“You do WHAT???” “You Cut yourself? Burn yourself? Punch yourself?” “YOU NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP!”
Does anyone disagree that the above sentences are the most common responses heard when self-injury is uncovered or disclosed? Self-directed violence (SDV) is upsetting to many, we can understand why. I don’t expect most people to initially want to understand the purposes SDV serves. When people are faced with what they do not understand, and are frightened and/or repulsed, they want to make the problem “go away.” And it seems easiest to send us off to the “professional.”
If “professional” means the expert, then let’s consider who is expert. There are persons with degrees, licenses, and advanced education in biopsychiatric beliefs that are most often empowered to be the professionals we are sent to. There are stacks of books and journal articles that theorize about the disorders that cause SDV, and just as many varied treatment approaches to reduce or eliminate this “symptom” or “pathological behavior.” We will explore many of these in the weeks to come.
Yet what of the person who struggles with SDV themselves? What is their expertise? What can someone who has “lived experience” offer another? The reason The Cutting Edge newsletter was created so many years ago was to create a safe space for people living with self-injury to express themselves and bear witness to others sharing similar experiences. It is these people who gave me the wisdom and hope that I share today. And so, throughout the remainder of this week, I will be posting some of their words to bring them to life here, to share their expertise…
And if the web site is temporarily muddled please be patient with me. I have already inadvertently deleted this post several times! My skills are improving, but still laughable. In the meantime, I am very interested in your thoughts about who the experts are when it comes to understanding self-harm.
Lastly, a few words from one of the experts in my life:
After a storm there are puddles left.
After a fire there are ashes left.
After SIV there are scars left.
How do you deal with them?
Do you hide them?
Do you wear them fiercely as warrior marks? Not caring who sees them?
Do you make them yours?
…”Oh I took part in a Sun Dance ceremony during my native days”
Do you make them others?
…”Oh I lived in Africa and was scarred to make my pale skin strong”
Do you lie?
…”Oh it was a car accident a few years ago”
Do you tell a partial truth?
…”Oh it happened so long ago I don’t remember”
Do you tell the whole truth?
…”Oh I’m a self-mutilator”
How do you decide who gets to know and who needs to stay in the dark?
Do you have days when you don’t see them? And days when that is all you see?
Do you have days they shame you? And days they empower you?
Do you have the perfect lie to tell children?
…”Oh when I was a little girl, no one told me not to play with matches”
Do you ever look at them as if they were a puzzle and think:
…”Oh if I just fill in this space here, it will all make sense”
Please check back to the web site for more unless I accidentally blow it up!
All the best,