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(I meant to post more for mental health awareness month, I swear, but depression has drained me.  Go figure.)

 

Close your eyes and imagine…

It’s getting dark.  It might be cold, or hot, but you’re so numb it doesn’t matter.  You reach out until your arms are too heavy to move.  You call out in the only language you know, but the only replies you get tell you you’re broken, so you stop.  Now it’s dark.  So dark.  Quiet.  Too quiet.  Your heart beats, breaks, and sinks into your soul, a dense seed taking root deep in your belly then sprouting doubt, insecurity, anxiety.  Tendrils grow and spread through your extremities like poisonous vines, up into your head where desolation blooms.  Thorns dig at you from the inside.  It itches.  Jesus, it itches.  It stings and crawls and takes your focus away from anything and everything but this parasite inside you, the parasite that is you.  It feeds off you, starving and choking you.  You can’t breathe.  You’re aware that you’re dying, but skin and sinew hold you from peace.  The body survives where the spirit screams for stillness.  The urge to cut it all out is overwhelming.  To breathe from your veins.  To rip up the flowers of self-hatred in your mind.

Pretty intense, right?  Intense, yes, but also dangerously misleading.  This is the narrative of self harm we’ve accepted as a tragic truth, and it’s horrifying.  It’s the soliloquy of suicide and the impetus for the carvings we find on the arms and legs of people who feel they have no other ways to cope.  But this is our isolated island away from our children or spouses, our wall against the broken, our proof that everyone we love is fine.  This is the flimsy blinder that we wear to fool ourselves into believing it’ll never happen on our watch.

The truth is much more horrifying.

The reality of self harm is that a majority of it is hidden.  Cuts in places easily covered by clothing.  Undetectable pin pricks.  Hair plucking.  Skin picking.  Friction irritation.  Scratching.  Nail digging.  We stop taking important medication.  Stop eating.  Binge eat.  Start drinking. The reality of self harm is subtle and not always consistent.  It can lurk for years in the background of our daily routines, because self harm, much like the illnesses that often inspire it, is insidious and adaptable.

Sometimes the skin stops being deep enough, bleeding stops quelling the need, and the behaviour takes a turn inward.  The most damaging self harm can’t be seen as scars.  We start self sabotaging.  We start isolating.  We dismantle careers and decimate relationships.  We make damaging decisions.  We build walls, not to protect but to imprison ourselves.  We stop reaching out, and instead we bury ourselves in a litany of self-hatred, blame, regret, and remorse.

So why?  To some it becomes a coping mechanism.  To others a punishment we feel we deserve.  Sometimes it’s a way of hurting ourselves more than the outside world can, taking control of the pain because it’s the last thing we can control.  Whatever causes it, self harm is not the fantasized stigma of bloodshed and self-destruction.  More likely it’s calm, calculated, and controlled.  Not until this is an acceptable fact can we begin to find ways to support, treat, and heal.

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Aloha

Go now, heal not harm.

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