever they are is the place I feel most calm.
23. What is your favorite inspirational quote?
            Good grief, Charlie Brown. Follow my Tumblr. I post all the ones I like.
24. What are some of your main triggers? Why?
            This is a really important question! When you know what triggers you, you can work towards finding things that don’t trigger you or learning real ways to deal with them. Working with sharp objects (no, I cannot always avoid my triggers, but I can learn to cope with them), gaining weight (it’s a trigger because I feel I’ve lost control over my body and need a reminder to regain that power), when someone leaves me or says something that I think I could be abandoned for. I’m sure there’s more, but you get the idea.
25. Do you know any statistics about self-harm?
            Actually no, not off the top of my head. I sense a bonus post coming on.
26. What is something that makes you the most happy?
            My cat. Getting in a really good workout. Having time to be creative. Curling up with a good book. Making an amazing meal for people I like.
27. Discuss any and all progress you have made.
            Yeah, I’ve been doing that over the last few blog posts. Your turn!
28. What short-term goals do you have?
            Just maintenance at this point.
29. Do you follow any self-harm blogs?
            I follow some blogs written by people with other Mental Health/Illness issues and sometimes they address their own-self harming behaviors. I don’t follow anything specifically dedicated to self-harm. That’s too triggering.
30. Post your favorite picture of yourself and write a positive message to look back on.
            So it turns out I fail at MSPaint and I’m not even going to bother posting a pretend pic.
            Dear Me: You deserve way more credit than you give yourself. Be kind to me. I’m worth it.

So how about you?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Self-Harm: What if I want to tell someone?

I need you to listen.

At some point you may reach a point where you feel the need to tell someone about your self-harm. The first thing here that came to mind was something akin to coming out of the closet if you’re gay or bi. It can actually be that difficult. That analogy stops there though. The reasons you may have for telling someone about self-harming behavior are many, many, many. Maybe you recognize that it is no longer healthy and need support, maybe you need to reach out about all your internal pain and your self-harm is only a part of it, maybe you want to quit but it’s too hard for you to do alone… in this way self-harm is almost like trying to recover from an alcohol addiction.
Before you open up some things you need to do. Don’t do it impulsively if you can help it. Plan for it. And above all, give them time to digest what you are telling them. Initial reactions are just as spontaneous as any other emotion. And we all know how irrational emotions can be. Allow the person time to think it over. If they don’t respond how you hope they do at first, it doesn’t mean they won’t get there. And it doesn’t make that support any less valuable.  Allow them some space to think about things if they need it and make sure you follow up with them or have them let you know when they’re ready.
With that said, here's a breakdown of things that could be really helpful [source] :
-          Be sensitive to the other person's feelings
It can be nearly as hard for them to hear it as it is for you to tell them. Realize that they're probably wondering what they did wrong or how they could have prevented you from feeling so much pain or why you turned out "sick." You don't have to accept their value judgments about your SI, but be open to hearing what they have to say about it. You might learn something, and you can teach them a great deal.

-          Explain that coming out is an act of love
Let them know that your deciding to tell them about self-injury is a sign of your love for and trust in them. Usually, a person decides to tell someone about his/her SI because s/he loves them, wants or needs their loving support, and is tired of keeping a whole part of her/himself from them. The desire to be open and to trust outweighs the fear of rejection or hatred or disgust. Let the person you're telling about your self-harm know you're not trying to punish, manipulate, or guilt-trip them.

-          Pick a place that is private and a time that is unhurried
This is serious stuff. Find a time when everyone involved is available for a long conversation. Do it in a place where everyone's comfortable and there's no need to worry about being overheard. If you're rushed or hurried or afraid other people nearby will hear and react, you're not going to be able to give your full attention to the conversation and neither will anyone else.

-          Don't tell others in anger
Don't use your SI as a weapon: "Oh, yeah, well look, you made me cut/burn/scratch/hit!" To get the love and understanding you're seeking, you may have to give some in return. Whether or not the person you have decided to share your secret with has contributed to the problems that led to your SI is irrelevant to the coming-out conversation. If you start getting angry and blaming, you're going to put the other person on the defensive and they'll get angry. The whole process will bog down and be hideously unpleasant and unproductive. Using SI as a weapon also increases the likelihood that the person you're coming out to will react in exactly the ways you're hoping they won't.

