What Not to say to a Self Harmer. TW.

Published May 26, 2014 by Harri

This post was written back in March. As it states, I am not advocating Self Harm as a way of coping, there are healthier ways of coping, I am merely making the information available to those who do, so they can take care of themselves.

Trigger warnings for Self Harm, blood, suicide and wound care.

The 1st of March was National Self Harm Day, which happens to raise awareness and help for those who suffer from the urge to self injure. I AM NOT glorifying Self Harm and would recommend anyone who hasn’t done it but is thinking about it seek help. This post is merely to highlight how ‘well-meaning’ comments and ignorance can make the issue worse. If you are a self-harmer, make sure you are using clean utensils, sterile bandages (if you need them) and just be careful. Show yourself some love and self-care.

For those who are reading this and affected by anything said, there is help out there.

youngminds.org – Online help for under 18’s.
Childline.org – A charity that gives information for under 18’s.
Live Life to the Full – Help for anyone.
Mind – Mental Health Charity and their information
Alumina – If you are 14-18 you can sign up for this online course.
Lifesigns – An American website to help with Self Harm.
harmless – A British website to help with Self Harm.
helpguide – Literature on Self Harm
National Self Harm Network – Nottingham based charity for Self Harmers.

This post is written from a personal view, things that have been said to me over the years that upset me more, pissed me off or made me want to claw the skin off my face in frustration. I would suggest anyone who reads this and identifies with anything I write, take a look at yourself. When you say these things to people you know and love or a complete strangers, you could be undoing years of therapy. Self Harm can be anything from abusing the gym too much, smoking too much, comfort eating, starving yourself, picking your skin, pulling your hair, drinking too much, ANYTHING that can be abused in such away that helps the person maintain the little control they feel they have in their life.

For me, Self Harm is like letting the steam out of a pressure cooker. It’s ALWAYS been a physical manifestation of a mental and emotional pain that I could not verbalise or write down. It’s a way of feeling something when everything is void of feeling and emotion. It’s salvation for many.

From several searches online, there aren’t many charities out there to help adults with self harming, to help them process why they do it and to help them move on from it. Please if you do want help, check with your local Mental Health Team/Services to see what they provide in your area.

Think before you open your mouth and don’t say crap like this….

