I was really struggling with what to write for this month’s featured post. It wasn’t until two days before the deadline that I decided to start somewhere. I wondered what other people see self-harm as, and so I asked the omnipotent Google what the definition was of self-harm and came up with this:
“Self harm: the deliberate non-suicidal injuring of one’s body.”¹
Now, at a quick glance, the definition seems quite obvious. The term “self-harm” is quite self-explanatory. However, I believe there is an even bigger perspective on the term “self-harm.” Yes, people may (and do) damage their body while self-harming but there is a much larger perspective to “self-harm” and that is the non-physical way we can injure ourselves in regards to our emotions and mental state.
Please keep in mind that I am not discounting physical self-harm and the heart-breaking effects, but I am focusing, rather, on the other side: the emotional side.
Though I am focusing mostly on the emotional side of self-harm, the mind and body work together in unison; as one part starts to weaken, so does the other. That is the vicious cycle that self-harm brings about. Whether it is your body being harmed or your mind, both will eventually falter. I know this not just anecdotal because this is exactly what happened to me.
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Before I really fell into depression, I never really understood the deliberate injuring of yourself. I thought it absurd.
Eventually realized that people self-harm for a number of reasons:
- such as the feeling of release
- the need for control (or what they think is control)
- as a cry for help
- and/or because the hurt is comfortable.
The last of the four is the way I harmed myself. Though it seems completely retroactive, I would deliberately place myself in situations that would hurt me through music, literature, and internet content such as blogs on depression.
In addition, I would also enter into relationships that I knew was emotionally abusive. These people left me reeling and gasping for air.
Often times when I did this, I would not really realize what I was doing.
Before I knew it I was listening to a song about self-harm and reading blogs about someone’s overwhelming depression. This was all at a time when my recovery was in a delicate state. I was knee-deep in the aftermath of a personal war. However, I would almost fall into a haze and then when I was in the thick of it all, I would snap out of it and realize what I was doing.
This total loss of control terrified me. After all, wasn’t I supposed to be taking charge of my life? Isn’t that what I so arduously tried to do?
Once I realized the awful and vicious cycle I was subjecting myself to, I knew it was hurting me almost beyond repair and brought me further down, but I just needed a way to feel comfortable because in my recovery I felt like a fish out of water – literally – because it hurt to breathe and function in an atmosphere that I wasn’t used to.
I learned that emotional self-harm not only hurts your body and mind, but it harms your recovery and can lead to a relapse.
In doing this, I was (and still am) left with deep emotional scars. See what I mean by the definition? Self-harm is not only skin deep, it is much much deeper than that.
Through this experience, I learned my (and your) recovery is worth so much more than a false sense of comfort, control, or release.
So I don’t think that the definition above is entirely correct. If I were to rewrite it, I would define self-harm as:
The deliberate non-suicidal injuring of one’s body, mind, and/or spirit.
Self-harm can take many forms, and it is not just physical. I still suffer from the scars that my emotional self-harm caused me, but I know that I am worth so much more than my scars and that they are just a road marker of what I battled through. And I am proud that I get further and further away from that dark time in my life every day.
Lastly, I want to leave everyone reading this ⎯ and especially those dealing with self-harm ⎯ with a note of encouragement:
Your situation may seem darker than a starless night, but know that your life is worth more than the circumstances you may face. You are a special gift with a specific purpose on this planet, and through loving yourself (though it may seem so hard), you will eventually be able to breathe fully again without the vice grip of self-harm. Your scars may remain, but take comfort in knowing that they are not what defines you. What defines you is not where you came from, but who you strive to be. It is not what you were, but who you are. It is not your past, but your future. And in believing that, you will begin your walk into recovery, and ultimately being to love yourself in the process.
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