In that case, your only hope is the suicide lines -- but then it's the hotline worker's turn to be confused when you explain that you're not actually suicidal. They don't have a script for that (one hotline worker yelled at Emily for wasting her time). Most of them do try to help anyway, but their suggestions usually boil down to finding ways to distract yourself. Which, gee, why didn't she think of that?
Other counselors suggest some form of self-harm that won't do permanent damage, like holding an ice cube (I'm not an expert, but it seems like that's not getting to the root of the problem, even if frostbite doesn't become an issue). Emily got advice from doctors, books, and the Internet to put a rubber band on her wrist to snap when she got the urge, but she just kept using bigger rubber bands and snapping harder. So ... problem solved?
Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images The only benefit was terrific resistance training.
You can try talking to your friends, but that's tough when your addiction is still stigmatized as a pathetic, "emo" plea for attention. Well, let me offer this as advice: if someone you love is pleading for attention, there's nothing pathetic about that. It's part of being human.
When I was at SAFE Alternatives, we had to fill out these logs whenever we wanted to hurt ourselves, and one of the questions was "What are you trying to communicate?" This seemed insane because I had done everything I could to hide my cuts. I'd tell people that my boyfriend's cat scratched me, or that I fell into a rose bush on the way home from school. Eventually, I started cutting myself in places I didn't expose to the public, like my thighs and breasts. When my freshman year roommate caught me and turned me into our RA and the dean of students, I spent the better part of three days doing what I could to avoid all of them, literally hiding behind plants, sleeping in other peoples' rooms, and leaving for class extra early to avoid meeting them in the hallway. How could it be about communication if I was spending so much energy keeping it secret?
studiovespa/iStock/Getty Images "Turtlenecks in July is totally a fashion trend. Just check Vogue."
As they explained it, all action is a communication, even if it's only to yourself. One of the most gratifying things anyone ever told me at SAFE was that attention is a basic human necessity. All people have social needs, and if they're not met, we fall apart. Yes, people do hurt themselves to control other people, but they also hurt themselves because they desperately need a problem solved, and this is the only thing they can figure out to do. Fear of being seen as a whiner made me more likely to self-harm, turning the whole thing into a circular ouroboros of bullshit.
But hopefully society will come around on this, the same as it has on other addictions. So if you find out somebody close to you is doing this, don't freak out about it, but don't ignore it, either. After all, there's more of us than you think.
Lauren Ipsum lives close enough to Disney to see their fireworks from her apartment. She can be found on Tumblr here.
For more insider perspectives, check out The Gruesome Truth About Getting Shot (a First-Hand Account). And then check out The 30 Most Ill-Conceived Movie Monsters.