It is interesting, is it not, the ability we humans have to hide? Like the world’s best chameleons – we can blend not just our looks but our very personalities to better fit in the world around us. But unlike the chameleon, the effect of these changes is not fluid. Our brains are not infinitely flexible. Close, perhaps, but they do have hard limits. Eventually, the price of constant blending is the loss of the background image – and we have need of a base for our selves.
While self-harm does not always stem from abuse, I would say that many of us who were subjected to long-term trauma end up with a desire for self harm. Why not? If those we depended on for everything thought we should be hurt, how can we have any other identity? Through drugs, through eating disorders, through any and every way we can indirectly or directly cause ourselves pain, we find what we are most used to. In a twisted way, what brings us “comfort” and a “sense of home” is pain and hurt. And there is nothing quite like taking command of the pain, is there? When you can control it, deliver it, see it, feel it, numb it, and wear it – it can no longer be hidden. It is the chameleon saying “I HAVE MY OWN SKIN, YOU CAN SEE ME.” Even if you cover it up with sleeves and scarves and bandages, the mirror screams it. “YOU CAN SEE ME.”
How do I know this? I lived it. Live it. Yesterday, today, tomorrow. Self-injury is not something that “just goes away”. It can’t be “positive thought” out. Telling someone who has grown used to and dependent on pain to “just stop” is as useless as spitting on a forest fire. And for those of us struggling to get better, it is maddening to have so many misunderstand. We don’t do it for attention. We are shamed by what we do. Most of us want to stop – and even if you don’t now, you will. I promise. At some point you will come to realize you don’t live in a vaccuum. No matter how much you might not want to believe it, there are people who care about you, who don’t want you hurt or dead, and you do make a difference in the world for the better. Like “It’s a Wonderful Life”, each one of us has some effect for good on this planet, and your actions directly affect others. So – you will come to a point when you say, “I have to stop.”
The good news. You can.
It won’t be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. The truth is, if you have done it for a long time, it might take you a long time to stop. It’s also true the desire never completely leaves you. But you CAN STOP. And you need to. We need you. The world needs you. It is just that simple. The world needs people who have hurt and understand that hurting is not the answer.
Chances are you will need help. For most, if not all of us, that means professional help. Good therapy is not hocus pocus. It is hard work, and it can’t be done with just anyone. You have to find the right person to trust your soul with, and I know how next-to-impossible that can feel. You’ve spent your whole life only trusting in the pain and yourself. How can you learn to do otherwise? I don’t have an easy answer. And the therapist doesn’t do it for you. At best, they are a guide in the darkest of your places – and when you finally get into the light you will walk on your own. But you need help to get out of the pit you’re in. The kind of darkness you have been carrying needs a light and chances are you are stuck without one. People carry lights inside them. Find someone to share their light until you can get yours bright again. Then – who knows – you might be a light to others.
Why should you trust me, you might ask? Who the hell am I to speak to your pain, your scars, your experience? What right do I have to tell you what to do?
Because I am you – on the other side of where you are now – but part of me will always be there. I have the light and the dark, and I still find myself lost there from time to time. If you saw me, you would never know at first that I was anything but successful; solid marriage of 20 years that has survived its’ share of hardships; two healthy, uber successful children who excel at all they do; thriving art business; and animal rescue and therapy work that changed countless lives. But I know the darkness. I barely survived it. Look closer and you will see the crisscross of scars, the marks of pain that life has left on me – and I have helped make them. I wear my pain.
But I am better. More and more often, I choose to put down the knife, to choose a bloodless outcome, to hold the pain in my mind because I know it WILL NOT LAST. It might feel like I cannot control it, like I cannot hold it for one single second longer – but then I do, and it lessens… it lessens and I did not cut. I did not cut. I did not cut. And then I know, I *know* I can make a different choice. It. Is. Possible.
And when you know the impossible is possible, everything changes.
Stop hiding. Let the light find you, because even with your scars – you are beautiful.