Last night at Thanksgiving, Cassie and I had a very long discussion about all the people we know who self-harm for one reason or another. And the sheer amount of people amazes me.
Self harm, for anyone who’s been living under a rock for the past several years, is the intentional physical harming of one’s self or one’s body. A lot of the time it’s done by what’s known as “cutting.” In my fairly short life, I’ve had two close friends who are or were habitual cutters, as well as countless others who have either seriously considered it or gone through with it at least once.
I used to think self harm was the worst thing in the entire world that a person could do to themselves. When I found out my friend Bell was cutting herself in seventh grade, I totally lost my shit. I feel as though I devoted 90% of my time and energy that year just begging her not to do it.
Bell was clinically depressed and very seriously contemplating suicide, which terrified me. The scariest day of my life was when she dropped off the grid for several hours (her phone had died and she had fallen asleep).
Eventually, I convinced her to talk to her mom and get help. I’m a firm believer in the idea that therapy really does work. After a while, Bell got better, but she was still having serious panick attacks. She transferred schools and we haven’t talked much since, but from what I know she’s doing well.
Back then, when Bell was going through a horrible time in her life, I was absolutely opposed to self-harm—I thought it was easy to stop, long before I educated myself. I couldn’t believe anyone would ever do something like that to themselves.
My opinion since then has changed. I still absolutely think self-harm is a horribly sad thing—but I’ve struggled with depression myself and I understand, maybe a little too well, where the desire to self-harm comes from. Especially in this age of anonymity and cyberbullying, when texting is our main form of communication, it’s easy to feel alone in the world. It’s easy to feel the need to feel something.
So while I still believe self-harm is a very serious problem that should absolutely not be taken lightly—I can understand why people do it.
I also have another friend who self harms who was basically forced into therapy by her parents. When I found out she had cut herself, I was sad—but I was also angry. Angry that she should have to feel this way, angry that everyone was so oblivious. How could nobody have noticed? How could I have been one of the only ones who knew?
The other day in lab class, we were taking our pulses. One of my lab partners, this dumbass boy named Jackson, pressed his fingers into his arm so hard that he left red marks all down his wrist.
“Haha, guys, look, it looks like I tried to kill myself this morning! I hope it fades so everyone doesn’t think I’m a freak.”
So while I’m not naïve enough anymore to think self-harm is the absolute most horrible thing in the world, I know that the world still has a long, long way to go before they understand it. People who self-harm are shamed for it, and it’s not something to joke about.
Sometimes, I wonder how people could be so ignorant. But other times, I wish I could be so ignorant. While the world is a beautiful place, it’s also a terrible one.
I just hope that in helping my friends who struggle with self-harm, that maybe I can make the world a little better.