-          Consider enlisting an ally
If you have a friend or therapist who understands your SI you might want to ask them to sit in on the conversation. A neutral third person can help keep things calm.

-          Provide as much information as you can
This is crucial. The more someone knows about something, the less they fear it. Many people have never heard of self-injury or have heard weird sensationalized tabloid reports. Be prepared to give the person books or names of books, articles, photocopies, printouts, addresses of web sites, etc. Gather as much information as you can so you can answer their questions accurately and honestly.

-          Be willing (and prepared) to answer their questions
You may have to educate them about SI. Encourage them to ask whatever questions they may have. If they ask a question you don't have an answer to, say "I don't know" or "I can't say" or even "I prefer not to get into that right now." Be as open as you can. You might want to anticipate questions they'll ask and get an idea of how you want to answer those before you come out. You can ask other people who've come out what they were asked to get some ideas.

You should also have a good idea in your mind of what you want to do about the self-injury -- they're going to ask. Do you want treatment? What sort? If not, what's the rationale for not treating it? Do you want them to help you stop or control it? How can they help? What's too intrusive and what isn't? Now is a good time to start setting boundaries.

-          It's not necessary to bring up the most disturbing topics in the first conversation
Don't start by describing in technicolor detail the time you needed 43 stitches and a transfusion. It's probably best to avoid graphic descriptions of what you do; if asked, just say "I cut myself on the wrist" or "I hit the walls until I get bruises" or whatever. Try not to freak them out; you can give details (if necessary) in some other conversation.

-          Trust your own judgment
Do what feels natural to you. You know yourself and your family and friends far better than I ever will.

-          Communicate
Be willing to talk to the people you're coming out to about your reactions, and ask them to let you know what they're thinking. Communication goes both ways.

I’ll be honest, it was so long ago the I had to “come out” to people about  my self-harm that I don’t actually recall how I did it. I’ll have to look through my journals. When I did talk to people about it back then I don’t think it was at my convenience, or by my choice, though. It was often because someone saw my cuts and wanted to know, right then, what was going on. Or it was at a time when I had gone quite some period of time without harming myself and I could wave it off and tell them it was a long time ago. I remember when I told Roommate about it (maybe 1.75/2 years ago?). We had been talking about body mods or something about scars and scarification. I was matter of fact about my scars being self-inflicted. She said she suspected as much but she didn’t want to pry into something that I might not be comfortable with. That was kind of it for that conversation. We got into it deeper {no pun intended} when it came up at other times and she understood. I wasn’t actively looking for help or support quitting at that time though. I had come to terms with it and pretty much had my decisions about it well in hand, even though I hadn’t completely stopped yet.
It’s important to understand if the person you are telling is open minded enough to listen without judgment. Roommate has two degrees in psychology, so she knows how to handle this sort of thing very appropriately coupled with the fact that she’s just a caring person.
If I ever approached someone about my self-harm I was in such an emotionally volatile place that what I really needed was love and attention from that person. Evil-Ex, for example. After living with him for a few months I was on the verge of a complete emotional breakdown. I remember asking him to hold onto my knives for me so I couldn’t use them. Of course he already knew that I was a cutter but he’d never seen me in that state. Asking him to hold onto my knives wasn’t actually the help I needed. I could use anything to cut with. You can’t hide everything. It was my very misguided way of letting him know that things were very, very wrong with me and I needed support. At the time I didn’t have the ability to communicate the way I do now, I wasn’t communicating effectively, and the abuse had just started so I was in a highly triggered time for my BPD.
What I took from that, as difficult as it is to do, really try to evaluate the people you want to tell as objectively as possible. Just because you want with every last beat of your heart for them to love, care, and support you, doesn’t mean they can, will, or even want to. I needed desperately for him to want to care for me. He didn’t. This didn’t help.
Admitting you need help and support is an important first step. Choosing the right help and support is just as important.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Scars: How to explain them when you really don't want to.

