Behind-the-Scenes of Self-Harm: What People Don’t Know By Leia Rivera




I first struggled with self-harm at the age of nine, when I was also experiencing depression and suicidal tendencies. For me, the act was an outlet—instant gratification—to release my pent up emotions. These emotions ranged from anger to anxiety to self-loathing. Without ever discussing them with anyone else, they would build up to the point where I felt that I had to release it on myself through a few small cuts. For me it was always my left wrist because I was right handed, and I considered it the easiest to hide. I would use scissors mostly, but if the occasion required it, I would use any sharp object around me. Cutting allowed me to feel pain instead of the emotions I held deep inside. As long as the people in my life didn’t find out, there would be no reason for me to stop.

 Fractured Relationships 

I was able to keep my secret hidden for four years until my mom eventually found out. I had an extremely stressful day, and I came home and locked myself in my bathroom with a pair of scissors. My mom happened to knock at the door right at that moment. I remember she asked what was wrong as she noticed the tears falling from my eyes. I told her everything. She became extremely angry, began to yell and recite scripture verses about how my habit was evil and sentenced me to righteous punishment. She looked at me like I was no longer her daughter, like she no longer knew me as a person. My relationship with my mother has never really reconciled after that moment. I never trusted her again with my feelings and our relationship became very distant. I am to this day no longer able to confide in my mother. My decisions to engage in self-harm ruined my relationship with her. After this, I began to experience severe depression. The more depressed I became, the more I hated myself for being depressed and the more I self-harmed. The stress of my life began to make me extremely anxious. Pressure bore down on my shoulders, and my outlook on life became shadowed and foggy. I self-harmed more frequently and carelessly. The cuts would sometimes become inflamed and infected, but I was always able to treat them until they healed. The scars, however, never faded. Some cuts just go too deep. My father did not find out for another two years. My mom decided it would be better to conceal my secret from him because of its delicate nature. My mom kept it hidden from him until she found a suicide note of mine. She once again knocked on my bathroom door as I was in the middle of attempting suicide a second time. She asked what was wrong as I was clearly upset. I once again unfolded all of my feelings to her, but I received the same results as previously. My self-harm had again caused a rip in the already tearing fabric of my maternal relationship. We then went downstairs and unveiled the situation to my father. My dad responded more generously. He gave me a hug, told me that I could not continue to do that to myself, and left for work. My dad and I had never had the closest relationship, but I still was expecting a more passionate response from him. I was hurt, but more relieved as I heard him lock the door as he left the house. My sisters gradually found out over the years. They each reacted differently. Since I was the oldest, all three looked up to me and once each of them found out I felt that I had somehow failed them. I dreaded each time they would experience depressed feelings, fearful of them reacting to their emotions the same way I did. My depression caused me to isolate myself from my entire family, so the relationships I had with my sisters were better at certain times. I knew that they would never look at me the same way again. My self-harm had once again affected key relationships in my life that is still in the process of fully repairing. My best friend was the only one who was not entirely surprised. We had been best friends since I was three and she was two. We had a bond reminiscent more of sisterhood than any bond associated with friendship. When I eventually told her, she said that she always knew I had a darker side to me and that I had never handled my emotions well. She said that she never asked because she knew that I would eventually tell her. This relationship was still affected. She was upset that I had been doing it for some time and never confided in her, but she understood my situation and empathized with my thoughts. We eventually became closer.

Learning Through Pain 

 My self-harm has caused rifts in my familial, romantic, and friendly relationships. It was not until I decided to try and let my self-harming habits go that it stopped ruining these aspects of my life. Though it used to bring me momentary release and satisfaction, it would cause me to feel pain astoundingly greater than the one I originally wanted to blur out. Apart from destroyed relationships, it also causes physical ailments that can be irreparable if taken too far. Throughout my experience in therapy for my behavior I learned that there are many more people out there who struggle with the same maladaptive habit as I do. Seeing myself in them made me realize how much the need to harm one’s own body is a disturbing behavior to rely upon for relief. It does not bring happiness but rather only perpetrates deeper depression and loneliness.