Should I have done it? No.
Do I regret doing it? No.
Is it important that we break down the stigma surrounding self-harm? Yes.
So in my head, what I’ve done to myself isn’t a big deal. My scars have faded quite considerably and most times I’ve completely forgotten about it. But occasionally, I’ll get some stares and I’ll remember that I do have scars. But remember, to me? That part is done and over with.
And I made peace with my decisions.
Now, I know this is controversial. I recognize that by saying, “I’m not ashamed of what I did” I’m opening the door for a lot of criticism. Since it’s a negative thing, a harmful thing, and something we should not do my acceptance of what I chose to do is considered bad.
But I don’t think it is.
Accepting something in our past isn’t about forgetting it. It’s about making peace with something. I don’t know about you, but to me peace isn’t about holding regret, resentment, and anger in my heart. In this situation, to me, peace is about understanding why you did something and standing by that reason because at that point in time, that was the decision you wanted to make. Maybe event the best decision you thought you could make.
Before we go on, I want to make this point absolutely positively clear though. And I want to say a few things.
IF you are considering harming yourself for the first time or for the millionth time: Don’t.
And I’m not going to tell you not to do it because it’ll get better. That just invalidates what you are going through now. Right now probably sucks, it’s probably awful. I’m also not going to tell you that you shouldn’t self-harm because it’s dangerous. You know that.
I am going to say something that might make a difference. And to all you who don’t self-harm listen up because I’ll be including reasons why this might help. Besides, this advice is really good for a lot of things, especially depression, giving up, backing down.
1. Think about tomorrow
Which seems impossible to do, I know. But not the whole day, just that first moment you wake up with fresh wounds, whatever they are. Just take a moment to pause because remember self-harm is a cycle (listen up folks) the feelings of guilt, shame, and regret of self-harming are only going to further feed that cycle, that need.
2. It won’t work forever
Oops, I let the cat out of the bag. Self-harm doesn’t work forever because it’s like a drug. You need more and more and more to get the same effect. Not so good. Eventually, you’ll either mess up or get caught. Or both. I think that it’s easier to try and stop, engage in healthier ways to manage that feeling, and tell people when you’re ready…not when a mistake forces you to.
3. Your body needs you
Now listen, I don’t know why this one helped me so much but it did. My body needs me to be good to it. It’s trying so hard to keep me strong and healthy. It’s working it’s little butt off to heal me. Before you physically tear it apart remember that no matter what is going on, no matter why you are self-harming (need for control, punishing yourself, feeling numb, to express inner pain or relieve extreme stress, etc) your body doesn’t care! This was liberating for me. My flesh and blood doesn’t have the power to judge me and even though I think my mind is, it’s still sending signals to heal my body because that’s what it does.
It always tries to help me. That reassured me.
Okay, so that’s out of the way. Now, what do I mean when I say, “I don’t regret self-harm”?
I mean three things.
The first is that I stand by my decision because I think it saved my life. Because I cut, and did a few various less harmful things, I didn’t do other things. I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t go out and get in major trouble. And I didn’t kill myself. Now, I recognize that cutting and suicide do not go hand in hand and that’s really important to note, but for me personally, I used it as a mechanism to cope with things and life events that made me feel like I was drowning. I felt like I was dying and I think I really would have if I hadn’t done what I did. It was survival to me.
The second is that it helped me manifest my emotions and pain. Without going into why I self-harmed, I’ll say that there was a lot inside of me that I didn’t understand. Journaling didn’t help. Therapy didn’t help. Exercise didn’t help. I tried it all and none of it helped me at that time. Self-harm didn’t either but it help me understand two things: that there was at least one way to express my emotions and that my emotions were valid. If I felt driven to the point of harming myself, (in my head) that meant that the pain was real. A lot of times I didn’t even self-harm, just felt myself get to that point.
And the last is because I don’t make bad decisions. Wait! Hear me out! Of course, I mess up and make mistakes but after everything I’ve gone through I had a choice to make about my worldview. Since I was always so adamant about beating myself up over things, I decided to take that option off the table. I decided to look at myself and my decisions like this:
When I decide something, I simultaneously acknowledge that it is the best choice I can make in that moment.
What that means is that ten years from now when I look back on a decision that negatively impacted me, I don’t get to dwell on it and say I made a bad choice. I have to say (as per I promised myself) that I understand that was the best decision I could make with the facts I had at that moment. I don’t let hindsight rule my life. I don’t say I make bad decisions. I say I make good decisions that negatively impact my life. Because the decision isn’t the negative part is it? Choosing isn’t the problem. It’s what happens after.
All that means is that when I look back on my days of self-harm, I understand that the choice I made was the one I was capable of making. I was not capable of anything beyond that at that point in time. So I don’t regret it. I stand by my choices, no matter how much they have changed or hurt me because they are my choice. I am exercising my free will and I won’t always pick the most positive path. But I’ll pick an interesting one for sure!
All this to say, be kind to people who you see have scars. Be kind to people who self-harm. And don’t get angry at those who have made peace with their wounds. Educate yourselves on it first. Let them have peace. I mean, why not? After all, it’s clear they’ve suffered right?
Oh, and enough with the “they do it for attention”. It doesn’t matter the reason…if someone is physically destroying their body the reason is good enough, there is an issue they need help with. Be nice.