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Conquering Self-Harm This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


The term self-harm carries a certain stigma. Most hold stereotypical views of how this type of person acts, or why they do it; these stereotypes reassure us. After all, it's easy to judge someone we view as an obnoxious attention-seeker, isn't it? Isn't that what all self-injurers are?

These assumptions are based on prejudice; people fear what they do not understand. There is no collective reason why people hurt themselves; it varies. My reasons may be completely different from another's.

I never decided to start hurting myself. It was a consequence of low self-esteem and my upbringing. I was overweight as a kid, and instead of helping me learn to make good dietary decisions, my mother sought to shame me. I was frequently belittled because of my size and singled out; my family would be served a steak dinner and cake, and I'd be given a small portion of grilled chicken and a fruit cup. While I know these actions were well-intentioned, they hurt me. I did not receive any approval or praise unless I lost weight. As a result, my self-worth was inextricably linked to my size.

I felt trapped at home, and school was no better. Until eighth grade, I was tormented daily for being fat and because people claimed I was a lesbian. It didn't matter that I wasn't gay. I began to withdraw, and depression set in like a lead weight.

My thought process changed drastically. I began to view myself as worthless; I was absolutely nothing. I hated everything about myself by the tender age of nine. These emotions piled up and eventually overflowed when I was 13. I made my first cut in the summer of 2009, with a broken CD case. It hardly broke the skin and didn't even bleed, but I was hooked. Cutting made me feel clearer, more focused. I felt I could survive anything, as long as I kept my focus.

Contrary to popular belief, not all people who hurt themselves are suicidal. Quite the opposite – most people who self-injure are fighting to live. It's a coping mechanism; somehow, the pain keeps us sane and connected to the world. After I cut, I felt numb, totally separate from everything that hurt me. I lived for that feeling, when the scarlet spread and the ache in my chest subsided.

I cut frequently until this year; I'm covered with scars. The majority are on my ankles, which are easily covered by my uniform tights and jeans on weekends. Although I don't talk often about my self-harm, I did confide in my ­English teacher. He's an incredible person; he was the first – and so far, the only – person to tell me that I have worth.

He inspired me to recover. I'm beginning to realize that my value as a person is not reflected by the size of my jeans, and I do have talents. It's a daily battle, and I have relapsed, but I got up and fought on. Now I'm proud to say, “I defeated self-harm.”

Remember, words matter. You can build someone up or send them toppling down. Take the time to talk to that boy in your class who seems lost, or that girl who keeps her head down. Be kind to all – just because someone is outgoing does not mean they are not suffering. You can make a difference.

To everyone who is struggling with self-injury, eating disorders, mental illness, or suicidal thoughts, keep battling on. Things will get better, I promise.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 3 comments. Post your own!

AustinR said...
today at 10:50 am:
i wanted to write a piece like this one in a way my own story of my self harm. I was a little worried to be the only self-harm story out there. Im sorry you went through what you did, the same way im sorry for everyone that has gone through what we have. Iknow our storries arent exactly the smae but alot of what you felt i felt. And so i congradulate you for making it through, just as i did and we can see the other side of who we are.
 
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KittyAngel said...
Feb. 27 at 1:52 pm:
very inspiring. i can relate sooooo much.
 
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DaddyMaria said...
Oct. 13, 2013 at 2:05 am:
i LOVE this article. really inspiring 
 
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