By: Zara Maqbool
Its been a year since I have started seeing clients and one feeling that pre-dominates all others after the sessions is a wave of helplessness and an overwhelming need to raise awareness on so many issues that I feel at a loss as to where to start from. Luckily I got this platform to bring some of these issues to light hoping it hits home with some of the readers. Family comes first! This stands true especially when it comes to the clients and how the root of their unhappiness originates from dysfunctional relationships.
Self-harming is one very critical issue that I want to talk about. So many of the clients and patients at my work place engage in it and these are not just serious patients suffering from mental disorders or addicts but people like you and me who lead functional lives to the best of their abilities. Teenagers and young adults indulge in in more than others and mostly they are able to maintain this behavior as a secret.
Self-harm means hurting yourself but not trying to commit suicide.
The most common method of hurting yourself on purpose is cutting with a knife or blade; burning, pulling out hair or even picking at skin. They all fall under the category of self-harm as they are deliberate knowing acts that one knows result in injury. Eating disorders and various kinds of addictions fall under self-harming too but here I am highlighting the most common and dangerous ways like cutting and all. This is an act of pure emotional distress, a way of coping with overwhelming emotions that the person cannot process on his own.
It isn’t the self-harming that alarms me but the fact that it gets unnoticed by the families. Family members and friends should be very vigilant when it comes to those in the family who seem emotionally distressed or even emotionally numb. Members who might have difficulty getting along with others or have low self esteem. Look out for signs like someone suddenly wearing long sleeves or trousers if they don’t wear it normally as they might be hiding the scars.
If you are able to catch your loved one that’s the time to be extremely sensitive to the gravity of the issue! Do not confront them in a way that adds to their distress. Be emphatic and try to earn their trust, as those who self harm not only suffer from extreme pain but shame and guilt after harming themselves. This is their way of coping and shaming them will make things worse. It’s also important to convince them to seek professional help because simply expecting them to stop because you laid down the pros and cons will not work.
Someone I know has been cutting herself since some time and the dilemma I am facing is how to reach out to her mother without making it uncomfortable for her. But it’s a risk that I have to and should be taking.
Many a times we don’t report abuse or neglect or domestic violence because we are not sure how the people close to the victim will react and more importantly if the victim will appreciate it too. But specifically speaking here about self-harming behavior like cutting, one has to take the risk because someone who is indulging in this act is waiting to be caught. It’s a cry for help that falls on deaf ears many a times.
People who self harm want to feel control in a life that makes them feel helpless in many other situations. Its like they want to turn their emotional pain into physical one to get attention. They might be punishing themselves for their feelings and experiences.
It’s not easy for anyone of us. We have our own containers of pain and suffering but maybe some of us know how to empty this container bit by bit more easily than others. So please be more mindful about those who matter and what they are going through as not every scream for help can be heard!