Rego: Self-harm is a very real aspect of society and we need to talk about it

Shay Rego

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in the following column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the views of the Collegian or its editorial board.

Trigger warning: This column contains graphic content pertaining to self-harm. Please read at your own discretion. 

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Release. That was the feeling I got from pushing the razor against my skin and seeing the blood trickle out. Many people don’t truly understand the mindset of a self-harmer and the effects that it can have on someone’s life years down the road. March is Self-Harm Awareness Month; become aware of the realities and kill the stigma.

Almost every day I would come home, lock myself in my room, turn on the music and break out my razor. After an arduous day at school dealing with being bullied verbally and online, having few friends and dealing with other immense stresses, nothing was more comforting than watching my skin rip open. Hurting myself was the only thing I had real control over in my life and making the decision to cut deep was incredibly freeing because I was in control. I didn’t do it to punish myself, I did it because it genuinely felt good and I needed a little something good in my day. Breaking my skin was like breaking out of the social constructs that everyone had placed on me. It was liberating.

It has been two years and a long road of recovery. I am not ashamed of my scars and if I see someone else with scars I feel great empathy and also pride that they made it through their hardships and are here today. There is such a stigma around self-inflicted scars and it influences how people treat someone with scars. In reality, there is nothing wrong with scars. Everyone has their secrets and their ghosts and no one should judge. Self-harm and mental illnesses are not something we can control. It would be like telling someone with a broken leg that they can just stop having a broken leg and run a mile.

As life goes on, people will begin to make lifelong friendships in adulthood. At some point friends are going to see the scars and shy away or always wonder. There will come a time when the scars may need to be explained to these friends, reopening old wounds and scarred memories. It will be letting someone new into an old past, a past that many people don’t want to have to revisit. A majority of people also hide these scars for many years from their families.

But what about the wedding day? Those scars will be revealed eventually to family members, and they’re going to blame themselves for never noticing over the years. And what about possibly having children? It’s not exactly something a person wants their six-year-old child to see, and by the time they reach early adolescence they’re going to realize anyways what the scars really are. It could change how someone’s friends, parents and even children view them.

People are often denied jobs in the work industry due to their scars. Having lines of scars noticeably all over one’s body can be very off-putting and, in some cases, frightening. Some people have absolutely no idea how to act upon seeing such scars and one of those people may be an employer. In certain jobs, especially those relating specifically to children, employers want their employees to be friendly, approachable and exemplary role models. Having scars does not mean those qualities are absent.

Outsiders sometimes look upon scars with disgust, stare at them uncomfortably, act shamefully towards them and even be so appalled by the scars that they will altogether not talk to the wearer of those wounds. Some people feel that having scars makes a person less whole, that maybe that person has something wrong with them and they’re not normal or perhaps people feel that those with scars should feel ashamed. Some call cutters attention-seekers or crazies. People stare as if it is horrid and distracting. This is the kind of stigma that surrounds scars.

Having scars is not bad. Scars do not define a person. It is not on the person to try and change their disease, it is on society to change their views on scars. It is a very personal issue and cannot be used as a judge of character. March is all about becoming aware and educated on self-harm. Kill the stigma that it is gruesome and terrible. Give empathy, make people feel in control of their lives and help them feel strong and beautiful even with their scars. If fresh wounds are noticeable, reach out to them because it only takes one person to make a difference in someone’s life. Most importantly, treat those with scars no differently; we are all human.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 for help.

Collegian columnist Shay Rego can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter at @Shayrenee411. 

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