In my recent open letter to the health minister on Slugger O'Toole I mentioned the fact that a therapist told me a week before my 17th birthday that I ought to be "growing out" of self-harm.
The day that this happened, I told a friend about it, and as you'd expect, I was furious. "Self-harm has nothing to do with age!" I said. My friend responded with "okay, so maybe it's not an age thing, but isn't it a maturity thing?"
Even now, that makes my blood boil. In fact, the only difference between then and now is that I have a response. No, self-harm is not a maturity thing. That's like saying that if you cry when you're sad, then you must be immature.
Here's the thing about that 16 year old girl. She didn't cry very often. She saw crying as a display of weakness - only in herself, mind. She didn't judge anyone else she saw crying.
Self-harm was effectively a substitute for crying. It was a coping mechanism. That 16 year old girl...she couldn't cope with mental pain. Physical pain was a different story. Self-harm became an outlet for mental pain.
Crying isn't linked to maturity, it's linked to emotions. Why doesn't self-harm have the same level of compassion surrounding it? If I'd burst into tears in front of my therapist, I'm sure she would have asked what was wrong, rather than telling me I ought to be growing out of my emotional outbursts.
So please, don't look down on people who self-harm. It's not fair, it's not compassionate. I think my therapist and friend were misinformed at best, cruel at worst.