More self-harm annoyances

March 6, 2008 at 3:50 am 9 comments

So, a while ago I wrote about self harm not being that serious. I think I’ve worked out what annoys me about the visible face of self-harm, particularly – but not limited to – the sickeningly mawkish TWLOHA.

I was thinking for a while about the various myths that seem to pervade online self-harm forums, blogs and information sources; call it the online self-harm community if you want. Now, the majority of people who make up the online self-harm community are teenage girls and I’m not, nor have ever been, a teenage girl. But I did start self-harming as a teenager and I’ve known women who were those self-harming teenagers. And, for me, and I think for them, too, the mythology of self-harm just doesn’t ring true.

There’s this idea that self-harm is a hidden and secret thing that desperately needs to be de-stigmatised, that self-harmers are terribly misunderstood. I’m calling bullshit. Self-harm is so utterly common today that it’s damn near commonplace. Seriously, given the statistics, everyone knows someone who self-harms or used to. (And yes, if you’re a teenage girl, of course some people will say that you’re doing it for attention – these people are called bullies and bullies will use any weak point they can against vulnerable people. Education and ‘de-stigmatisation’ is not going to change that.)

But really, what annoys me about the way self-harm is presented by, the media, self-harm organisations and a large number of self-harmers, is the way that self-harm is presented as somehow special. That it’s in a different class to any other negative behaviour and should be thought of differently. It’s not. It’s not even an uncommon behaviour. Consider for a moment that if you’re using class A drugs (eg. serious opiates, cocaine, crack, etc) at age 15, you’re probably using them to cope with your problems. About as many 15 year old girls have used a class A drug in the last year as have self-harmed. The two populations probably overlap. The point is, both are negative behaviours (and some broad definitions of self-harm include drug use), but it’s really only the self-harmers who claim that their (our?) behaviour should be seen as uniquely tragic. And self-harm is much more often portrayed in the media that way than kids on drugs.

And this desperate and kind of pathetic need for acceptance and understanding by the whole fucking world also gets to me. That’s another side of self-harm’s claim of specialness. I mean, I don’t expect people to find my binge drinking and consequent inappropriate-yet-impossible-to-remember-behaviour anything other that annoying and kind of sad. I certainly don’t expect them to tread carefully around the issue for fear of disturbing my delicate emotional state. Why should it be any different for self-harm?


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Therapy today YouTube Friday ’cause hell, why not?

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. exactscience  |  March 6, 2008 at 10:45 am

    I have fallen into both the drug user and self harmer category and I think the thing that sets self harm apart is real life.

    In real life you will never, never accidentally trip and fall and somehow manage to swallow a mind-altering pill, but you may trip and fall and cut yourself – everyone at some point has decked it and grazed their knee and it hurts. I have done some really terrible things when I have wanted to but still wince like a child when I have to take off the tape holding down the gauze.

    I’m not being too articulate. I suppose what it is, is that although both are conscious choices to forget, numb your thoughts or what have you – the acts that constitute self harm can happen normally and when they do it isn’t really thought of as serendipity, it thought of as ouch.

  • 2. Rob N.  |  March 6, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I probably tend to have my head up my ass much of the time. I’m self-absorbed, but I wasn’t especially aware of the whole “self-harm” thing. I’d heard of it, but didn’t realize that it was the illness du jour. Substance abuse recovery was chic in the late 80s with quack clinics cropping up all over and everybody and their brother “in recovery”. Probably sort of the same thing, but different. ;^/

  • 3. avoidancejunkie  |  March 7, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    I tend to agree with you, I’ve always seen self harm as an escape just like drugs and alcohol. I’ve often explained it that way to non self harmers.

  • 4. experimental chimp  |  March 8, 2008 at 1:37 am

    exactscience: I understand what you mean, but then again, both drug abuse and self-harm are defined by cultural convention. You might not accidentally take a mind altering pill, but there’s a cultural gulf between (for example) prescribed benzo use and abuse of prescribe benzo’s. Much as there’s a gulf between someone piercing their own ears and someone cutting themselves.

