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Harm None

March 6, 2012

This post was originally scheduled for March 1st. For obvious reasons, I’ve decided to move it back a few days.

On February 27, 2004, I came to a hard realization. I self harm.

I had always associated self harm with cutting or burning. I didn’t do those things. Those things were for people who were really fucked up, and surely I was Not One Of Them. I just clawed at myself until it left long red marks. I just clenched my fists until the nails dug into my palm just short of breaking the skin. I just bit the fleshy part of my hand below the thumb. I just.

I just harmed myself. I just got too drunk and drove too fast and did every stupid thing that the small destructive part of me wanted. But I didn’t cut, I didn’t burn, I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t try to hurt myself. I didn’t try. I just did.

I sometimes refer to 2003 as the Year of Hell. It was a pretty shitty year on a lot of levels, not the least of which was my inability to find a long term full time job. As the year dragged on, I did a lot of stupid shit I regret, most of which were perfectly suited to completely destroying anything left in my life that was worth living for. It took several more years and a lot more therapy to admit that while I’d created a series of fail safes to keep me from taking pills until the pain stopped, the self destructive side was working on killing me in other ways.

2004 is not just the year that I finally found a full time job. It’s also the year that I realized I was hurting myself. Stepping back from the narrow view that “self-harm” equaled “cutting” allowed me to start really looking at myself for the first time. I was able to recognize some patterns I’d fallen into which were self destructive, and I took steps to break myself of them. And that single sentence slaps a thick coat of shiny gloss over years worth of hard work, therapy, back sliding, good choices, bad ones, obnoxiously indulgent self pity, and a few pivotal moments of willpower that helped kick my ass in the right general direction.

I still self harm. I’m more self aware than I used to be, and I try to rein in any harmful behaviors I find myself engaging in.  Lately it’s grinding my teeth or biting the insides of my cheeks.  Mostly I do it when I’m feeling stressed or frustrated and I go through a lot of gum each day in an effort to distract myself.  I doubt I will ever fully break myself of the habit.  Sometimes it seems like I find a way to deal with one behavior only to have another sneak in.  But just being aware helps.

March 1st was National Self Injury Awareness Day.  Someone you know may self injure and you may not even know it.  Who knows.  That someone may be you.

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