SIV: Do I have to be “for it” if I’m not “against it”?

I was recently told, because I am not much of a web surfer (I only have dial-up access to the internet where I live) that there has been attention given in the mainstream press to “pro-cutting” websites.  You can guess most of the conversations centered on “How can someone promote that!” and “What can we do to stop this, it will make people want to do it” and “What is wrong with people, putting pictures of their cuts on the internet?!”

Sigh.  No, I’m not for promoting SIV.  But I’m not for bashing it either.  Why can’t people understand that it’s simple: if you trash people for something that is helpful to them (not only hurtful), if you withdraw yourself from them because of their SIV…. people will need to find others who understand.  That is why I started The Cutting Edge:  A newsletter for people living with self-inflicted violence in 1990.  1990!  For 18 years the newsletter, and now the web site has been intended to be a place where people can begin to understand SIV (their own and that of others) in a compassionate, nonjudgmental way.  Everyone wants to have a tribe, no? 

I remember when I was still smoking that people would tell me how bad smoking was for me, and that it was a waste of money, and all the other purely logical reasons not to smoke…   My smoking friends would understand better, but we did know that we were hurting ourselves and each other.  One of my dearest friends told me “Please don’t be so hard on yourself… it must help in some way and you will stop when it is time.  Please be good to yourself” And I did.  I think the same is true for living with SIV.
How come it is so hard for people to get the shame, blame and judgment out of this?
What do those of you who know the web think and feel?  Please teach me.  Thanks.

4 Responses to “SIV: Do I have to be “for it” if I’m not “against it”?”

  1. Alexandra livesay Says:

    I feel like it is a life line sometimes on those nights when I have those deep pulls to do the things I used to do. I can look at it and know I am not there anymore and remember the shame and the hiding and the covering it up. I can look at the images and remember the feelings of what it felt like and how the pain would wash away the ache in my soul. I feel like if it is all taken away it will not leave a place for this kind of outlet. Also, I think it gives people a place and a way to talk about SIV. Some people that have never put a name to what they do to themselves or have never told anyone in person can go online and talk about it and share who they are in ways they can’t in real life. I know that working at a CMH makes it hard to talk about in my daily life some of the darker thoughts that still linger in the hallways of my mind. Just one woman’s opinion…!

  2. Ruta Mazelis Says:

    Thank you for writing, I’m so glad that I asked this question. I can’t agree more that having a place where you can share experiences, thoughts, and feelings about self-injury can be a lifeline for many of us. I know that many people, including mental health professionals, believe that talking about SIV, or struggles, or abuse and trauma, will lead to more self-injury. Yet how can people heal if they don’t have a place where they feel understood and accepted, a place where they can say whatever it is that they need to say, whether they are still self-injuring or not? I get frustrated when others see the only goal to be stopping a behavior when it is the wounds of the spirit that need to be tended to… It is truly sad that working at a community mental health center makes it even harder to be authentic with the harder stuff of one’s life, but I know that is true. The mental health system has a long way to go. I am spending the day teaching about SIV to MH care providers at a state hospital, and will take your words with me…. thanks again.

  3. Marcia Probst Says:

    You know from someone who spends and has spent a ton of time on the internet I know that at different times I posted things that others would find disturbing because I needed to feel in control and needed a release. It was another coping thing for me just in putting out there besides whatever I had done. If people were going to judge me then I was going to do it in a loud manner to prove that I wasn’t afraid of that judgement. I needed to beat them to the punch. It was also for me a cry for attention, and in getting that attention (no matter what type it was) at least it was talked about.

    Can others get ideas from things they find on the internet? Sure, but that means they are looking for something to deal with stuff in the first place. They could find the same kinds of things on their own or any number of other things that maybe aren’t the most healthy solutions. Someone who is the ideal perfectly well adjusted individual is not going to start self injuring just because they see a picture or read someone’s story.

  4. Ruta Mazelis Says:

    Thanks Marcia, your words speak for what I was thinking but are much more eloquent. Oftentimes people are forbidden from talking about their self-injury because it makes others uncomfortable and because people will fear that somehow it will become “epidemic.” There are mental health programs that have group therapy for many topics but rarely, if ever, is there a group for people who live with SIV. Those that have a group have strict rules about what can and can’t be spoken about. It’s as if we are all potentially capable of causing an epidemic of SIV. Well, I think we already have that and people are left isolated because of how reactive others are. The more others get to meet us and see us for who we are, and spend more time and focus on what causes the need for SIV, the more this reactivity will diminish. I feel fortunate to be in the position where it does not cost me to be open about my life with SIV. It is a rare place to be.

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