Proof I’m struggling

Last week the hospital psychologist I’m seeing, D, asked me to list the reasons/benefits of self harming. Besides the usual reasons; it distracts me from my emotions, it’s a way of punishing myself, it’s a way of releasing anger and frustration, etc. etc., I also said that it’s a way to “prove that I’m struggling.” He briefly brought that up during our session today.  He told us that the people who have treated us badly or abused us rarely feel guilt and the need to make it up to us. If years later we’re struggling, they’re not going to see it as they’re the ones to blame. Instead, they’re going to see it as we’re the ones who don’t have the willpower to get ourselves out of this. D told me a story about a Vietnam war veteran who spent thirty years on his porch drinking, telling people that the government had done him over. He also told me of a previous self harmer who was the victim of a paedophile ring and is now a counsellor, one of the things she said is that the best revenge is to make a success of yourself.

Objectively I can see his point. Looking in from the outside at these situations, I can see that destroying yourself to spite those who’ve wronged you is pointless. It doesn’t affect them and it’s letting them win. But when it’s you in that situation, it’s harder to have this insight. And when we’re engaging in these self-destructive behaviours, we’re not exactly thinking, “This’ll teach them!”

It’s also more than that. “We know you’re struggling,” D said to me. But do they really? I feel like if there’s no physical proof, people won’t believe me. I struggle with verbalizing how I feel. The closest I get to admitting I’m struggling is responding with “Umm, not that great…” when a mental health professional asks how I am. In a way, self harming acts as a voice, ‘proof’ I’m struggling. Then there’s the reaction to my scars by the few who have seen them; the first GP I saw, doctors and nurses in the emergency department, a doctor and nurse in the psych ward. Yes some of them have reacted with shock and revulsion. But there’s a part of me that feels satisfied I’ve done a proper job of it when what they do or say makes me suspect they’re thinking, “This girl really does have issues.”

Last week D also brought up that if I’ve stopped self harming, I could get the plastics people to have a look at my scars. Immediately my anxiety went up. I realised the absence of scars is another one of the barriers stopping me from ceasing to cut myself. As much as I dislike not being able to wear certain shorts, skirts, dresses and bathers, it scares me a whole lot more not to have something to show for my struggles.

5 thoughts on “Proof I’m struggling

  1. It’s interesting to see how he responded to your comments about self-harming, almost as though he expects you to rationalise it out. I can’t really comment on anyone’s self-harm but my own, but for me I guess it’s just as much about showing myself I’m hurting, and I tend to view it a lot more intra-personally, than inter-personally, which perhaps is different, perhaps isn’t…

    Obviously I don’t know what else he or you have said about self-harm whilst together, but I would imagine that (and this is something I stand by a lot) – that if/when you choose to stop self-harming, then it will be for personal reasons, and not because you decide it’s sending the wrong message. Certainly in my own case, the so-called “perpetrators” don’t know anything about it and I don’t want them to.

    I guess for some people it is in part an attempt to communicate, but from what you write it sounds more that you wish to communicate the pain you feel, rather than you attempting to teach people a lesson.

    Services don’t help with the idea that you need to show physically, how much you hurt in order to be taken seriously – in a lot of way the responses (certainly within the UK) mean that some need continually to increase what they do, because services won’t listen to them otherwise. I often think that mh services would be much better if you could phone them before you harm yourself and be listened to, but unfortunately, certainly where I am, they will insist on waiting until after the fact before they’ll pay any heed…

    Take care.

  2. You put this really well – and have a really good point. Maybe some of the problem is the invisible nature of mental pain which makes it hard to communicate. (And I agree with Eliana that the health services almost force people into acting out their distress physically before they get a response.)

  3. Spoken with such honesty…I feel both shame and satisfaction in my scars.

    { it scares me a whole lot more not to have something to show for my struggles. } I’ve never looked at it like this. But I find myself cutting again as soon as the last few marks are healing well. I guess it is a way of “having something to show”, if not to others, then to myself at least. It makes the pain tangible.

    Thanks for sharing. Hoping it gets better for you!

  4. Yet the scars you carry are only visible to people who have to see you intimately. Which makes me wonder if it’s more about proving to YOU that what you’re going through is real. It is, honey. I think until you accept that it’s real, you’re not going to make any headway. Plastics honestly probably won’t be able to do a lot. It depends on the grain of the scar in the skin. At best they can make it a little less wide. You’ll still have scars. For a time I’m sure this will be relief – but it becomes sadness further down the recovery path.

    I hope you choose to take a leap of faith & give trust & healing a go. Maybe you can show D this entry? You know where I am xxx

  5. My scars reminded ME of when and why I did them. But only after I was ready to deal with it. I understand why the plastics turn you off. On a more hopeful note, which is NOT meant to discount your current pain, there are many ways to prove that one has struggled. I’m on my way to bed now, but in the morning I will wake up to a clean house that I know for sure I struggled for in order to make happen because sometimes practical life is very difficult when one has ‘issues’. But I will go to my gleaming kitchen in the morning and know damn well that I struggled to make it happen. And when I go to the shower, I might notice the scars from long ago and remember that stuff, too. ALL of it is important AND SO ARE YOU. All can exist together.


    Never forget to embrace Hope in any safe place you can find it.

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