Trigger Warning: Self-injury, graphic descriptions
The idea of self-injury conjures up pictures of dark and grisly scenes. Perhaps, the mind brings forth images of bloody razor blades and empty orange bottles once filled with sleeping pills. However, self-injury is so much more than that. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, self-injury can often involve “an impulse to pull out one’s hair, pick at wounds, or even burn themselves”. These impulses to harm oneself are linked to signs of emotional distress and can become a spiral effect, due to the feelings of intense shame and guilt. This, in turn, creates more negative emotions, causing more instances of inflicting self-injury.
NAMI states that “while not a mental illness, self-injury indicates a lack of coping skills and has a number of mental illnesses attached to it, such as borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. According to NAMI, self-injury occurrence typically happens with those who have experienced trauma, neglect, or abuse. Due to endorphins being stimulated by the act of self-injury, this creates a temporary positive change in mood. Another reason one may choose to inflict pain on themselves is the idea of “feeling something”, indicating that they are often feeling nothing at all.
Self-Injury Awareness Day
On March 1st, 2022, we bring special attention to this tragic phenomenon. Self-Injury Awareness Day, or SIAD, is a global awareness event that brings attention to self-harm to try and help people who practice it. Much like World Cancer Day in the last issue, this writer believes this is an important topic to bring light to as many people may have similar stories. In this issue, I plan on sharing another personal story: mine.
Self-harm can take many forms, from cutting yourself to punching yourself, to pulling out hair. For me, it took various forms. As a 20-year-old, I was living with my mom and her boyfriend. At the time, I was being belittled and pushed around. They were both very emotionally abusive and instead of lashing out, many times I would take to punching myself in the legs because the bruises would not show, even if I wore shorts. Later in life, I was in a toxic marriage and wanted out. I was led to believe I would be alone if I got divorced so I turned to another self-harm behavior that happens to run on my dad’s side of the family: drinking. Towards the end of my marriage, I was drinking every day of the week and I knew it was making me sicker and sicker. I couldn’t stop though. Until one day, I realized I had a problem. I was worried about the drinking but I was more worried about my thoughts of wanting to continue drinking to numb the pain and being okay with dying in that way. That’s when I decided to file for divorce.
An important thing to understand about self-harm is that it can happen to anyone, anywhere. According to NationalToday.com, “17% of people will inflict self-injury in their lifetime.” in fact, teens are by far the highest statistic for self-harm injury, as studies show that about 15% of teens and 17-35% of students have practiced self-harm and people who engage in self-harm activities often are three-and-a-half times more likely to try suicide.