A Mad Pride Moment: Being Proud of My Self-Harm
Emily S. Cutler
I wanted to start out this blog by sharing a brief story that captures what Mad Pride means to me and the transformative power I think it has.
This past week, I was out of town for a family event. I have some large scratch marks across my face, and inevitably a family member asked me what happened. Even though I was super nervous, I managed to calmly and confidently say, “I did it to myself. Sometimes when my emotions get overwhelming, I scratch myself or cut myself and it helps me manage the intensity of how I feel.” I then explained that part of my work is defending people’s rights to do just that.
My family member seemed surprised but not judgmental or critical. She responded, “Oh, okay” and said it makes sense that something like that would release emotions. She also said that I have other family members who had done this as well (which I had no idea about, as my family usually has an intense sense of shame and silence around this particular topic).
My therapist once told me that in some cases, if I am just able to be confident and casual about my self-harm or other forms of “madness,” others will follow my conversational lead. Sometimes people only panic about certain traits or behaviors because no one has allowed them to question the pervasive underlying assumption that those traits and behaviors are grounds for panic.
Being prideful and accepting of our “madness” including our “self-harm” can help others change their mindset around these phenomena, even if only temporarily or just for a moment. And we have all the justification in the world to be proud - after all, Mad Pride scholars like Ginger Hoffman and anti-paternalism advocates like Thomas Szasz have dedicated a huge amount of time and energy to defending our right to express our madness. In fact, each and every person who is proud of their own "madness" is working toward this goal and actively contributing to the body of work that grants us all legitimacy and backing to stand on.
Mad people's existence - however we choose to exist (or not exist) - is a radical statement. We are superheroes.