Monday, 8 March 2010

Hiding Self Harm.

*****Content may be triggering******

I tried not to wince as I hauled my body onto the couch last Monday.

I had spent the day explaining to concerned colleagues that I had pulled a muscle at the gym.

In fact, I cut so badly that one of the wounds wouldn't stay sealed. Each time I showered, the steristrips peeled off and the cut was left gaping again.

When she asked where I had cut, I put my hand against it.

"The groin", she said, nodding knowingly.

(It might just be me, but therapists seem to have an extraordinarily irritating habit of nodding and 'yes'ing when you reveal something.
To my mind, this seems to be a smokescreen which hides the fact that the therapist is buying some figuring time, whilst simultaneously convincing the client that they are, in fact, omnipotent and had known the thing they had just revealed well before they said anything).

I digress.

Later in the session she announced that she was concerned I was cutting so close to a major artery.

Something in me froze.

My knowledge of anatomy not being as it could be, I had completely neglected to recall the fact that the area I cut is home to the femoral artery.

I'd only have about 3 minutes.
It's a horrible place to cut.

It only occurred to me after I left that her twisted therapists' mind probably decided that the fact that I cut there is because I have some sort of repressed sexual aggression towards my mother... or some such rubbish.

In fact, the reason I chose to cut near the groin is purely practical.
It will not be seen.
Even a (not too skimpy) bikini might hide the worst of the scarring.

Personally, I'd much rather use my feet (as I used to) or my arms.
But they are both so visible and I would probably rather die than have someone who knows me find out about self harm.
I couldn't ever go to hospital because I'd never cope with the horrible shame of someone seeing.

It has then, come as rather a shock to realise just how close I was when I cut the other night. And how close I must have been so many times before.

I looked up diagrams of the femoral artery in order to see where it is and it is hard to find something which specifically shows it in relation to the rest of the body. Suffice to say that I must have had some lucky escapes.

Ridiculously and somewhat inexplicably, I'm on a cutting spree at the moment.
It is desperate and painful and calming.

I am having to monitor the depth carefully and that is a real battle when a part of me wants to get right to the core of me.

A week later, the wound I refer to is, strikingly, a mouth.
No longer bleeding, but not properly sealed, it keeps emitting pus, despite my half hearted efforts to disinfect.
The pain from the cut is deep; which leaves me confused as to why I would find it necessary to cut again two days later, albeit far more times and far less deeply.

I suspect that even the most understanding of people might struggle to understand how on earth a person could inflict damage upon themselves in such a way.

The concept feels lip curlingly revolting to me... and I DO this!

I can well understand those who find it nauseating to imagine. I can understand the disgust and anger others may feel.

I myself have a part of me which identifies very strongly with those who may view the deliberate damage and mutilation of areas of the body as a terrible act of selfishness and hopeless self indulgence.

Ultimately, self harm is a silent, violent scream.

It is a way of putting something desperate on the outside.

It is a way of crying without heaving and sobbing and worrying about your eyes being red.

It's a way of safely taking the top layer off the toppling tower.


  1. I too have self harmed in places it could not be seen for the shame. Why do we do it? Pain. I am concerned for you. Please try to talk it out.Reach me trough my blog and I'll give you my e-mail.

  2. Hi-

    I feel your desperate pain and I can embrace your attempt to quell pain with pain. You are dangerously close to going beyond harm to quell pain. Please move from there. Please. I am loving you from here and offering you 'me' to cut if just in your mind. I will bleed for you for a while.

    Love Gail

  3. I do not in the least feel repelled. People injure themselves in all kinds of ways, usually without admitting that self-harm is their intent. When removed from the body, the lungs of a chronic smoker look at least as damaged than the skin of someone who cuts. The same is true of the liver in alcoholism, or the teeth in chronic meth users. People with anorexia look skeletal and punished. Even just chronic slumped and defeated posture can result in severe spinal degeneration easily seen in radiographic studies (and here I speak from personal experience). Your cutting could be looked at as a more honest form of self-harm than the countless others. That does not make it any less tragic, but I personally don't find what you are struggling with to be nauseating or revolting. And I respect your courage in sharing it.

  4. Just to say, I can't even begin to respond to your comments... They are stingingly kind and I just don't think I deserve that.

    It's not that I'm not so touched by your words, just that I can't face my own disgust and horror.

    Your revulsion would have been easier I guess.

  5. Hi WS - as Will pointed out there are many ways that a person can harm themselves without actually using a blade of some sort to do it. While his examples are certainly valid there are more direct methods to 'cut' without actually cutting. There are any number of ways that one can keep oneself in continuous physical pain in order to distract oneself from feeling the emotional pain. I myself found a very clever way to do it that nobody would ever suspect, including myself until I saw myself described in a book that I read recently. And I did it for years without realizing it. We'll call it walking into walls 'accidentally' and continuously (albeit unconsciously).

    It is not just something that one does for the hell of it but rather it is a method of distraction or dissocation yes? Trade the emotional pain for the physical as I see it.

