Content Note: this post is about personal experiences of self-harm and suicidal thoughts & urges, including detailed descriptions. Style independently similar to “Please Don’t Call Me Ma’am.”
Please don’t make that gesture.
You know, the exaggerated one where you pretend you’re cutting your wrists.* At best, it’s tasteless. At worst, it’s hella triggering.
Let me tell you about my personal relationship to self-harm and suicidal thoughts so you can understand where I’m coming from.
Things I’ve done, in order of frequency (least to most often):
- burned myself
- cut myself
- gotten blackout and puke drunk alone in my room because I didn’t want to have to exist anymore
- thrown up because I just can’t stand what’s inside myself
- watched TV for days at a time because I’ve believed I am horrible and deserve horrible days
- stood too close to the edge of the metro platform
It’s been a while since those days, thank God. A year of weekly therapy and a stable dosage of medication seem to be working. I can tell because it’s been about 2 months since my last intense desire to kill myself. Hooray!!
But I do still engage in self-harm in other ways. I eat until my stomach hurts, and then keep eating. I decide not to perform dental hygiene because of thoughts like “I’m disgusting”. I sabotage my professional career.
And I still have self-harm and suicidal urges, usually related to punishing myself. I still want to cut and to bring my insides out. I get “oh, wouldn’t it be nice” thoughts about being dead, and intrusive images of my head bashed in and bleeding on the pavement. I fantasize about just lying down in the middle of the road so I can stop moving forever.
Sometimes, I’m not even thinking about that crap. I’m going about my business, getting some work done. Then a coworker comes by and stops to chat. And he pretends to cut himself.
And it reminds me.
It reminds me of all the actions I’ve never done but have wanted to do so badly.
It reminds me of all the actions I used to do and makes me wonder if I will again.
It reminds me of all the actions I haven’t stopped yet.
It reminds me of the hatred I have for myself.
Sometimes, it gives me the urge to self-harm.
Sometimes, I follow through on that urge.
In my experience, people usually make this motion to signify exasperation with something minor. It’s implying they’d rather die than let whatever is annoying them continue. Is your work piling up? Ugh. Did your dog poop in your bed? Gross. Did you have to stay up all night watching over your sick kid? Sucks. Y’know, I’m sorry. Those things are hard. Please, complain all you like, and I’ll commiserate!
But sometimes smallish things like those actually cause people to cut themselves or self-harm in other ways. Pretending that it creates that urge in you belittles my struggle, trivializes my pain, and perpetuates the stigma attached to mental illnesses.
- you mean to make fun of people with depression and other self-harming mental illnesses
- you just don’t care or think it doesn’t matter
- you’ve never thought about it
- you’re trying to do it ironically
- you really feel that strongly and are laughing to keep from crying**
- Quit making fun of marginalized groups.
- It matters.
- Think about it.
- You’re doing it wrong.
- I’m really sorry you’re feeling that. I hope you can find a different outlet at some point.
Now that’s out in the open, I doubt you actually want to cause reactions like I’ve described above. I happen to think that this gesture is pretty obviously triggering to a whole lot of people. But I’ve also been steeped in mental illness for so long I’ve forgotten what it’s like not to be intimately acquainted with the daily ups and downs of keeping mentally healthy. So if it’s not something obvious like it seems to me it ought to be, I would love for you, DDPeople, to speak out about this particular trigger.
This request is not about eliminating jokes, or keeping people from blowing off steam. It’s not about censorship. It’s about taking seriously the fact that what you’re pretending to do, others suffer through. So.
I’m asking you, coworkers. I’m asking you, friends. I’m asking you, friends of friends. I’m asking you, people I’ve just met. I’m asking you, strangers on the internet.
Please don’t make that gesture.