Shame-facedly, you stumble out and begin unraveling your tender arms. Some cuts might open once more and begin tumbling crimson, to which you'll have to attend. You shower gently, trying to dance around the cuts. You may be successful, depending on how bad your night was. Then it's time to get dressed, and wear long sleeves like you always do.
I write this because this is often how I wake up. Sometimes it is much worse, and sometimes the process is much easier than this, but it's something I'd like to bring to your attention. It's called Self-Injury, and it's a very real condition, and yes, men have it too.
There are many sites that go deep into self-injury and it's causes, but it is my wish to give you not only a more personal reflection, but also to talk about the bothers of being a male with such a problem.
To give the reader a basic idea, self-injurers mostly cut and burn portions of their body as a habitual act. They do not do it for sexual gratification or decoration. It is an impulse that, once they have traveled that route, they have a hard time coping without. The motivators in order to incite such an act are varied, but generally it comes from either frustration, stress, or depression. In most cases, there isn't cause for concern, and it is actually a crude method of survival, in that, by finding a route they can get by in the world, they have kept themselves relatively stable in between times of cutting/burning.
This can be seen as a weakness by some, but one could also argue that every person has some sort of addiction or way of coping with their everyday or harsh stresses, and this is just another. The time for concern comes when the self-injurer finds themself doing it too often or too harshly. (ie If one cannot handle a joking insult from a friend, running off to cut an inch deep into their arm, then they have a much more serious problem.) Sometimes it is an attention getting device, as if to say, "Hey, I have a problem, someone help me for I am too frightened to ask for it.", but there are a more concerning number, who are ashamed of the way they have to cope and hide their healing wounds and scars.
To give you some background, let me tell you how this relates to me. It started when I was about 13. I would chew aluminum soda cans down to a flat ridged surface when nervous. Then I would eventually notice them tearing on the sides. One day, in extreme desperation, I tore a piece off and kept dragging it across my underarm over and over. It was simple because it left rather thin and humane slits up my arm. The next day, I felt great, better than I had in a long time, except for the extreme embarassment of my arms. Right then I started wearing only long sleeves, and I have ever since. It escalated over time. I've burned, slashed, and cut rather deep at one point. (Thankfully, I've yet to have stitches) My arms have, at points, looked similar to this. (Warning: Pic is a little graphic so, be wary.) That's not my arm, I can't imagine why anyone would want to photograph that, it's not something I'm proud of. Here is the problem though: stopping.
It is generally believed there is more women who have SI than men, and though this may be the case, there are still a viable number of males who submit to this urge. The general notion is that men in crisis tend to hurt others and women tend to inflict injury upon themselves, be it psychological or physical. This generalization may be true in some cases, but obviously it is no where near there rule.
There is a set of "societal beliefs" which imply that a male should be able to handle his problems as well as other's and females are only allowed to be in crisis. Fair or not, this is a base belief system that many have, and it leads to interesting conclusions. I have been through both male and female therapists to try and stop my urges, but no one seems to have any real answers for me, and the reason: I am a man.
The males I have encountered have nothing in their life or their training to prepare them with a male who's not just suffering from sexual problems or feelings of inadequacy (the typical male complaints), and the female therapists I have spoken with are so taken aback by me being a male with this issue, that they never see beyond that problem and get into the source of the issue itself. Surely, I am not the only one with the problem, and surely everything learned from the female perspective cannot be null and void because the recipient of treatment has male genitalia?
Doing a search on google for Self-Injury, you will see an entry for "Women and SI" specifically. Also, if you go to one of the many other pages on there, most of them will mention it from a female perspective, which, though not useless, does not make for warm invitation for help. The few sites from a male perspective are either down completely or come from those not wishing to have a discussion on how to stop. (excerpt from a Forum: "Yeah, this weekend I cut myself up, I love it, it makes me feel better")
More than anything, I would just like an honest discussion from others who feel the same, or have similar problems. Those who would understand, and maybe have stopped, to have their thoughts and feelings on it. I also would like to see a therapist who could put aside sexual differences for once and just treat someone as a patient with a problem. I am not looking for it to be a national issue, I realize this is just my "pet problem" and that most simply won't care, but what little reaching out I could do, I have done, now it's up to you, the reader, to discuss with me.