Some time ago I worked with a young person who, as part of her coping skills used self harm. She explained that the pain or adrenaline of cutting means little to her, but it is the scar that is important. It is the mental pain that she can’t come to terms with, represented as a physical scar. After exploration we both realised that it was not as simple as expressing to others her pain but something more personal and intimate, almost a journal of her experiences ever changing and evolving as she struggles to come to terms with her complex and painful journey.
She maybe hasn’t yet moved on but importantly the concept of ‘moving on’ insults her as this complex emotive past has made her who she is today and it is important for her to mark that and not forget, in the same way we all mark and commemorate traumatic events.
So how do we move on from this? We all have an understanding that self-harm is not a healthy or responsible coping skill. People usually recognise the dangerous addictive quality and also that it is not ‘socially acceptable’ or understood by many. But it is also powerful and hard to leave behind. Each person who self-harms have their own personal and individual reasons, means of self harm and also personal route to recovery. This girl found her own route, and I was with her for part that journey. She is caring and creative and I have no doubt that her route will continue to be as personal and creative as she is.
What I took from this was the remainder that everyone is very different. Self harm is often labelled as attention seeking, suicidal behaviour or distraction from emotional pain, it is never as simple as that even if one of those is true. It is important that we remember that so as not to devalue someone’s experience or misunderstand their needs, as therapists, professionals, family members and friends.
If you are struggling with self harm then it’s important to find support. I have linked a good website below but please email if you would like help finding the right support or you would like to speak to Branch about counselling.
One of the biggest and best Self-Harm Support Communities on the internet. It also includes ‘The Butterfly Project’ a creative way to challenge self harm.