*cracks knuckles* Can I jump in on the self-injury discussion?
Kudos to everyone else who's talking about it. It's hard as heck to talk about it. I'm surprised that more people in this thread seem to be observers of it rather than self-injurers themselves, but I think, in a way, that's good; the less people who do it, the better. From my perspective, anyway. People don't get how nasty, habit-forming, and life-altering it can be. Even now, almost a year from the last time I cut myself, I still get urges when I'm on the darker side of the bipolar moon; my first thought is to grab something and hurt myself with it.
For some people, thankfully, they seem to outgrow it, but for most of us, we never really do. I started at 13, and I'm 21 now. That's 8 years of cutting, on and off. In my case, it only got worse as I got older. My arms are absolutely covered in scars of all kinds. They're raised, itchy, purple keloids. On one occasion, last year, I ended up in the ER because they needed to use a special glue to hold them together. They made me wear a bandage to cover it up, and every time someone asked about it, I had to make up something. It forced me to lie. Yet I continued, and sometimes I got out of control and would try to cut with anything I could find. This coincided with a point in my life where I was suicidal (before I was diagnosed as bipolar II, I hit a major depressive stage and tried to kill myself four times within the span of a month), and apart from being sent to the ER, I was also put into mental health facilities on two separate occasions. Those experiences are going to stay with me the rest of my life. Cutting is not a healthy coping tool.
The after-effects remain a painful reminder. Apart from the urges I get from time to time, there's also the stigma. When I nanny, I usually choose to wear long sleeves around the kids' parents. I don't know how they'd feel if they knew my full past, and I'm too chicken to go without long sleeves in front of them. The kids asked me about it the first time they saw me in short sleeves, and I told them it was a car accident (which is what I tell many people who ask). But for every one person who buys that story, there will be another few who suspect the truth. When I venture into public, the first thing people look at isn't my face, it's my arms. In that split-second, you can practically feel the burn of their judgement. As long as I have these scars, I'm going to have to suffer through it. It's the lifelong price I have to pay for my choices.
As for getting rid of the scars? Forget it. They might fade over time, but they're always going to be there. I've researched different treatments, but there's nothing that would be able to happen for me. My scars cover all of my arms and wrists, and the scars go deeply into my skin. OTC topical scar treatments are useless. Surgery is expensive and ineffective. I've branded myself permanently.
Why did I do it? In my case, I feel emotions that are extremely strong. I don't know how to handle myself. I could cry, scream, punch pillows. But when I hurt myself, it helped me calm down and numb myself. For me, that was easier than waiting out the bad feelings. It grew to a point where I couldn't even stand the feeling of discomfort with myself. I'd end up running to the bathroom for a "fix". I don't even remember the pain. The zen of being in the trance of cutting and blotting away blood was more therapeutic than anything else was. Now, I'm better at being able to cope, and my medicines help, too. Being stuck where I was is no way to live.
So if you're like I was, seek help. But in order to stop, you need to want it. Forcing help on someone who isn't ready won't work. If anyone wants to talk to me at all, let me know. Or ask questions about it or whatever. I'm an open book. ^^