TEEN TAKE: Self Injury?

By Lauren Galley

Today Lauren pens her thoughts on “Why do I Like to Hurt Myself?” which appears in the August 2013 issue of HFM. (You can read it here.)

LAUREN-200x3001Self-harm can be considered a way of coping with one’s problems and relieving stress. However, this is NOT a healthy solution to stress or depression and is an incredibly dangerous and possibly life-threatening disorder. Self-injury has unfortunately been glamorized in a way through websites such as Tumblr. Some young girls consider it “cool” or believe that if they partake in this dangerous activity they will earn attention. They do not realize, however, how addicting it can be and how it can negatively affect not only their own lives, but also the lives of those around them.

I was fortunate to speak with a girl I met through a friend of mine. Emma, age 16, revealed to me that she has been cutting her wrists since she was 11 years old. This hit me really close to home. At the age of 11 the last thing I was thinking about was hurting myself. I was just playing outside with my friends and loving every second of my life. I was very fortunate to have loving and supportive parents. Emma was not so lucky. Her father treated her terribly her entire life. He was in and out of jail frequently, initiating a troublesome life, and leading to self-harming behavior.

I can only imagine what a huge effect this home life had on Emma. At the age of 12, she started dating a 17 year old. This relationship went awry very quickly, as it didn’t take long for things to turn abusive.

Relationships are such an important part of our lives, even from a young age. I remember as young as 12 my friends having boyfriends, and I certainly felt that pressure to date. However, dating at a young age can be dangerous, particularly if the boy is older. If a young girl doesn’t have a steady support system, including parents watching her dating life, then she may not recognize warning signs before it is too late.

Emma has been attempting to stop hurting herself for a while now. She quit for a seven-month period for a boyfriend when she was 14, but when they broke up it got really bad again. I commend this boy for convincing her to stop harming herself, although it is so unfortunate that no one was around to continue his message after the relationship ended. Her mom got pregnant with her youngest brother who she has practically raised due to her mom’s busy schedule. I believe that older siblings should have responsibilities when it comes to taking care of their younger siblings. At the same time, we all need a chance to truly be a kid and feel care-free about life. Emma felt very responsible for her young brother’s well-being, so she felt she needed to get healthy herself. This is the light at the end of the tunnel. Emma was mature enough to recognize her responsibility and try her best to turn her life around for her little brother.

As many people may be surprised to hear, a lot of people who self-harm describe the behavior as an addiction. Emma agrees whole-heartedly, as she feels she is an addict. Eventually, she found that she was cutting even when she was “happy.” I always envisioned a cutter or self-harmer as someone who is very emotionally distraught. However, sometimes even when a self-harmer is happy he or she can’t seem to stop, just as one may picture a drug addict.

Throughout Emma’s life, she has not only suffered from self-harm, but also anorexia and bulimia. I am very happy to say that Emma is now physically recovered from anorexia, bulimia and self-harm, yet she finds herself thinking about it still. I takes time and effort to emotionally recover from such traumatic experiences. It is easy for those of us who have never even dreamed of hurting ourselves to just tell someone to stop, but it is not that simple.

Emma hated the lies and the secrets that entail self-harm and feeling like she constantly had to hide. Even though she had to endure the repeated lies to her family and loved ones, she continued to harm herself because cutting gave her some type of high like no other. She says she can’t explain it, but the best way to describe it would be a release from the world. Seeing her own blood, as strange as it may sound, is soothing to her. Her most cherished thing was her scars.

Emma is no longer endangering her physical health, but she always has the urge to run away, for no immediately apparent reason. Her home life is getting better, something for which she is grateful, yet the urge to cut is still there, so she occasionally runs away for a few days. The one thing that brings her joy is when she takes care of her younger brother. I find it very heartwarming that her little brother brings her the happiness she deserves.

She considers herself a very hard-headed person, so regardless of what anybody tells her, she is the leader of the war that goes on in her head. Nothing has really been said to make her change her ways. Her baby brother was six months old, and her cutting was getting very bad again. She was filling her arms as if they were lines on paper, and she remembers him sitting in her lap playing with toys. Suddenly, he stopped playing and glided his hand up her torn-up arm. It hurt so bad to the point that she was in tears, but when he saw her crying he kissed her, which he had just learned to do. Something in her said she had to stop after that day.

Emma says she loves her scars dearly. They remind her of the good and bad of the past, which she feels is a good thing. Each one holds a secret story that either scares her or makes her smile. People say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but she can’t honestly agree to that with her case. She says her scars are the gateway to her soul.

Emma is just one of many teenagers who has struggled with the addiction of self-harm. It is absolutely nothing to be glamorized and it can tear one’s life apart. Emma is so lucky to have been able to quit, even after cutting herself for four years. I hope from the bottom of my heart that every single person recognizes the emotional torture this disorder can bring to not only yourself, but those around you. If you ever have thoughts of harming yourself, or currently do hurt yourself on a regular basis, PLEASE seek help. Self-injury can end one’s life unintentionally and there’s a million reasons you should be on this Earth. If you know of anyone who self-harms, or you suspect of doing so, do not hesitate to reach out to someone you trust and get that person help. You will be saving more than one life in the process.

*1-800-273-TALK – A 24-hour crisis hotline if you’re about to self-harm or are in an emergency situation.

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