We’re going to talk about a tough subject again, because for me, today, it feels relevant. This is something I normally don’t talk about, even with those closest to me, because it’s not exactly a pleasant topic and it really isn’t something I like to broadcast, but I’ve started this blog for a reason so here it is – and I truly don’t know how to begin this because it makes me so uncomfortable so I guess I’ll start off with a metaphor –
Imagine you are blowing up a balloon, with every breath of air the balloon gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Now imagine, you can’t tell when the balloon is full and ready to be tied off, so you just keep heaving your energy into it until it’s stretched to mass capacity… you have two choices:
1. You can continue to push air into it and eventually let it explode in your face
2. You can let some air escape, tie it up, and continue blowing up the rest of the balloons.
This is the best way that I can describe my lifelong relationship with self-harming – I can allow my mental state and situation to completely consume me (which then leads to a full blown mental breakdown) or I can let a little bit of the pressure out. I do want to clarify: in no way am I condoning or promoting self harm, this is a documentation of my personal relationship with my body and my mental health.
As just stated, I’ve been self harming for most of my life… albeit my strategy now is much different, socially acceptable and a lot less destructive, than when I was younger – but I have seen all sides of the spectrum on this topic… I think, to explain, it’s easiest to categorize how I view the act of self harm itself first:
Category 1: Physical
Category 2: Mental/Emotional
When most people think of self harming, I can almost guarantee that the first thing that comes to mind is cutting. This is something that deeply upsets me, it’s extremely irritating that wanting to physically hurt yourself has become a stereotype and something that is flaunted as “aesthetic”. Let me tell you right now, there is nothing “aesthetic” about hurting yourself or threatening to hurt yourself. Suicide and self harming should not be a cultural norm, and every time someone says or posts something that expresses this superficial view of self harming, it perpetuates the stereotype, and further invalidates the severity of the action itself. I digress, as you can see above, I typically categorize self harm into 2 categories… Strangely enough, doing this helps me recognize and differentiate patterns in (my) life that can stop me from repeating how I treated myself in the past.
A lot of the time, category 2 is where things start. Now, I understand that everyone beats themselves up from time to time, but this isn’t what I am referring to. My mind can choose to bring terrible things up, like flipping through an entire catalog of bad decisions and experiences, at will and shove them in my face. This could happen at lunch, or in the middle of the night and could relate to relevant events or conversations that I had 10 years ago with people I don’t even know anymore. And it will dig and dig and obsess over these things that I know I can’t change until I feel completely worthless.
Before I was able to categorize my relationship with my issues, this would overwhelm me and I would be in an anxiety induced infatuation with these things until my balloon was ready to burst – which would then result in my self harming method of choice at the time*¹.
Now that I am cognizant of category 2, I can determine what is real and what isn’t before my mind reaches a breaking point. But, to say that I can catch myself every time would be a bold faced lie, things slip through the cracks, A LOT. So I’ve created a 3rd category that sits above the line of self harming:
Category 3: Coping methods that do NOT involve hurting myself for stupid reasons outside of my control.
The fact of the matter is that this is my life, there are parts of me I cannot change, and there are things that have happened to me that cannot be undone – but I can’t run away from who I am or my experiences. So instead of enacting something upon myself, that…
1. I don’t deserve
2. I hate doing
3. Does nothing but continue a cycle of self hate that can only end in more pain for myself and the people around me
… I treat myself to something pretty. I get a new tattoo, I still receive the adrenaline of the pain, but I am left with a piece of art instead of something that will remind me of my own unhappiness. I do something crazy with my hair – one of the biggest moments of my adult life was chopping off my, lower back length, hair and shaving the back of my head – and it did wonders for my mental health. I choose things about myself that I have control over and I change them, and the best thing about it (in most cases) is instead of just letting a little bit of air out of the balloon, it empties the whole thing – so instead of creating a daily habit of making myself feel terrible, I’ve created a bi-monthly habit of making myself feel beautiful.
If I knew what I know now, I would tell my younger self how beautiful she is, despite public opinion, and that she is worth a lot more than the agony she puts herself through. But I can’t, so instead, I’ll tell you.
*¹ I do not feel the need to go in to detail, as stated previously in the article, I’m not here to promote self harm or specific methods in how to do it. Plus these things changed according to the period of time in my life and whether or not I had been caught doing it yet.