I’m sitting here in bed feeling low, low, low with no reason to justify it. This weekend marks approximately one month since the last time I indulged in self harm and, instead of celebrating my streak, I am fighting every fibre of my being not to restart that nasty habit. To me, scratching is like meditating. When I get overwhelmed with my sadness and feel like I’m suffocating, my index finger begins to jump and my nail years to make contact with my skin. The meeting of these two puts into motion a wonderful, steady, repetitiveness hat lulls my mind and occupies my hands. It’s like self-hypnosis: I just need to distract my mind so that it has the opportunity to just take a deep breath.
Why is it bad that I scratch? I keep ignoring the question, but it returns in tenfold time and time again. I’m told it’s bad, but in my experience it’s been so for the people around me and not so much for me. My loved ones — those whom I’ve told about this habit — cringe with pity for me and strangers stare at my scars incorrectly concluding that I must be a drug addict. But why do they all matter if, in the end, scratching helps me? I had replaced self harm with good sex until I started writing in earnest and then that was my solution to everything. If I had a bad day, I wrote; if someone pissed me off, I wrote; if was horny, I fucked and then wrote. But now I’m blocked. It happens, I know, and it’s not so much a block as my monthly PMS-induced depression with which I am attempting to deal without self harm for the first time.
My act of self harm is so mild, in my opinion, that I don't see why it’s anything to fret over. It’s not like I am likely to scratch myself to death and the only downside I can see is the battle scars left behind. But I even love those scars. So much. I love seeing my arms spotted wight them, as unique and randomly placed as a leopard’s spots. To me they are victory: they are a constant reminder that at one point I felt so damn low that I couldn’t do anything to help myself except tear my own skin off, but that by doing that I helped myself get through it in one piece. They remind me that no matter how hopeless I felt, things always got better. They remind me that when I’m at my absolute lowest, I have nowhere to go but up.
Is it the social taboo of self harm that has my loved ones telling me I ought to stop? When people ask me about my scars I am very open and unashamed about them. Most of the people to whom I’ve explained the reason behind my scratching have understood it perfectly and even shared some of their own past and present self-destructive coping mechanisms. I’m not alone in doing this and I don’t intend it as a cry for help, though I can see how it could be interpreted that way. It is literally just a coping mechanism: when the universe throws my life into a whirlwind and refuses to let me sort it out, scratching is my way to maintain a smidgen of that coveted power. It allows me to control how I deal with my impotence and it does me more good than harm.
So, why do my loved ones get shifty and alarmed at the idea rather than glad that I’ve found some way to help me? Something that may not be ideal, but that is the first thing to work for me after years of trying various other “healthier” coping mechanisms like exercise, reading, photography, meditation, etc. None of those worked and it made me feel even more out of control and, thus, further depressed me. Despite all these questions regarding whether or not what I was doing was actually as bad as everyone made it seem, I quit cold turkey. Or rather, I accidentally found another coping mechanism in writing and I was actually proud that I quit scratching. I wasn’t as proud to be writing again — something I’ve been doing since I was a small child and which is one of the few things that makes me feel more human and more like my true self than anything else — I was proud that I stopped doing something that had been such a comfort and help to me. And I was proud of it.
Now, as I find myself struggling to justify not returning to the habit, there are no reasons I think of that suggest that I am keeping myself from doing it for my own self. They are all for everyone else’s benefit, to ease everyone else’s mind because not scratching apparently means that I am well and scratching means that I am unwell. I have become so used to this idea that I stopped considering that it might be false. And despite realizing it now I still sit here staring at my arms and itching to introduce new battle scars to the party. But I can’t bring myself to do it. And I can’t find another way of coping, so I’m stuck.
Maybe this is the ultimate test: maybe if I can get through this incarceration in the Rut without resorting to self harm I will be a step closer to beating my depression. Maybe this is a test to see if I am willing to let the shadow of depression leave my side or if I’ve become dependent on my sorrow to bring normalcy to my life. I’ve a few days before I’m due to start menstruating, at the start of which I will feel like a massive load has suddenly been lifted off my shoulders and I will feel light, centred and like myself again. If I can last without self harm until then it’ll be something for my loved ones to celebrate. But even if I do manage to avoid it, it’s inevitable that I’ll be faced with the same battle in approximately 28-31 days and I cannot guarantee my success for then.