Trigger warning for language and depression
MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING FOR SELF-HARM
He was my best friend. The only person who knew every big secret I had…and I had a few. That’s why, when he called me a bitch, I was inclined to believe him. I had always had moderate self-esteem, spurred on by the knowledge that what most people thought about me didn’t really matter. But what he thought mattered. He knew me better than anyone else, so I must be the horrible friend he sees me as.
My chest began to ache. It felt like my insides were boiling, expanding my skin, and the pressure kept building. I was crying so hard, I could barely breathe. My mind was racing: Am I a bitch? Will I ever feel “normal” again? Should I just kill myself now? Would the world be a better place without me?
I didn’t know what to do, so I called my university’s psychiatric crisis line. The process was somewhat convoluted, was conditional on giving my full name (which I was reluctant to do), and was ultimately unsuccessful at providing me with any sense of relief.
Shaking and sobbing into my hands, I figured out that the only way to relieve my emotional torment was through physical pain. Knowing I would have to remain scar-free for my dance class (leotards only), I grabbed the pen cap in front of me, dragging it across my arm as hard as I could. After doing this several times, the pressure in my chest subsided enough to be considered bearable. Satisfied, I used my sleeve to cover the scratches that would fade by morning.
Over time, the pen cap turned into a broken shaving razor, the need for relief melding into the desire to feel anything, as my mind was numbed by depression.
I came to enjoy every aspect of cutting.* Cutting makes me feel better, when nothing else can. I owe my life to it, as it brought me down from the brink of suicide time and time again.
Just knowing you shouldn’t be doing it isn’t a good enough reason to stop. The shame isn’t a good enough reason to stop. Neither is the restriction in clothing or the threat of being found out. The pleas of family and friends aren’t good enough. None of these things is enough of a reason to stop, because I wasn’t cutting because I wanted to. I was cutting because I needed to. None of these things reduces that need.
What does? Love, understanding, coping strategies, therapy, all or none of the above. It depends on the person. For me, my strength is in my faith and in my friends. I know that to God or to my best friend at any time when I feel overwhelmed. Staying on the right medications helps, too. So does knowing that I’m not alone in my struggles.
Almost 3 million Americans are believed to be struggling with self-harm. A vast majority of these people are teenage girls. Studies also show that almost half of those who engage in self-harm have been sexually abused. Self-harm can manifest as cutting, scratching, burning, or hitting oneself or other self-abusive behaviors.
To all those out there who hurt themselves, recognize that it is not a long-term solution to your pain. If you want to deal with your emotional pain, I urge you to seek help. Maybe your parents wouldn’t understand; maybe you feel that you can’t talk to your friends about it. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t love you and want the best for you. If you can get yourself to do it, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.** They’re free, anonymous, and there to help anyone in crisis, regardless of whether or not you are suicidal.
To all those who care for someone who self-harms, be patient and understanding, but also strongly encourage them to seek help. It is a problem and it won’t go away by itself. But do not judge. For those who self-harm, the cutting is the least of their problems. They must challenge the reason they feel that they need to cut. And that is hard and scary as hell. Let them know that you care and are there for them, and then let them know what resources are available to them.
*I want to fully explain why I would cut, but I don’t want to glorify it in any way, so I’ve chosen to leave that out.
**National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
March 1st is National Self-Harm Awareness Day. Spread the word. Spread the love.