Cutting and Self – Harm
Many adolescents and teens self-harm as a way of coping with things in their lives that seem over whelming, that they have no defense or control over. The pain of the self – harm allows them to express these feelings of hopelessness or helplessness that they can’t find a way to put into words. Hurting themselves gives them a way to cope with feelings like sadness, emptiness and even rage, unfortunately while the self – harm brings relief for a short while in the long term it brings its own set of problems, like guilt and shame, and the constant worry of someone finding out.
Sometimes the cutting begins because you have friends who do it, and sometimes it comes from feeling defenseless or out of control at the circumstances of your life. In Whispers from Within my character is the victim of childhood neglect and physical abuse. Child abuse in any form – sexual, physical, and emotional, is a primary factor in the incidence of self-harm. My character, Jack, is both emotionally and physically abused. He is fed, clothed, and educated, but he isn’t given the nurturing love and support that children need to thrive. He is the target of his father’s frustrations, the kid who ‘never gets it right’; the one that his parents constantly point out as a goof up to their friends.
A mistaken belief regarding self-harm is that it is done to gain attention, but usually this is far from the truth. Most self-harmers are ashamed of their wounds and their scars. They feel guilt and a sense of failure because they can’t stop the destructive behavior. They concoct stories and create excuses and habits, such as always wearing long sleeves or t-shirts even when they swim, to cover the facts of their behavior.
For anyone who has ever found themselves a victim in any relationship, never try to pretend the scars aren’t there. Know that the residual emotional fallout can mark all aspects of your life. Sometimes the first step is admitting the abuse happened and accepting that it was not your fault, in any way. Find someone you trust to talk to, tell them about the self harm habits, generally it is liberating to finally share your secret. Get counseling or join a support group. There are many groups for teens and adults who self-harm as well as for survivors of any type of childhood abuse. The type of abuse doesn’t seem to matter, the scars, doubts and self esteem issues seem to be the same.
Just remember, it’s never too late to find the self acceptance and self love that you have long denied yourself. And if the abuser is still part of your life, such as a parent or another relative, remember that you are the adult now, you don’t have to allow them to be part of your life; they no longer hold the power.