    I do not think myself crazy or revolting and I don't think you are either of those things either. We must find something within our power to ease the pain. That is a normal human reaction to excessive emotional pain.

    It is not revolting but it is also not healthy as I'm sure you already know. Have you spoken to your therapist about alternative ways to distract from the pain in those times you feel like cutting that aren't quite so destructive? I assume you have but if not please try to talk to her about that.

  6. your last four sentences says it all...the reason..the why's...the purpose to hurt yourself...I remember being chained down to the bed to stop me from hurting myself. Didn't work...I believed I deserved everything that happened..the anger, the rage, the hatred...all aimed not at those who beat and raped me...aimed at me...the one I believed was bad, wrong, worthless. It was everything you said in your last four sentences. Stay safe your corner...Sarah

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  8. Dear One, never cut. I do not feel repelled at all. Rather fear and concern. Oh yeah, I know how hard it is to accept concern, care and kindness. This too shall pass. It is freaking hard still doable. Love from my heart to yours.

  9. Well.

    In response...

    Wanda, It seems so wrong that you should be showing me such kindness when you hve suffered such a huge loss.
    I'm painfully aware of the agonising loss, although I can't imagine what you have been through over these last few weeks or how you are coping with it.
    Please know you are in my thoughts.
    Your offer was so, so kind Wanda, but you must look after YOU right now.
    Thank you for hearing me and for understanding.

    Andrea, Thanks for always praying for a lost cause. x

    Gail, Your words made me want to cry.
    I can say more without reaching the 'no words' point. x

    Will, I don't know what to say. You make your point so eloquently (as always). Thank you for not being repelled. I suppose I assume that most people will feel a sense of disgust for me.. or at least a type of anger. The type of anger that says, "you did all this to yourself. You deserve to suffer".
    That's what I hear in my own head at any rate.
    Thank you so much for your words.

    JSS,I was struck by your identification... your own experience, and your own acceptance of what lies behind this stuff.
    Yes. You are right. It is about distraction and dissociation. It is an attempt to disguise the pain inside by making the outside pain more prominent.
    And it works.
    I have spoken to my T about it but we both know that holding icecubes, drawing red lines and hitting pillows just won't cut it. (No pun intended).
    Thanks for being here, jss. x

    Sarah, I'm so sorry for the terrible exeriences that led to your feeling of deserving the punishment. I know from reading your blog just how much brutality you suffered in your early life.
    I don't have any of the reasons you have. It gets to me sometimes that I do this and yet don't have a vaild reason for feeling like I do. Those last four lines that you highlighted are absolutely true for me but to my mind, I just have no reason for feeling as I do. I don't have a right to the feelings.
    Does that make sense?
    Thanks for understandng. x

    誇張, I have no idea what you said but then, you know that.

    Paula, Please don't feel either fear or concern.It is my own doing and I have to be responsible for what happens.
    Thank you for knowing so much about how awful the care and kindness can be.
    I'm sorry you struggle too.

  10. never repulsed by you . . . . . and understanding more than you believe . . . . still around and listening, and always thinking of you . . . . . much love to you . .


  11. Hi WS - I do understand that drawing a red line would be useless. I think if somebody suggested that to me I would laugh in their face. Yeah, clearly you don't get it. As we said it's about the pain to distract. I guess I was just thinking to myself are there other ways that might allow for the exterior pain that won't draw blood, or as much blood? In other words is drawing blood necessary to the process? While I managed to draw blood regularly I did finally notice that it wasn't about the blood but about the distraction of the pain. For example refusing pain medication after surgery was a perfect ruse for me. This was very effective (and quite unnoticeable to everyone but my doctor, who is apparently a very smart lady). I got the distraction of the pain without the danger of an open wound.

    I don't claim to have any answers, I'm just throwing stuff out there from my own experience. We need to speaking about things that are generally considered unspeakable. This is not unspeakable, nor should it be and there are people (as you can see) who understand and are willing to talk about it.

  12. Lissa,

    I'm speechless and so so angry with myself because I didn't and DON'T deserve your kindness or your listening.

    I'm sorry I haven't been around on the forum.
    Even I don't understand.

    I think of you so much and wonder how you are doing.
    I will come and have a read, if that's still okay with you.

    I hope that you didn't think I was implying that your suggestion re less 'wounding' ways of selfharming was in any way glib or lacking understanding.
    On the contrary, I feel that you understand a hell of a lot.

    I might try to write a bit more about it if I can, but for me, the blood is kind of symbolic so to feel satisfied through pain of other kinds is difficult.
    I can undertand how your refusal of pain relief would bring yo some satisfaction. I think it would me...but it would bring me a different kind of relief... It would bring with it a sense that I can bear things... i can 'cope'. I think, for me, the refusal to relieve pain that already exists, is more about a feeling that I am punishing myself sufficiently, whilst simultaneously comforting me with the thought that I am tough and can deal with pain without needing anything or anyone. (Again, a topic for a different post; a post I have been thinking of for a long time, actually).
    I get that refusing pain relief is good because it is without the dangers of infection / septicaemia etc...
    It's a good idea... It's just that there is a lot of stuff tied up with the concept of release... and the fact that the pain is ongoing.
    For a while, I took to piercings as a more constructive method of self harm... but it didn't work.
    Not really.

