Trigger warning: contains discussion of self harm.
Sometimes I just get those days when I want to weep for humanity (and not just because of the redesigned WordPress homepage, which is incredibly hard to navigated and also … where did the option to put posts in ‘categories’ go? That was helpful. Bring it back).
I’m referring to the #cutforbieber thing that was all over Twitter yesterday. While I didn’t witness it first-hand myself, I saw reference to it on Tumblr and Facebook, and heard people talking about it at school. For those who remained blissfully ignorant, upon hearing/seeing that Justin Bieber had smoked weed (which I swear is legal in a lot of places now anyway), they self-harmed to stop him.
Right. So I’m not entirely sure how that’s supposed to work. Make him feel the guilt of scars on hundreds of fans so that he agrees to live his life how they want him to?
Leaving aside the fact that this seems to be belittling self harm, and the way it has been treated by the media also trivialises it as something people do as a protest or for attention, when really it’s a problem for a lot of people and it can leave them incredibly screwed up, there’s another aspect of this that’s disturbing: the fact that people idol-worship celebrities so much that they are prepared to destroy their own bodies because that celebrity turned out not to be as perfect as they always thought they were.
That’s messed up. These people, they might be famous, but they’re still humans and they still screw up. And you know what? They should be allowed to mess up.
Just like the rest of us don’t want all of our childhood mistakes to be dragged out into the open, we shouldn’t go searching for their pasts. Just as we don’t want to be yelled at when we make one error, whatever happens as a result of it, because we were tired or ill or emotional or otherwise not at our best, we shouldn’t treat other people like that when they don’t quite get things right.
Oh, and would you like it if people you never even met guilt-tripped you because you did something they didn’t approve of? Would you like people coming up to you in the street saying, “Look, I’m going to continue to damage my body until you stop doing what you’re doing” ?
But let’s get back to the trivialising self harm thing. See, a lot of people self harm because they don’t feel they have another choice. Often this is a response to some emotional distress — when there’s pain inside your head you can’t deal with it, so you try and make it tangible to give you something to focus on in the hope that that will help.
But it doesn’t. It just makes it worse. Because then you have the same thing a few days later … and, especially if your friends are the sort not to understand and to be grossed out by self harming, you’ll be made to feel guilty because of your scars. So you feel worse. So you’re in more pain. Gradually you’re losing confidence, friends, and all the things that kept you away from cutting in the first place, and you go back to it.
It doesn’t help. In the long run, it doesn’t help.
So people mutilating themselves for the sake of somebody who doesn’t know they exist because he happened to do something that they didn’t like — what is with that? What are they hoping to achieve? Their scars will remain and perhaps one day they’ll be asked why they have them. And they’ll say, “I thought that it might stop somebody famous from doing something.”
What’s more, if self harm is being shown as socially acceptable in these situations, even the ‘in’ thing, how long before it is glorified among teenagers, especially younger ones? How long before it’s a source of pride — look, my scars are bigger than yours, I’m tougher.
It’s not a sign of strength. It’s a sign that you need help. And I say that with all the love in the world, not because I am judging people who cut, but because I don’t think anybody should be driven to that, and I think there should always be someone to help. And yes, I do have personal experience of it, both with friends — some of them fairly close friends — and actually, in the past, myself, though never to a hugely serious degree.
Yet even that is unhelpful. That thinking. Recently, while researching triggers and how they work for a novel, I came across a page that told me: “It doesn’t matter if someone is cutting with a knife or with a safety pin. If they are hurting themselves deliberately, they are self harming.”
(I’m a ballet dancer. I do pointe work. Many would argue that constitutes deliberately putting myself in pain. I would disagree; I accept that pain comes with it, but don’t do it for the sake of the pain. I do it for the sake of the dancing and the pain is an unfortunate side effect.)
Oh, and that website also told me that it’s an addictive sensation. And people do it more and more.
So, making a first cut for the sake of something trivial … how long will it be before people turn to it as a way of coping?
I weep for humanity that we will destroy ourselves for the sake of such small things. I weep for humanity that we allow ideas like this to be glamorised to the point where those who are suffering have their problems trivialised and ignored. I weep for humanity that such things are posted online for other teenagers to goggle at, to pore over in mock horror, as I witnessed in school today, without even a thought for labelling with trigger warnings so that somebody browsing the internet who has had problems in the past could come across them with potentially serious consequences.
I weep for humanity that we put people up on pedestals — ordinary humans — and are disappointed when they aren’t as perfect as we thought. I weep for humanity that we won’t give people the same license to mess up that we expect them to give us.
That is why I weep for humanity.