By P. Berman
What hurts? How did I get these?
Larry woke up feeling exhausted. He remembered the bloody hands of his dream but that was all. His arms hurt. He looked down and saw his arms were white from clutching his prayer beads so tightly; there was no blood on them. He felt a momentary relief until he happened to look down; there was blood on the floor. Something also hurt; he looked at his arms- there were deep scratches running up and down both arms.
What have I done?
He looked at his hands. There was blood underneath each of his fingernails. He had scratched himself. Why had he done this? What kind of crazy person did this to themselves?
I’ve got to wash up. I can’t let anybody see this.
Larry was scared but he knew what to do. He walked silently over to the doorway, cracked open the door and looked out. No one was in sight. He rushed to the kitchen and washed his arms carefully in the sink; they stung- he could feel now how deep they were. He rushed back to his room with wet paper towels, cleaned up the blood splatter from the floor and then realized he couldn’t just put the used towels in his trash can. He crept back into the kitchen and shoved his bloody towels deep into the bags of garbage to be thrown out that morning.
I am just lucky somehow? Why is no one around? What….. the….
Larry suddenly realized he wasn’t just lucky to still be alone. There was no light coming out of the windows high up in the walls of the kitchen. It was still night. His scratching must have woken him up. Fortunately, they weren’t bleeding anymore, and his robes would cover up the scratches. The monks had already tolerated so much from him. He broke their bowls. He screamed out in the night, waking them up. He didn’t want them to know he was injuring himself: it was such a crazy thing to do. How much could they take before kicking him out?
I can’t leave this place! It’s my …home.
Larry walked back to his room in a blind panic. Where would he go if he left? How could he tolerate leaving the garden? The monastery was his home– he wanted to stay.
Did Larry just scratch himself because of his nightmare? Is he intending to harm himself? Is he going crazy?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) “Self-harm is not a mental illness, but a behavior that indicates a need for better coping skills. Several illnesses are associated with it, including borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety or posttraumatic distress disorder.
Self-harm occurs most often during the teenage and young adult years, though it can also happen later in life. Those at the most risk are people who have experienced trauma, neglect or abuse. For instance, if a person grew up in an unstable family, it might have become a coping mechanism. If a person binge drinks or uses illicit drugs, they are at greater risk of self-injury, because alcohol and drugs lower self-control.
The urge to hurt yourself may start with overwhelming anger, frustration or pain. When a person is not sure how to deal with emotions, or learned as a child to hide emotions, self-harm may feel like a release. Sometimes, injuring yourself stimulates the body’s endorphins or pain-killing hormones, thus raising their mood. Or if a person doesn’t feel many emotions, they might cause themself pain in order to feel something “real” to replace emotional numbness.”
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