Self-Harm: The Addiction We Don’t Talk About

By Lou BanksJanuary 5, 2022

Note: This piece explores the topic of self-harm suicidal thoughts in detail. Please use your discretion. 

Some people consider it an aesthetic, these zebra-striped lines that are painted and dashed typically across adolescents’ arms. It’s terrifying to think that people see it as a “trend.” My arms used to look like I had run through rose bushes, arms stretched out wide. I had surrendered myself to my fate. And I did not hurt myself because it supposedly looked “aesthetically” pleasing.

The truth is that you don’t know what to do. You don’t know what to do when the pain inside of you is barely being contained by the cage of your own vessel. The pain so intense that you can hardly breathe. There is no catching your breath, nor is there simply running away from it.

And yet, amidst these complexities, we are judged. Judged for not knowing how to cope with the heartbreak or overwhelming numbness that festers in our veins. I won’t apologize for doing everything I could to stay alive whilst in survivor mode. Because that is exactly what it was. I was hurting so much and I wanted to die. I woke up every day, wishing, hoping, and praying that I would suddenly get a blood clot in my brain or get hit by a car on my way to school.

I was supposed to be thinking about makeup, clothes, jewelry, and relationships—but the thing flooding my brain was the desire for eternal silence.

Maybe I didn’t want to necessarily die. I wanted the voices to stop. I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted all the self-hatred to dissipate. And you know what? In those brief moments after self-harming, I felt exactly that. Silence. Dissipation. Nothingness.

But one soon turned into three. And three turned into nine, and nine turned into 18. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I had found a way to dull the noise and channel my rage. I felt alive again. Human again. But it wasn’t healthy. Somewhere in my head, I knew it wasn’t healthy.

Every time I had a depressive episode, there they were. Those rose-thorn wounds. I did this for years, from when I was 11 until 17 or 18.

Throughout my journey with and healing from self-harm, some words have stuck with me. The first came from a high school counselor who helped me. They said,

“It’s actually an addiction that we don’t discuss.”

And just a few years ago, singer and actress Lady Gaga spoke about her experience with self-harm in a way that I know to be true: “What I was doing was trying to show people that I was in pain instead of telling them.”

When I reflect on my days of self-harm, I see how I struggled to tell the people I loved that I was hurting. So, I found a way to show it physically. Subconsciously, I tried to convey that pain without words. 

For anyone who self-harms, in any form, you are not alone. I know how difficult it is to find the courage and voice to say the words, “I need help.” But I do believe in you, in the validity of your pain, and your wish to get and feel better. I know you can do it.

Let one person in. Just one. If you have scars, roll up your sleeves and show them. They may never understand why you hurt yourself, most never will, but they will understand that you are in pain. It might be imperfect, but is a start. It is a step towards healing.


You are worthy of love and grace, from others and yourself. You are enough, here and now. If you’re dealing with self-injury or self-harm, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at info@twloha.com.

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Comments (12)

  1. Chloe

    Thank you so much for this. It feels like every day, every minute, I’m fighting the urge. I know it’s not right, but my brain knows that it very momentarily helps and i crave it. Thankfully several people know, and that has helped me stop, but the pain is still there and the urge is still there and I’m so tired of it. Thank you again for this blog, it really helped me.

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  2. Lisa Alexander-Reimel

    I wish I could fully remember the quote from the movie “Secretary” that so perfectly describes the reason I self-harm… something about having to let the pain out, and watching it heal making you feel alive. So very very true.

    Reply  |  
  3. Rauluti

    Most times I feel ugly. Unlovable. That I don’t fit it. I feel like a soure thumb. I get anxiety attacks. Luke I can’t breath. Like my heart is in a casket. And I’ve laid it to rest. But I keep carry the guilt even thoe it was out of my hands.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      We hope you can release that guilt and those feelings you’re harboring about yourself. Your struggles are valid and real, but they do not define you.

      Reply  |  
  4. Audrey

    Wow, thank you so much for sharing this. As I was reading it truly felt like I had written it myself. I related on so many levels. I felt so so seen in your writing. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  5. Newbern Denise

    [Harming] is not just something teenagers do. I was in my 30s when I srarted. I didn’t even know what it was until my doctor told me. I had never heard of it. At the time it was not heard of by hardly anyone. There was no information out there. Mine was because I didn’t like to hurt peoples feelings so I wouldn’t say things to them. I would go home to my bed at nite,lay out towels, get out my [omitted], and roll of paper towels. I would start [harming] and [harming] until I felt a release. Usually unough that many should have had stiches. I would clean myself up and hope the next day would be better. But it usually wasn’t. Somedays I couldn’t get out of bed because if I stood on my legs they [were injured] too bad. Now iam 59 and I still [harm] if I get overwhelmed. It dosent happened as often. It never goes away it is always there.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Denise,

      You are absolutely right that self-injury is not just something young people engage in. Mental health challenges do not discriminate, they impact a wide range of folks, and we are so sorry to hear that this one has impacted you. We do hope that finding these words has reminded you that you are not alone, that SI isn’t something to be ashamed of, and that there is hope for recovery. We’re glad your doctor was able to tell you more about SI, but we want you to know that you can always email our team at info@twloha.com if you’d like a safe space to share or you can go to twloha.com/find-help to see what professional resources are available near you. Thank you for having the bravery to share and be vulnerable on here.

      With Hope,
      TWLOHA

      Reply  |  
  6. Holley Robison

    Thanks for your words. They hit home to me….

    Reply  |  
  7. Tab

    Everyone views self harm as just c***ing yourself, but for me, it was hitting myself in the head. I am about 6-7 self harm free from hitting. I would hit myself so hard, I woukd almost pass out. I just wanted a way to sleep, and I would. I would fall right to sleep everytime. It’s hard to explain, and people would never understand why someone would inflict pain on themselves. No one knows what I used to do, because I would only sound crazy.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Tabitha,

      You’re right that self-injury isn’t just one thing. Thank you for sharing and please know how sorry we are that self-harm has impacted your journey. We are so glad to know that you haven’t harmed recently, but we also hope you feel you have a safe, non-judgmental space to share if you ever do struggle again.

      With Hope,
      TWLOHA

      Reply  |  
  8. shaquanna

    thank it for it and it was worth it

    Reply  |  
  9. Sureeta Karod

    Hi Lou,
    I enjoyed your post. I agree with the persective that self-harm is an addiction. It provides an individual with an emotional release that provides a temporary sense of relief. This activates the dopamine reward system in the same way drugs and alcohol do. Even though it’s a negative coping strategy, the short-lived relief it provides is the reason a person continues engaging in self-harm.

    https://www.thehealingtree.ca

    Reply  |  
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