I have always considered self-harm to be out of my realm of possibility. I don’t cut myself, I don’t cut my hair when I’m feeling depressed, and i’ve never removed one of my eyebrows. I’ve never given the topic of self-harm much thought, honestly, until the other day, when I was having a particularly stressful conversation with my husband. We were outside talking, and he asked me repeatedly to stop picking. I have been picking at my skin for years. My arms, my shoulders, my neck, my face. Most of the time I don’t even recognize that I’m doing it. I absent mindedly scratch away at my skin until I draw blood. I have deep scars, especially on my arms. Sometimes it takes months to heal, because I keep pulling the skin off to create a fresh wound. He told me that I do it to relieve stress, but that it causes me more stress in the long run, because having a face with bullet sized holes in it starts the cycle all over again.
I have been thinking a lot about why I do this, and i’ve come up with a few ideas.
Stress relief. When I’m frustrated, upset, anxious, I scratch away until I’m feeling better. Although as my husband mentioned, the craters in my skin cause more stress when I look at them, which results in me scratching more.
It feels good. It’s a release of tension. I don’t know that I can accurately describe it, but I can feel areas of my body that feel like they’re going to explode. When I break the skin it literally feels like a release of pressure.
It keeps me from feeling good about myself. There are a lot of times when I don’t feel like I deserve to feel good about myself. When things in my life are headed in a positive direction, I dig in to remind myself that I don’t deserve happiness. I don’t deserve someone telling me I look pretty. I feel ugly on the inside, so I subconsciously make myself ugly on the outside to match. At times my ego seems grandiose, I am skilled at portraying myself as someone who is overconfident, secure in their own skin, someone who can’t be bothered with what anyone else thinks. On the inside I am none of tthos things. I am riddled with self doubt, I hate my appearance, and the things people say and do affect me deeply. I think now that exposing the raw layers of my skin is a way to expose who I really am on the inside. I don’t think it’s working. I’m literally peeling the mask off that force myself to wear everyday.
Self-harm can be so many things and manifest in myriad ways. It’s meaning is personal, and everyone is different. The important thing is to recognize what it is to you, and find your way out. I am in the realization stage. As I’ve been writing this I’ve been clawing at my face. I don’t yet have a plan to overcome this, but I thought writing about it may help sort some things out.