    Thank you for "throwing stuff out there".
    You are probably right that we need to be speaking the unspeakable.
    I guess that's what I am doing really, though God only knows if anyone I 'knew' found out I would never be able to see them again.
    You are right that there are people willing to talk about it. To be absolutely honest, I was shoced at how many people have responded here as I thought it would be avoided.
    On the original post I wrote, I was so frightened that people would tell me to......................... (too scared to even wrie what I thought) that I requested that nobody replied to the post.
    I took a risk when I wiped it off and I'm left with a mixture of relief, a feeling of disgust at myself and a sense that I don't deserve the understanding I have had. I deserve to be ignored and told to pull myself together.
    Tough one.

    Thanks again, jss... for understanding and for listening and sharing.

  13. Hi WS - I didn't think you were being glib at all and I am completely onboard with your recognition that it is not only the distraction of the pain but also proof that you can 'take it'. There is a substantial investment on my part in that thought also. There are those, as you know whose investment in the need to project STRONG is well... strong. That is a tough nut to crack, one that I think I will never really be able to completely crack. It is part of who I have become and frankly I'm not all that willing to give it up completely.

    I would be interested in your thoughts on how this effects you if you choose to put together a post on that. I suspect similarities will abound. I would also be interested to know in what ways blood is symbolic to you if you are so inclined to reveal such things.

    You know I don't know a hell of a lot about much of anything but one thing I am 100% certain of and that is that we NEED to be talking about these supposedly unspeakable things. Seems to me that if people at large were less inclined to feel that there are things that cannot be spoken about then we'd have a heck of a lot fewer things happening that 'cannot' be spoken about.

    A real Catch-22 huh?

  14. Hey jss,

    Thank you so, so much for your response and for your understanding.
    I want to write a reply post as you suggested but just feel like I have to stay on the outskirts of the topic a little bit... Just until I can go near it again.
    Trust you will get what I mean...

    I'm so grateful to you for understanding and yet so angry that nobody seems to want to slap me and tell me to stop being so disgusting.

    Your reply had the word 'need' in it, which (alongside today's T) triggered something I have been trying to articulate for months... and so I have, albeit poorly.

    If you would like to post on the topic then please do...
    I would be just as intersted to hear your take on it.

    Catch 22 isn't in it.



    I wasn't actually talking about bicycles. It is merely a way to hide behind inanimate objects.

  16. I just found your blog. Thank you so much for your post. I wish I could just sit and talk with you. I have searched for understanding and websites etc. But none of it seems exactly what I'm looking for. Your blog is it.

  17. Anonymous,

    I'm so glad, but at the same time, so sorry.
    These days, since suffering the horrors of anorexia, I find the urge to self harm has completely disappeared... but then, Anorexia is a horrible form of it really.
    I haven't read this post since I wrote it... It's interesting reading back.
    I wish that you had someone you could really talk too but it's so hard isn't it... It has to be so secret and you are obviiiously in such pain.
    Feel free to read here but remember, the words come from someone who is lacking the wisdom you need so badly.

  18. Im 13 and my parents just found out about me self harming my friends mom jerked them up and away they acted as if i was a total freak show. now my friend cant come near me at all and she has to transfer schools at times i feel so alone i dont know what to do. i have never felt so alone i write a ton of poetry i probably wrie about 20-30 poems a day and it works to get my mind off of cutting for a while and im really trying hard to quit but......i really really love it and in the end i cant resist

  19. Dear Anon, It's the age old problem of people just not understanding the issue of self harm. To an 'outsider', it appears to be something 'freak show - ish'... It gets labelled as being something completely mental, or something that is merely 'attention seeking'. Whilst it may be this, I think it is really a way of having a voice. When you can't speak, it SAYS something... screams even.
    I'm so sad that you feel alone. I can't really give you advice as I feel that would be wrong. I'm not trained enough to do that. However, I would encourage you to keep writing. Keep writing your poems. Write letters to those you'd like to talk to (you don't have to send them). Ask your parents if they'll get you some counselling. You need to be HEARD. I really hope that you can find a new way to express some of the pain you feel. Please take care of yourself. You are worth far more than you know.

  20. Hi,

    First off, I want to say that I think you're incredibly brave for sharing your experiences...

    From the point of view of someone in the medical proffession, her "knowing" nods probably weren't meant to be knowing at all - and she probably assumed not that it was repressed sexual aggression towards your Mother, but that you didn't want people to see it.

    We're taught, as we go through our training, not to show it when we're shocked - hence her knowing looks...

    Equally we're taught that someone cutting in that area is trying to hide it... but that it can be dangerous, and we should make people aware of that.

    I used to self-harm quite a bit, and under the incredible stress of being at med school am constantly tempted by it.

    Sometimes the way we're 'taught' to react gives the wrong impression. I really hope the impressions that medics have given you haven't put you off talking about it.

    I wish you all the best