The 1st of March is Self Harm Awareness Day. I don't like specific days for things - makes me think it is missing the point slightly. Anyway, if it helps even just one person, then I suppose it makes it worthwhile. And now I am going to talk about it, as it has prompted me to do so. Yes, I am indeed a hypocrite.
For me, self harm is quite personal. As far as it can be. Ok, so online, it is actually the prominent feature of me, but in real life it isn't. Well, I go to great lengths to cover up the self harm. So I cover up in always long sleeves. In fact, in 6 years and 1 week (I first harmed myself 6 years and 1 week ago), I have only worn long sleeved tops every day bar 3 days. All three days were in the last 6 months. I can name the 3 days, and what I did on those days.
However, I have scars on my hands too. Some which are there all the time, others which only appear occasionally (usually when my hands are really hot). Which means even in long sleeved tops, high neck lines, full length trousers, or thick tights, and always shoes, I still have reminders of what I have done. Thankfully, the wounds on my face didn't scar too badly.
I first self harmed in the middle of the night, out of desperation for not being able to sleep. It was early Monday morning, after a week off school, and I had to be up early to do all those "reducing stress, but probably actually increasing anxiety level" activities. Well, I hurt myself. Didn't sleep. Then sat in front of a bowl of cereal for about an hour, before chucking it down the sink. Went to school, and horrible things happened. A week away meant that everyone who was horrible to me had thought up new and more scary things to do to me. Anyway, I was found out that morning. I was sent home, an emergency call to my psychiatrist, an emergency appointment the next day, and lots of talking went on without me. Which was probably for the best, as I couldn't really string together monosyllabic words into phrases, let alone talk about tricky things with any great insight.
6 years on, several hospital stays, constant contact with the mental health services, hundreds of metres of surgical tape, boxes of dressings, etc. later, and I am still here. Never thought I would be back then. In fact, every day seems to surprise me - just for the pure realisation things are still here. Simple things - the birds outside, or the fact that the house is still standing, or that I am still breathing. Sounds awfully cheesy, but it feels strange.
Things will never go back to before self harm. Life will never go back to how it was before all this started. But for all the "ick" that it is, I'm glad in some ways. For simple things; would I have ever met the people I care for online? No. Simple as. I wouldn't have got involved in self harm forums, and they are all originally from there. Would I have appreciated little things, even of the darkest days? No. Would I have realised what life is about? No. My life plan is still with the same aim, but the path I'm taking is different, very different. Would I have got the job I have now? No. Would I still be living at home? Probably not - which is sometimes a bad thing, but good more often that not.
Then there is the big thing: would I still be alive? Difficult to say. I was on a self-destructing path. Melodramatic or not, quite a lot of my teenage years have been quite self-destructive. Maybe the self harm helped keep me coping? Maybe it didn't? Maybe it was the wrong thing to do, or the wrong thing to have lived with, or the wrong thing to have put my family through? But maybe it was the least worst option...
Anyway, self harm is very big in my life, even if I hide it as much as I can. One day, I'll wear short sleeves. One day, I'll be open about it. Until that day, I'll keep showing people indirectly that this thing isn't the be all and end all. For some people I know, they have completely the wrong views about it. Even my CPN said as I sat in front of her in a suit after work one day about a month ago, "You don't look like a self harmer - I mean, anyone who saw you walk down the street would never even think you could possibly be a person who hurts herself". So until I tell people that there isn't such a thing as a stereotypical self harmer, I carry on being a person who "couldn't possibly hurt herself, as she is too bubbly/bright/happy" - just to push the observations of those I meet. Being challenged is like most things - learning included - it is a good thing to do.
I'll teach a choir a new piece, even if they at first think it is impossible for them to sing. Challenging them, pushing what they believe. I'll teach a student how to add two numbers when they can't even believe they will ever add up two numbers over 10 competently. Challenging them, telling them it will work, and then them getting it. I'll make my little corner of the world aware about self harm. Challenging them, making them realise that it doesn't mean that the person needs wrapping in cotton wool, or shut out of things. But instead to treat people like people. Which is sometimes forgotten in this little corner of the world - I have seen it with my own eyes, and not been able to do anything about it. So one day, I will. One day, I will.