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Art & Life 3: Self Love/Self Harm

playing card, king of hearts and king of spades, hand holding human heart, hand cutting with razorblade
"Self Love/Self Harm", digital (Procreate on Ipad Pro), 2021

Although May every year is mental health awareness month, like many others I believe that every month, week, or day of the year needs to be considered a mental health awareness time.

I started thinking about this topic, and then this digital drawing I made a few years ago, when I noticed a grocery store employee recently with some of the thickest self harm scars I’ve ever seen, covering both arms. As someone who’s struggled with self harm at times in life I’d like to think I get it, and I tried to psychically project understanding and compassion.

Honestly though I think scars look cool and badass and I’m glad Laura at the grocery store is confident and non-stigmatized enough to rock her personal journey in full view. And anyway my perhaps controversial view on self harm is that it isn’t necessarily all bad in all scenarios—it serves a helpful purpose when other alternatives may not exist or would be even worse, and there’s a real fuzzy line between the accepted forms of self harm in society (tattoos, piercings, getting drunk, etc) and the often stigmatized forms like cutting.

Of course context determines a lot, and in a perfect scenario you’d want to avoid emotionally-based self harm ever being an option or an urge, but having personal experience with those mind states, I see it all on a spectrum without judgement. The human mind will find a way to make it through a situation any way it can, and that’s one of our species’ most beautiful attributes.

This image was originally posted to my Instagram feed, but was removed for violating community guidelines. Understandably, its content could be a trigger for some, and presumably someone reported it, or the AI censor bots caught it, due to the depiction of blade cutting skin. However, possible triggers aside, the intent of the piece and of the post was only positive, and in evidence of that intent were the half dozen or so heartwarming, inspiring stories of personal strength and perseverance through mental struggles and self-harm that various followers shared in the post comments...moments of beautiful honesty and vulnerability which are sadly now lost forever.

Since this image inspired a bunch of people to reach out and share those uplifting anecdotes, I resolved to re-post it here on my own censorship-free blog. I invite any comments or stories related to overcoming mental health struggles or coping with self harm urges. De-stigmatizing difficult topics, facing our triggers in order to work through them, and compassion for self and others are the ways to healing and growth!

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