  • “You are only doing it for attention.” – You know what, there are a small section of society who do cut for the attention, they are but few. People who Self Harm in standard or non-standard ways are doing it for their own reasons. Whether it’s a way of coping with their present situation, dealing with their past or even a way of dealing with their present, don’t be an arse and belittle their pain. If you think someone is Self-Harming ask them if they want to talk about it.
  • “Don’t kill yourself!” – A lot of people are under the misconception that people who self-harm are suicidal. This is not true. A lot of people who self-harm are NOT suicidal, they are merely looking to regain control. People who are suicidal don’t always self-harm. You can’t automatically assume that one comes with the other. Laurel and Hardy they are not. One can be with out the other.
  • “Get a grip.” – Of what? The knife, the pie, the cigarette or your mouth? I don’t get this one. People who have Mental Health Issues can’t just snap out of it. They never have been and never will be able to snap out of it. Nor will they be able to get a grip.
  • “Why though, it’s so ugly?” – Really, so you are going to dismiss my pain and suffering and reduce it all down to societal construct of beauty. Because it doesn’t look right, we shouldn’t do it. Fuck off.
  • “You’d look so pretty if you didn’t though.” – See above.
  • “Oh you have battle scars too.” – My daughter says something similar. “Your scars tell your story though, don’t they mum. Like mine do with my nose.” (She jumped off a wall and landed on her face when she was 3.) Being a forward and confident child she isn’t afraid to talk to anyone and on more than one occasion she has spotted someone with scars and pointed them out. She means well and is completely innocent in her words but it can be triggering for the person. So I have had to tell her that she shouldn’t say anything. Kiddo insists on telling them “You are strong.” Your scars did not happen for the same reason theirs did. You may be comfortable talking about yours and how you got them, but don’t assume the other person is.
  • “Is that why you have tattoos, to hide them?” – Erm, what? Is it any of your business as to why I have ink on my arms? NO. I can sit for an hour or 2 whilst the needle permanently marks my skin because, for me, it’s therapeutic. My ink does not hide my scars.
  • “Stop picking your face, you look like a leper.” – WOW, so you are going to compare a compulsion to someone who is living with Leprosy. That’s just disgusting. Their condition causes them immense amounts of pain and obvious loss of limbs. How can my scars even be compared to their pain? Your ignorance is astonishing.
  • “Do something else instead.” – Sometimes, if you are a person who cuts, being told to use an elastic band, candle wax, holding ice, epilating your legs and washing your hands in boiling hot water aren’t what you are looking for. They won’t do. Sometimes you need to be in control of the pain. This information is given out by a lot of Mental Health Professionals as a way of diverting the thought into a less permanent resolution. They can be helpful to some people but if you aren’t a trained professional or have no experience in what you are talking about you will come across as ignorant, condescending and arrogant. If you don’t know what you are talking about, listen and educate yourself before making suggestions.
  • “So if you like pain, why do you cry out when you stub your toe or when you epilate.” – Seriously… Really. When has stubbing your toe ever been enjoyable? Accidentally stabbing or cutting yourself whilst chopping veg? It’s not enjoyable because you don’t expect it and you aren’t in control of it. So keep that one buried in the back of your head with the dreams of the cartoons you used to watch as a kid and NEVER let that one see the light of day. Please.
  • “But if you loved me you wouldn’t do it. Promise me you won’t do it.” – This is ABUSE. You are guilting and shaming the person who is already suffering into a situation where they won’t be able to cope. You are stripping them of their coping mechanism. Don’t be a douche and do that. Guilting anyone into doing something is wrong and telling them that if they loved you they’d stop is just cruel. You are causing them more pain and grief than any cut could ever give them. Shame and guilt are toxic. Completely TOXIC. DO NOT use this card on anyone. You do and you are a muppet.
  • “Just exercise it off.” – An example of possible ignorance here. Exercise doesn’t always work. Why? Well if you are depressed and you are struggling to get out of bed, then getting out to go for a walk, when you are suffering anxiety isn’t the easiest of things to do. It’s also something I have abused previously. It’s not always the answer.
  • But it’s stupid and destructive.” – So is anything that can be abused. Just because I pick at my flesh or cut myself and over-eat, that does NOT give anyone the right to belittle my coping mechanisms. Those people who were fortunate enough to learn a healthy and constructive way of dealing with stress and anxiety are lucky.  Not everybody has that privilege. Remember that please, before you open your mouth.

So, what can you do if you are a Self-Harmer. Well, I don’t want to dismiss anyone and exclude anyone, if there is a particular act that you do when you are stressed, panicky or hurting that could be deemed as dangerous and you are worried about the behaviours, please have a look at the links at the start of this post.

If you cut/pick or use an implement to break the skin, please be careful. I am NOT a medical professional so please please PLEASE exercise caution and sense.

  • Sterilise the utensil
  • Sterilise the area of skin you intend to use
  • When you have done what you need to do, dress the wound with sterile, clean dressings.
  • Clean your utensil

If you cut too deep, or are worried about a cut, PLEASE go to a hospital. Wound care is important. Keeping the wound clean. Keep an eye on it for infection. Reddening and swelling of the flesh around the wound, along with tenderness, pus and sometimes heat can signify an infection. This will need antibiotics, so you’d need to go to the Doctor’s for those.

I am not advocating self harm as a way of coping. I am not advocating cutting as a way of coping. I am merely giving practical advice to people who are going to do it and probably already are still doing it, to keep them safe. There is help out there, finding it and getting it can be harder than a lot of people realise.

A xx

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