It is self-injury awareness day today, and I want to say something. I also want to say nothing.
I feel like out of all of the issues that have happened in my life, this is the hardest to be open and honest about. It feels easier talking about my eating disorder, perhaps because it is more historic, or perhaps because eating disorders (to me) feel more socially accepted now – and yet personally I feel like my eating disorder was a form of self-harm.
Except I think people “get” eating disorders to an extent. I think even as someone without an eating disorder people can understand/think they understand. I mean probably because they think it’s the same as dieting (which it isn’t) or because body dissatisfaction is just so common, or because many people find their eating is affected by their emotions.
But the idea that someone could physically injure themselves just probably is not so relatable. It is like any addiction. People abuse or use all sorts of things to cope that are not necessarily healthy; alcohol, drugs, exercise. Again, a lot of people can relate to those things to an extent. You do not need to be an alcoholic to be able to relate to the idea of having a drink to cope – but most people do not inflict direct harm on themselves.
Self-harm is messy. People respond in so many ways. Some literally grimace. I have had all sorts of responses. All these responses are from professionals, because that is the thing about self-harm; it is hidden. I’ve had people nearly fainting at the sight of me, people being overly sympathetic. People treating me like a child. Often it is well intended, but people often take it too far. Yes, I have self-harmed, but it doesn’t mean I am someone who should be felt sorry for. I do not really want people to feel sorry for me. You cannot look at my self-harm and think you know me. It’s not my whole story.
I was in hospital yesterday and a nurse said to another nurse “I know, bless her” like I was not there. I would rather that than be judged. But my self-harm is also one part of my life. They do not see that I am often happy. I work hard. I am at university.
Certain things led to me self-harming at a very young age – violence, alcoholism in the family, family mental illness and being a ‘young carer’ (not a fan of saying that). This is the thing about self-harming…it does not go away easily. It is an aspect of my childhood that turned worse as I was a late teenager/young adult and it is not going to go away over night. Often I feel I get judged a lot more as an adult, that I did as a child, and I just wish people would remember that the adult sat in front of them was once a young child who experienced certain things that led them here – it is not about attention, wanting sympathy or having a ‘bad’ life now.
And it really is just one small part of my life. It is not who I am. And I am getting better step by step. The steps are small, but I keep on taking the next right one.