    Rob N: Lots of self-harm going on. Lots of substance abuse, too. Self-harm isn’t exactly chic, but it’s pretty common.

    avoidancejunkie: Thanks.

  • 5. yesisi  |  October 9, 2009 at 4:00 am

    Omg. Ignorant…. People expressing about their self harm is nothing more than a expression of feeling, negavtive or positive. An expression is an expulsion. What has gotten me annoyed about these blogs is the haters. People are sharing there insides. Sharing their inside trying to help another that might hurt the same. To help them understand & feel connected. If you cant understand, don’t say anything! (Its pretty easy). These may be just letters and words, but they are real peoples feelings and real peoples lives. Love, and if you cant at least try and help.

  • 6. doyourememberthattime  |  June 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    i have self harmed for aprox 10yrs now. fro complex and adult reasons. i am 29. i don’t think i ever have ever expected anyone to consider my behaviour special, nor would do i yearn for people to tip toe around me. infact i would like the opposite. i would like to be treated like anyone else. when self harmers talk about de stigmasing they are not asking for special treatment. we wnt to be seen a just a person. not a nutter who cuts (or burns etc). i think your very narrow view of who self harms and what it is about highlights the fact that a stigma does exist. it certainly does not limit itself to self harm. mental ill health in general is a very difficult thing to be open about. mainly because people stop seeing you as the person they know and begin to see you as a crazy person. your eating disorber, depression,self harm,bi polar become all that you are. trust me, that is difficult to deal with.
    as for the assertion that self harm is not serious, i lost a very dear friend to self harm and risked my lown life a few times. i currently have angina, due to low hb caused be constant blood loss. i am at serious risk of heart attack. i don’t say this to gsin sympathy, but to point out that it isd a very serious issue. one that needs to be openly disccussed, so that people feel they can get help long before the do such damage to themselves.

  • 7. Cissy  |  June 20, 2010 at 2:00 am

    I self harm, well… I haven’t made a mark in about 5 months but that could change…

    …and I can see where alot of people are coming from when they say it’s teenagers looking for attention. I saw a good bit of it in school being put on public display along with tears and tantrums while I quietly hid my own wounds under layers of clothes.

    I think, somewhere along the way, it’s become as ‘fashionable’ as drugs. Letting the world know you’ve done drugs/self harm sets you up as a God to some young’uns today.

    Which is stupid.
    But then again, the next generation are pretty damn stupid.

  • 8. mentallygoingbackwards  |  July 10, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I am a self-harmer and i overdose as a form of self harm too. normally by overdosing it means treatment in hospital but iv learnt what medication you need to be treated for in hospital and what you dont need treated for so i can happily stay in my own little space and do as i please without worrying anyone.
    Through people saying im attention seeking i no longer tell anyone or make anyone aware that i still do it other than other self-harmers to get that bit of extra support. I look forward to continue reading your blog

  • 9. maryx4x  |  April 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Hi, my name is Mary. I was a sufferer of self harm in the past and know many people who have also been victim. I have read that you are a sufferer of bpd,, and was wondering if you could help me out. I was always a bit,, off? if that makes sense. After a brief mention of it in health ed. I got curious, the symptoms sounded similar and to have some reason for how i sometimes acted seemed , (i dont really know) releaving? I was just wondering if u could help me out and tell me If I have it, or if Im psychosomatic and seeing something that isnt there..

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Hi, I'm James. I'm a 26 year old guy from England with bipolar disorder (currently well controlled). I also have a circadian rhythm sleep disorder (not so well controlled). This blog has charted my journey from mental illness, through diagnosis and, recently, into recovery. It's not always easy, but then, what is?


Self-righteous note about smoking

As of 12th September 2008 it has been forty five weeks since I quit smoking. So in another seven weeks it'll have been a whole year.

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