I didn't believe in flying monkeys either until that day...
= perfectly valid
Let’s face it. Sometimes you just don’t want to tell the truth to people about your scars. There can be many reasons for this. For example, the person asking is a complete asshat that you know you can’t trust with an honest answer < ---- Come on, we all know some of these people. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve dated all of them. All of them. Anyways. (Sometimes I find it funny to be blatantly honest with these people just to see them squirm – yeah, I can be a dick too buddy). Well, look at the mood I’m in today. Wheeeee!

Let’s start again.
It happens to everyone. Sooner or later someone, somewhere, is going to notice that you have a veritable world map of roadways etched into your skin. Unless of course scars aren’t an issue for you. There are plenty of ways to self-injure that don’t leave permanent marks or, alternatively, plenty of places that are always covered by clothing and not easily detectable to the outside world. Good long term planning there. If this is you, good job, you don’t have to deal with this. For the rest of us, we occasionally have to deal with unpleasant questions.
The two most common scar questions are: How do I explain them? And; how do I make them go away? (we’ll cover this last one some other time)
Reiterate. Some people like their scars. Others hate them. Both attitudes are valid.
Even for people like me though, just because I happen to like my scars, doesn’t mean I want to talk about them all the time or at times when it isn’t appropriate or convenient for me. Or with people that I don’t feel I need to disclose this stuff to.
Most people that ask aren’t intentionally trying to make you uncomfortable. Many of them don’t have any clue about the nature of the injuries or even that self-harm exists. Hell, often they don’t even really want to know, they’re just making conversation. That’ll teach ‘em to be sociable. Regardless, now you have to come up with something to tell them.
What you decide to do is entirely up to you, where you’re at, and of course, who it is that is asking. If it’s someone you think you can trust or someone that is showing genuine concern or curiosity. The truth might not be a bad way to go. IF! If you’re comfortable with that.
If it’s a relative stranger, acquaintance, you’re in the grocery story picking out cat food, it might just not feel appropriate to you. My default is to half-laugh it off and say something along the lines of, “Oh just the trials of a misspent youth.” It’s relatively ambiguous, they can read what they want into it, or not. You could say, “It’s a looooong story that you’d rather not get into right now.” Or anything suitably vague and discouraging. Anyway, the point is, this is a very personal issue and it’s kind of rude of them to be asking you something so intimate, so you should not feel pressured to answer if you don’t want to.
I used to not want to tell people this sort of this. Still do occasionally. For instance, I keep a lot of stuff separate form my work environment. Not that anyone here has asked me about my scars, very professional, but even if they were to, I probably wouldn’t tell them truth because that is my place of employment and mental health issues in the workplace are kind of a sticky subject.
What are some things I used to say, you ask?
            I had a skateboarding accident and wiped out on gravel. (Back in my skater days)
*In a suggestive voice* Use your imagination *wink, nudge*. (I have to admit, I find it highly amusing to make people uncomfortable when they’ve made me uncomfortable. Implied sex acts of a kinky nature usually work rather nicely.) I’ve had an instance or two where this hasn’t quite worked and they’ve responded with, “I don’t have much of an imagination…” and I usually follow up with, “Wow, that’s a shame,” or if I’m getting testy I throw politeness to the wind and say something like, “Well that’s unfortunate, my condolences to your {significant other}”.
Angry puppy
My cat launched off me
Don’t ever fight with farm machinery – humor also works. If you can get them to laugh they usually just move on to another subject because even if they don’t believe you, they will pick up on the fact that you’re obviously avoiding the question. This usually helps with keeping things less awkward, yanno, if that’s what you’re going for. I like awkwardness, especially when I get to watch other people that aren’t me being awkward for a change.
Nothing for you to worry about. Which occasionally transitions to: By which I meant, none of your business.
I’m sure I have more but I can’t think of them right now. Other amusing things people have said:
I had unprotected sex with a porcupine.
Well, let me just tell you this: You should NEVER EVER, under ANY circumstances, go out with a guy/girl that you met on the internet.
"It's a long story." They usually leave me alone, but this one guy said, "I've got time." Then I said, "I fell. [long pause] Ok, so it's obviously not THAT long."
I was at this party with Marilyn Manson and everyone was giving out hugs.
I'll just put it this way: when they tell you not to feed the bears, it's for a damned good reason.
I got them climbing a fence to escape this hell-hole. (said at school)
Hostage situation
I had to fight off a mugger
Window exploded in a car accident
They’re not scars, they’re stretch marks. Thanks for reminding me.
Shark attacks  are brutal.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. In summation, have your excuses ready. It’s good to have your story straight before you’re asked. It makes it easier for you to deal with the inevitable. What excuses have you used before?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Reactions to Self-Harm

