Let me start this by saying, I know my mother and brother will probably read this, along with others who are close to me, and will not like what they are about to read. This is somewhat of a warning. If you don't want your picture of me as a strong, independent person who always has and always will deal with all of life's hardships in a rational way, please don't continue reading this. This is personal confession, and its extremely hard for me to write and make public. Don't judge me on my past and what I still fight with every day. With that said, here we go.
The other day, someone close to me was telling me about their past with a mutual friend of ours. This person told me that the friend supposedly cut themselves to get attention in a rough situation. They continued to say that they could never understand why someone would do that to themselves and they would never deal with someone who did.
This broke my heart.
People deal with pain, rejection, failure, etc. in many different ways. Most people can go through life and more or less accept what comes at them. Others cannot. Some do not know how to deal with these things that are part of every day life. You may think they are desperate for attention or being selfish, but honestly, most of the time they aren't.
I have known many people who were or currently are self-mutilators. They don't tell people, they get caught. One of the strongest people I have ever met, once had covered their body in over 200 cuts. They hid it. One day someone figured it out. This person still has issues with different types of self-mutilation, but fights it off every time they get the urge. They've learned how to deal in a different way.
Oddly enough, other ways can be more detrimental. I've seen so many people turn to drugs or alcohol after being found out. That ruins lives faster than anything else. It also directly affects those around you in how you act while under the influence.
Self-mutilators don't always have a mental disorder, such as depression or bi-polarism either; although, there is a good chance that in most cases the person does have at least a slight case of one or the other. Most often than not, these people internalize their problems.
I'm one of those people who internalize things. I have a hard time telling people that I'm upset, especially if they are the person that I'm upset with. I let it all pile up. I can handle a lot, but over time it adds up. This usually leads to a big problem that shouldn't have even come up. I don't like hurting others, I don't like telling them they're wrong or they've done something to hurt me even when it's small. At the time, I feel it isn't a big deal and I will get over it eventually. While I may get over it, it eventually comes back up if things continue to happen.
You would think the little things would be the easiest to talk about, but they aren't. They make me feel like I seem petty, however, I know it would be better to look that way for a short time than like a crazy person later on.
I say all this because I used to be one of these people. When things got to tough or too much to deal with, I would handle it by releasing my pain physically. I don't have scars. You could search my body over and never find evidence of this behavior. Like I said before, people know how to hide it.
I'm not saying this for pity, because believe me, the few people that saw the evidence of it made me feel awful about myself and my decision to do it. I'm finally saying it because you never know people as well as you think you do. You don't know how the things you say or do affect them. No, I don't do it anymore. Yes, I do struggle with the urge occasionally, but very rarely. I've found other ways to deal: working out, Tank, writing. I still have a very hard time telling people they've upset or hurt me. It seems to always cause more problems. That is most likely because I don't know how to breach the subject gently.
Personally though, I feel I shouldn't have to worry about someone else's feelings if I'm telling them that they have wronged me. If it was a misunderstanding, tell me so. I'm not going to throw a tantrum, I'll just tell you my point of view. Don't tell me I'm being stupid or too sensitive, that will make the situation worse. Just because something doesn't or wouldn't bother one person, doesn't mean it's the same for everyone.
I know it is hard for people to understand why others to this to themselves. Those people seem weak and selfish, and I can understand that point of view. I just wish for once, someone would try to see things from the "alternative" view. We internalize. We're afraid. We don't feel good about what we've done. We don't want you to know. For me, the physical pain was much easier to deal with than emotional. It was like the act released it from my body temporarily. It's not a healthy way to deal. It doesn't make life easier, and doesn't make the issues go away.
Between this and the ways I deal now, I did try alcohol to a point. Other than giving me a few nights of blackness, it didn't help at all and left me with painful headaches the next day. Those around me knew what I was doing and worried about me. I didn't put myself in compromising situations or drive, but it was still extremely stupid. I've lost a few people I care about very very much because of this behavior. I may still have a beer or two after a rough day, but I don't try to deal that way anymore. It wasn't worth making myself sick, having headaches, or losing people. Nothing is worth that.
The reason I am posting this and making my personal battle public is because people don't realize that by judging those who do these things, they could very possibly be making it worse. Don't condemn them, talk to them, find out what's bothering them so much that it could drive them to this behavior. The answer could be surprisingly simple and easily dealt with or complex enough that they need to seek professional advice. I realize most people think that anyone who hurts themselves needs professional help, but that's not the answer for everyone. I don't think I could sit there face-to-face with a complete stranger and tell them my problems. I'm afraid they will judge me or tell me I'm being stupid. And yes, I realize that they cannot openly say that, but they can think it. I'm thankful I have a handful of people who realize I struggle with little things and will listen even if I need to bitch about something that may be insignificant to them.
I don't know if I'll ever be able to tell the person who made me feel I needed to write this the truth. I don't want them to worry about every little thing, that maybe it could make me relapse. Because it isn't like that. Yes, I have tiny urges at times, but when that happens I grab a cigarette and try to come up with some way to get my mind off of it. Usually I end up online or working on my book. Sometimes I go to the gym. Sometimes I just cry. Every situation is different, as is every solution.
Judgement isn't the solution, it doesn't help the person. Compassion and a shoulder to lean on are the best things to offer. They do so much more than you could ever dream. It could save a life, in all meanings of the phrase.