Self-harm in its many forms

A question I get asked a lot is how long have I self-harmed for? Good question. Obviously, self-harm is harming of the self. A deliberate physical action such as cutting. But as I have personally experienced it really isn’t that simple.

When I was 15, I heard a story about an 11-year-old girl who had self-harmed at school. Shocked that a precious child would do such a thing I and others quickly labelled this behaviour as attention seeking. Why on earth would a child want to inflict pain on themselves?

For attention? No, it goes so much deeper than what is seen on the outside.

So coming back to how long have I been self-harming for, we must look deeper than what we typically label as “self-harm”. My earliest recollection of trying to hurt myself was at five years of age. This is not easy to admit and I am ashamed. It was a behaviour that unfortunately for the rest of my childhood and teenage years was overlooked by myself and others. It is something that I am seeking to understand and talk about to create awareness and hopefully give less weight to this demon of mine.

What I want others to learn is that these behaviours require community action not only by therapists and parents, but family, teachers, mentors and coaches. In fact, it requires actions from anyone who cares for another human being.

So what does self-harm look like?

Self-harm is complex and does not always present as a scar. Yes, it does include biting, cutting and scratching. But it can present as a “smiling” face with what only could be perceived as happiness.
In fact under that smile of mine, was an intense and uncontrollable self-hatred. A self that told me I was unlikable, ugly, overweight, selfish, pathetic and never good enough. This thinking led to years of under eating, over exercising and overworking.

But on the outside I would have looked like a “normal” teenager who applied her self in all her studies, took sporting opportunities, was voted the “nicest girl in school”, volunteered and held a job.

My point is, self-harm involves physical, mental, psychological, social, financial and sexual components leading to behaviours that are and could potentially harm an individual.

It is seen in the scar that you may be privileged to see. It is the busyness that stops someone from taking time to care for themselves. It is the result of relentless bullying that so many teenagers experience. It is the result of the loaded pressures we put on children to do good, to excel, to make friends, to look good, to be awesome at sports and to make decisions about their lives and careers that no one really knows until they are 30. It is the result of not being mindful to validate our children’s emotions, hurtful irremovable words and the labelling of children as “troubled”. It is the exclusion of others due to differences that make us unique and individual.

So how long have I self-harmed for?

The answer for anyone is long enough. I think the question should be how can we stop and help people who are self-harming? How can we openly talk about our scars to limit the control they have on us as children and adults.

Until then… Have a day,   

Love Laura

Founder of OT for BPD

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2 thoughts on “Self-harm in its many forms

  1. You touched my heart. I am, this is the first time in admitting an unseen self harmer and I can’t break my cycle. Also bd and boy it hurts to smile sometimes!

    1. Oh wow, thankyou for sharing. Sounds like you are going through such a rough period. I understand the struggle in trying to break the cycle its very hard, addictive. Keep going, keep working at it is what I say to myself,, you will get this! Hope this gives you some comfort
      xxx

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