I was at the gym the other day when one of the trainers that I take classes with came up to me and started chatting while I was on the exercise bike. He glimpsed over at my arms as I gripped the handlebars and casually said, “What happened there?” “Oh, the trials of a misspent use.” His face instantly dropped. “You did that?” “Yeah, it was a long time ago.” “You don’t have to say anything else.” He was clearly very uncomfortable with the idea that I had created the scars on my arms myself. I can’t even count the number of times that’s happened to me. If someone hasn’t grown up with self-harm, or with someone that utilizes self-harming behaviors, they don’t even realize that the injury could be something of that nature. Strangers will make casual observations assuming that it was maybe something like a car accident, or sports injury, only to find that it was something of an entirely different emotional plane of experience. To many people it seems unnatural.
I may just catch people off guard with my honesty. A lot of people are ashamed of their self-harming behaviors. I am not. I believe my scars are beautiful and a symbol of my survival. I won’t say I’m proud of them, but I’m not ashamed of them either. Something that helped to keep me alive is not something I believe I need to feel shame for.
My trainer at the gym squirmed and wanted to drop the topic right away. I could tell that he regretted having said anything immediately. This is pretty common. He was pleasant about it though. He didn’t throw out any judgmental statements or question why I would do such a thing.
Judgmental reactions are ones I’ve received often. I get responses like:
Oh my god why would you do that to yourself?
Doesn’t it hurt?
You need help.
Are you crazy? Why would you do something like that to yourself?
And of course, there are the people that care and mean well, but don’t really understand. I will often hear something like:
            Next time just call me first. I’ll sit with you until you don’t want to do it anymore. What they don’t understand is that the urge is constantly there. By the time I’m in a state of turmoil that is severe enough that I need that as my coping mechanism, I’m not thinking so clearly about other options, and frankly, I don’t want other people to see me when I’m in a state of panic like that.
            Other people have offered to hide my implements of choice. Except, let’s face it, almost anything can be used as a means to self-harm if you’re determined enough.
            Probably the worst is when someone begged me, or tried to make me promise to not do it again. I understand that they’re concerned, scared, and don’t want to see me in pain. But they don’t realize what they’re really asking. They may think they’re saying, “I don’t want you to hurt yourself.” What it feels like to me is, “Why are you guilting me about something that is helping me deal with an even greater pain?” And guilty is exactly how I feel because I now know that I am causing the person I confided in emotional discomfort. I feel guilty that I’ve upset them. I feel guilty that I’ve now just made them worry more. But mostly I feel guilty because I can’t do what they are asking. If I did promise, I know it would only be a lie. I’d want them to feel better so I would try to take care of them, but the only way to do that is to be dishonest. Because when I do reach a point when I am in need of that knife, I’m going to reach for it, with just one more heaping spoonful of guilt and shame because I’ve now betrayed a promise to someone. The best thing I have found for that is a compromise. I’ll tell them that I can’t promise them that I won’t injure myself again, but I can promise that I will try to find other ways to cope first.
I had one friend that noticed while I was driving us somewhere and he asked me about it. He really didn’t understand, almost to the point of laughable ignorance, but he made a very solid effort to get there. To that point of understanding. Even though he knows and accepts my reasons, sometimes he still says things like, you’ve such beautiful skin, it’s too bad you have all these white scars. I just shake my head and tell him I like my scars. I appreciate that he at least took the time and made an effort to understand it, but I guess you can’t expect everyone, even the people you REALLY NEED to, to ever fully understand or accept your reasons for it. And that’s okay. It’s important that he tried. He made the effort. It’s better than running away from it and rejecting me. It’s important to appreciate the small victories too.
It may seem silly, but having friends that have self-injured like Sister and Zoe, is a huge comfort sometimes. They never look at me with judgment or ask things of me that I know I can’t promise because they’ve been there too. They understand absolutely. Understanding is crucial to those of us that feel chronically misunderstood.
