Trigger warning: this piece has several graphic references to self-harm in many forms and could very well be triggering. It is fervently advised that readers proceed with caution. If you are considering or practicing self-harm, please read this article on better coping mechanisms that actually work.
It is with some kind of fear and shame that I am going to share with you my habit of self-harming. I assume that people might think of me as a sociopath. I assume that they might think I want to kill myself.
But suicide is not my intention when I cut myself. In fact, most people I know who indulge in self-harm do not contemplate suicide. Nevertheless, I believe that people who indulge in non-suicidal self-harm run the risk of considering suicide.
My deliberate infliction of self-harm is my way to block mental pain. It is my way to cope with heartache. It can be considered my coping mechanism, but an unhealthy one.
I was seventeen when I first cut myself. I was inspired by my cousin. She is older and identifies as transgender, so I thought she knew how to handle heartbreaks better than I did. She said cutting would take away all my pain, not permanently, but for a few days.
The thought of getting relief from heartache, even for just a few days, was too good a proposal for me to reject. I had emotional toxicities built up in my heart. I was looking for a way to release them.
It is not shameful to ask for help.
Before I took to self-harm, I couldn’t completely disassociate myself, which felt completely necessary to obliterate the pain. So, with weariness I took a sharp razor blade to draw some lines over my thigh. I decided to hurt my thigh because it would be much easier to hide the scars.
I remembered what my cousin had advised. I tried to accumulate all my pain in my brain. Whether it was my family treating me very badly, whether I was being bullied and teased every day for being effeminate, whether it was from my recent breakup or because my grades were falling or the scary thought of not being able to get my favourite subject.
I found that all my psychological pain was not being smothered by the physical burning sensation that came from the fresh cut of the sharp blade. I felt a strong desire for something – some extra physical pain to disguise the mental pain. So I rubbed green chillies on my wounds.
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The first few days after I cut myself were satisfying. I achieved mental peace. It felt like someone had closed the big mouth of my anxiety. I remembered to take part in social activities. I could even easily ignore people’s hurtful comments or my parent’s abuse.
But soon the exasperation of anxiety returned and I again felt the urge to cut myself. I started using self-harm as a tool for different needs. Whether I had to make myself clear, whether I had to prove my existence or whether my goal was to find pity in someone’s heart. I believed that my survival was somewhat dependent on other people’s pity.
Cutting is not the only self-harming method that I experimented with. I also took to banging my head on the wall, glue sniffing and ingestion of toxic items in the quest to calm my mind.
I personally believe non-suicidal self-harm is contagious, but only to the vulnerable. I was in a very vulnerable state when my cousin introduced me to it. Maybe she got it from someone else. I know some four young transgender people personally who are engaged in self-harm.
In many Bollywood movies, cutting oneself is always considered to help prove someone’s love.
I am not implying that every transgender person is vulnerable or that every transgender person is engaged in self-harm. But some of us need help. It is not shameful to ask for help.
Surprisingly, we are not only getting the idea of self-harm from each other. We also see it on television and in movies. In many Bollywood movies, cutting oneself is always considered to help prove someone’s love. The hero often cuts himself with broken pieces of glass to prove his love to the heroine.
The more blood there is from the cut, the greater his love for the heroine. Then there are the heroines banging their heads to make an unfavourable situation favourable with the will of God. This was a fascinating scene for me in my childhood. I used to pinch myself with tweezers in order to please Allah, so he would improve my grade. Religion has somehow unknowingly promoted self-harm.
There is a celebration called Mahram. The whole celebration is based on self-harm. People bang their chest with blades. People break tube-lights on their heads. They do it to mourn the death of Hussain – but it turns into a celebration of masculinity. It promotes self-harm as a method of praying.
I was very heartbroken to know that my favourite childhood celebrity, Demi Lovato, went through the same struggle. When a 7-year-old asked, pointing at my scars, “What are those scars?” I could only manage to answer with teary eyes, that these are the symbols of my pain.
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Featured Image Credit: Healing Arts Temple