Many mental health professionals I’ve come across are adamant that cutting is an unhealthy, terrible coping mechanism and a behaviour that needs to be ceased. The psychiatrist I saw whilst I was inpatient suggested snapping a rubber band against my wrist, or squeezing an ice cube in my fist instead. The social worker who went through the DBT handout with me suggested the rubber band method too. So did my school counsellor in Year 12. Besides finding distraction techniques/alternatives such as these rather condescending, both these methods still use pain to deal with overwhelming feelings, or whatever other reason people self harm. So what’s the point? Might as well cut.
Okay, so their justification is that it doesn’t break the skin and doesn’t pose the same dangers that cutting does. I can see their viewpoint relating to individuals who do cut deep enough so that they need sutures and are in danger of severing a vein, artery or nerve. In my case though, the event of that occurring is very unlikely. I’m coming up to seven years of cutting this year. Yeah okay, so I have some pretty nasty scars on my thighs, probably between two to three hundred, most of which are dark purplish/red. As a consequence I can’t wear anything shorter than knee length, but in the big scheme of things, it’s not that big a deal. When I do cut, yeah, it breaks the skin, it bleeds a bit, but it’s always superficial and never ever near the depth where sutures would be required. I’m too much of a wuss for that.
So keeping that in mind, I don’t understand why it’s so bad and why I should stop. Between cutting or overdosing or even attempting to take my own life, surely cutting is the lesser of evils?
What if instead of engaging in self harming behaviours, I had taken up, say…smoking? Smoking is socially acceptable. Perhaps less so than in the past, as we’ve become more educated, but still relatively acceptable. You see people smoking in public, out on the streets, and you don’t think all that much of it. Someone go out on the streets and cut in public however, and you’d get a very different reaction. Why? Smokers are harming themselves. When I look at it, smokers are at even greater risk of chronic health issues than I am from cutting myself. There’s the risk of lung cancer, emphysema…. When I examine cadavers in my human biology labs, smoker’s lungs are blackened from the inhalation of the toxins.
My father smokes. And I cut. Yet I’m the one who’s viewed as doing something harmful/shameful/crazy that needs to be stopped, while it’s quite alright for my father to be slowly shortening his life span with those cancer sticks.
So why is it so bad for me to be cutting myself? Everyone has their ways of coping. Self harm just happens to be mine.