It's ok you don't understand. Thank you for at least trying.
Surprisingly, one of the people that I’ve dated that was the most understanding, was Boring-Ex. I remember very well it was our second date curled up in a coffee shop. He ran a finger down my arm and flat out asked, “Did you do these yourself?” His tone was simply one of curiosity.  Not even concern. While it was never something he did, he’s had friends that have before so he was aware of what it could mean to people. He asked me all about it in a way that managed to be supportive and inquisitive without being intrusive. He was actually interested in what it meant to me. At the end of our conversation he told me he thought my scars were beautiful because they were a part of me. The only other time I’ve run into someone that didn’t ever self-harm and was also free of judgment was a friend I grew up with all through grade school. He was well aware of my cutting. One night when his very tactless girlfriend mentioned it in front of me, all he said was, “If it helps her, than that’s all that matters”.  I remember being very grateful to him in that moment. Not because I felt my actions needed defending, but that he actually paid attention to me and understood why I did it and it didn’t change what he thought of me.
Strangers, friends, lovers, family… by now I know what to expect from them and it’s easy for me to deal with. The only time I ever really pause, is when medical professionals are concerned. I’m not talking about therapists or psychiatrists. They’re usually pretty good and tactful about those things because they understand the mental implications. But regular medical professionals, doctors, nurses, people like that who often end up treating the wounds but don’t understand the motivations and psychology behind what caused them, are usually the most uncomfortable for me. I’m never self-conscious about my scars, except when I have a routine doctor’s appointment. When the nurse comes in and I have to pull up my sleeve to have my blood pressure taken, I can see that slight hesitation when her eyes see my arms. I don’t recall ever having a nurse say anything to me, but my doctors have. The doctor that finally convinced me to see a psychiatrist was very, very kind. I had gone in for medication to help me sleep. He asked me what was going on in my life, saw my arms, held my hands and told me that he knew he wasn’t qualified to prescribe or advise me in a way that would actually help me. My new GP noticed right away and asked me about it without preamble. I always feel a little smaller when I have to explain it to a doctor that I’m not seeing for a related reason. He didn’t say much, noticed it, asked, wrote it down, and accepted my reassurance that it was behavior in my past and that I am in therapy.
It’s important to remember that medical professionals, teachers, counselors, are people too and self-injury is often viewed as something very unnatural and foreign. I can almost understand why doctors would be unsympathetic about self-harm. People that self-harm and end up needing medical attention usually go to the Emergency Room. ERs are often overcrowded and filled with people that have had serious health complications. I can understand how a doctor would look at a self-injurer and feel anger or disgust because it is a medical emergency that didn’t have to happen. That doctor is now faced with someone taking up their time, money, and resources, taking away time from patients that were injured or sick against their will, in order to patch someone up that “didn’t need to be there”. I can understand where the displeasure would come from. But it’s important to remember that they don’t really understand. They’re people too, but without the psychological education to understand that sometimes for the self-injurer it’s a choice of the ER or the morgue. It’s not a choice of having a bowl of Cheerios or, jeepers, going to the ER sounds like a great way to spend my time at 2a.m.
It would be lovely if everyone were able to take the time and put themselves in your shoes long enough to be a little less judgmental, but the simple fact of the matter is that in this world, people aren’t like that. No matter how much we wish it were different, we do have to deal with the people that are presented to us.

It’s important to be prepared for people’s reactions. It also allows you to prepare yourself for an emotionally uncomfortable situation. Especially if you’re planning on telling someone…

How have people reacted to you when they’ve noticed your scars?

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