At my day job, I have "May is Mental Health Awareness Month" written on my door. After several weeks (I mean, it's the 20th already), my supervisor (who works RIGHT next to me) finally saw it. She looked, paused, and then chuckled to herself. "Man... they just find a month for everything;" she shrugged her shoulders and sighed.
This has got to stop. This kind of ignorance and intolerance cannot be acceptable anymore. I am extremely lucky, and I haven't intentionally harmed myself in 4 years. But, there are people everywhere, truly everywhere, that are struggling with things that you probably won't be able to see externally. And typically, cutters specifically choose locations that will not be seen - inner thighs, hips and chest - and it is extremely serious.
When people hear the term "cutting," they think "suicide attempt" and "cry for help" and "attention seeker." I've even been told, "Just get over yourself" and "It's not that big of a deal" when I was having an episode of depression. Can we just pause and acknowledge that this way of thinking is totally f#cked up?
No matter what some people might think, nobody enjoys feeling bad about themselves. Nobody. It is never just an act or ploy to get attention. It's not self-centered, it's not indulgent. Now, when my husband starts ignoring me, I will smack him, cuss at him, kiss him, possibly even jump up and down, or do something truly weird to get him to look at me. Those are all actions that, in the moment, are for one singular purpose - to annoy my husband enough that he starts paying attention to me again.
That is not the same thing.
Now, I don't want to, nor will I, speak to every single person's state of mental health; I do not assume to know what is going on through everyone's head, and no two people share the same experiences, thoughts, or mental state.
HOWEVER, if someone thinks about harming themselves, there is a reason behind it that goes far deeper than just "getting attention."
I have struggled with extreme anxiety and depression since I was a small child. As the youngest in my family, I was repeatedly told that I was "overly-dramatic" or that it was "all in my head." My family never meant to screw me up as much as they did, but their seemingly constant putting down of my mental health, not only made the situation worse, but taught me to hide my struggles, because no one would believe me anyway.
I was 19 before I ever openly spoke about my mental health, and I was 23 before I opened up to my parents - they were clueless. I have wonderful parents, who were extremely involved in my life and I considered them my best friends until college. But I didn't let them see me lose my mind, and they had no idea that I had been cutting for years, addicted to pain and sleeping medications, and truly losing the battle with depression.
In my world of anxiety and depression, my episodes typically involve feeling completely overwhelmed by one singular thought or emotion, and this can go on for days or weeks sometimes, where I can't get past one interaction or feeling, no matter how I try to forget it. During this time, I tend to magnify the problem into this downward spiral of a hole. I started cutting because I needed to feel anything else. And, although I would never advise this or wish it on anyone, cutting helped me get out of my head. After a few cuts, the pain and blood would kick me into gear. It's like when CDs skip, they get stuck on this one loop and need someone to just give the player a smack. That's what cutting was to me - a way to bring me back to reality a bit.
I was 14 when I started cutting; sometimes it was once every few months, and sometimes it was multiple times a day for a few weeks. As a serious dancer, my body was always on display, so I consciously cut my lower back and around my hipbones. It wasn't to get attention; I never ever ever ever wanted anyone to find out. And my story is not unique.
So, please, please, please
Ask the tough questions and take the time to wait for the answer.