This subject isn’t fun to talk about. It isn’t the easiest to talk about. And it’s even harder to admit to the fact that it's happening. When we think of self-harm, we think of people with serious mental illness. We picture people in the psych ward, being monitored all day, every day.
In reality, self-harm is everywhere and it doesn’t just come from a sharp object. Self-harm can be considered many different things. Self-harm can be talking negatively about yourself daily.
Self-harm can be going to the gym every day and pushing your body beyond its limits.
Self-harm is punishment.
Punishment that we think we deserve. When in reality, we don’t need punishment. We need to go easy on ourselves. We need to love ourselves and understand that punishment isn’t the answer.
In 2019, I had two teammates knock on my door and come into my room. At first, I believed they were coming in to ask me to go grab dinner, which was a regular occurrence. When I opened the door, I didn’t see a smile on their faces, they were serious which was odd for those two teammates because they were always cracking jokes and making the best of situations. They come in, shut the door behind me, lock it, and tell me to sit down.
I remember they asked me how I was feeling and I told them everything was great, even though it was the complete opposite. They then proceeded to ask me to roll up my sleeves. At the time, I laughed to try and play it off. But they noticed what I was doing with myself. They could see the scars on my left wrist and they could see the dried blood from earlier that day.
My teammates just looked at me and asked, "Why? Why would you do this to yourself?" At the time I didn’t have an answer. But when I look back on the situation, I realized I did it because the punishment was my answer. I thought if I wasn’t living up to or playing to my standards then I wasn’t good enough. My scars told me that I wasn’t good enough. They told me that I needed to be perfect.
Earlier that season, I remember a certain situation when I completely lost control and this is where my self-harm spiraled out of control. I had a terrible outing, my coaches were pissed, and I was disappointed and felt like I let everyone down. I remember going behind the fence into the woods where nobody could see me and hitting a tree like a punching bag. I remember my knuckles bleeding, and if that wasn’t enough, I took off one of the pieces of bark that fell off and used it to slice my left wrist until I couldn’t take it anymore. I remember sitting there feeling like I would never be good enough for anyone or anything, and that punishing myself was the answer. I remember wiping up the blood, wiping the tears, and walking back to the dugout like nothing ever happened.
When I hear self-harm mentioned, I now know it is just a cry for help. I know that whoever is self-harming wants help but is too afraid to ask for it.
Punishment is never the answer. Sure, we have standards, goals, or expectations we want to meet. But when we take these goals and make them unrealistic we're setting ourselves up for failure. I ask you to do your best to check on your friends. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions that make you uncomfortable because those are the questions that need to be asked. If we don’t say anything as a community, we will never help those silently crying out for help.
Self-harm and punishment are never the answer. The answer is different for everyone, but one thing we all have in common is to be easier on ourselves. We only get one life and we need not take it for granted. Enjoy what’s around you and the bigger picture of life, more than the situation you’re in right now. You’ll eventually end up where you need to be. Don’t rush the journey and enjoy the ride.