Stigma of self injury

April 2, 2009

Self-injury, or cutting, has a lot of stigma, especially because the physical evidence of it is difficult to hide even long after you’ve stopped.

At class the other day my sleeve slipped up as I reached out to take the hand out from the professor. He looked at my arms and demanded “What did you do?” loud enough for the class to hear.

“Nothing,” I said through gritted teeth, pulling down my sleeve. 

“Then what is that?” He asked loud enough for the class to hear. 

I felt myself growing both angry and more distant. All the memories of the shame from when the wounds were still healing came back. I wasn’t in class anymore, it wasn’t 2009 anymore. It was 2007, and I was back under the hollow light of the psych ward. I struggled back to the present and muttered “It’s a year old.” Actually they are from over two years ago, but hey, close enough.

He left it at that, but I could already feel the eyes of the class on me. Last week I had flipped out because I felt someone tap me on the shoulder (and no one did) so I already was regarded as crazy. It was too late, I was already catapulted back into the past. 

I spent the rest of the class in my private world of shame, trying to look ‘normal’, trying to listen to the lecture but knowing it was pointless.

When I got home I realized I didn’t have to take it. I emailed him and said I wanted him to apologize for the way he had spoken to me and humiliated me within earshot of the class. I said it was my business and my history, and that was not the right way to handle the situation. 

I was respectful but adamant. Once I sent it I felt better. I was not going to take any more of the shame that had been hurled at me during my years of recovery. Not when it’s memory effected me that badly. 

And he apologized. But that wasn’t what made me feel better. It was the act of sending it, of defending myself. Sure it was a little late, sure it was hard! But I did it. And it made some of the memories quiet so I could live in the present again.


One comment

  1. Yeah. It’s worse if you’re a male who has self-inflicted scars. There’s the added humiliation of succumbing to a ‘femenine’ pathology. Nice, heh?

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