For as long as I could remember, I suffered from self-harming. I probably did it earlier than elementary school, but I didn’t know and didn’t realize what I was doing until ninth grade. By then, I was so used to it, and it devastated me to realize how I was harming myself. Self-harming is, and I paraphrase, a mechanism of coping for a skill that one thinks to lack. I didn’t know why I self-harmed, and I was so ashamed of my actions that I didn’t want to tell anybody. I ended up telling a friend out of desperation for some helping hand and a friendly shoulder to cry on. That friend told me to tell my other friends, though it took me a while to muster a modicum of courage to do so. I cried every time I said the word “self-harm” because I never thought of myself as a weak person or someone who would go to such lengths as to hurt themselves.
I didn’t want to go have some professional help at first, for one reason that my parents didn’t know of my illness, and I was afraid that they’d send me to an asylum if they found out. It was an irrational fear, but one that made me keep my mouth shut for at least a year. I thought I could solve the problem myself, now that I knew about it. So I kept a diary, even though I myself doubted my ability to consistently write in it. I tried to jot down my thoughts and feelings and tried to dig deep into myself for the reason behind my terrible actions. What ended up happening was me finding out how much I loathe myself, for my mistakes that I felt like I couldn’t take back and the regret that I felt piled up higher and higher each day. I cried very hard that moment I learned of my true and great hatred for the person I was, afraid of how small and weak and terrible I was. I looked on the internet for articles on how to help myself, just as I looked for help on YouTube. I talked to my friends. However, despite me stopping for days or maybe a week at a time, I always went back to the harming practice. I hadn’t even noticed how I was doing it, but I realized that through becoming my imaginary friends, with their superpowers and their magical stories, I thought I was becoming as strong as them, and because they could take the pain I gave myself, I didn’t think of myself as receiving the pain as I thought of them as receiving the pain. I hurt my imaginary friends as much as I hurt myself, and I felt like a monster for it.
My self-harming practice was subtle enough that you couldn’t notice it at first; not unless you studied me and my behavior. I tightened my muscles to the point of pain, held onto them, and then released them. It created pain like lightning across my flesh, sprouting tears from the corners of my eyes and making me dread going to the bathroom every day for the mental battle I’d walk into once I closed the door. I wasn’t surprised that nobody noticed, though I felt disappointed and sad inside, and that sadness built every day as I saw my parents look at me with their loving gazes, but not noticing the pain and sadness I felt I was drowning in. I wallowed in isolation, weeping and hoping for the day my parents would notice and save me. They were great parents, loving and caring; they just didn’t notice my problem because my subconscious brain was too smart to let them, harming me in such a way that I couldn’t even let them know.
Finally, after a constant problem in my household that filled the cup of tolerance to the brim, my parents decided to take me to a therapist. With her help, I fought against my fears, gripped the courage that I could capture in the ever-raging storm of my heart and mind, and spilled to my parents the truth of my struggles. They heard me and promised to help me. I felt like I could stop.
I stopped for a few days. Then I self-harmed again. And again. And again. Going to the therapist cleared my head, gave me space to think, made me realize truths about myself I hadn’t known were there. Through constant sessions and meaningful conversations, I learned that I didn’t hate myself and my mistakes. I didn’t loathe myself as much as I hated the weaknesses I felt I had in the world I lived in. I am not strong, nor am I big or tall. I am a very short person, with small muscles, who has friends who are much bigger and stronger than her. I lived in a world where I was in danger of being attacked because of my gender, and in a world where strength was one such factor of how cool you are, as well as how much of an ability to fight you had. Don’t get me wrong; my friends and I are not popular at school. We do not fight to become popular. But we do roughhouse, as that is one way we have fun, and because of our differences, I felt inept and small. I hated myself for how weak I was, and how easily I could go down in a fight. I pretended to be tough; I acted like I was the toughest one in my friend group, always really to tussle and to fight and always ready to brag about my skills and how much damage I could do with a pencil. But honestly, I felt like I could do nothing, and that’s why I became my imaginary friends, who were stronger, better, wiser, and more powerful that I couldn’t in my own body. Because of my terrible coping skills, I learned what it was like to internally bruise yourself and what it was like to hate yourself for continuing to harm yourself after an episode as traumatizing as that.
Because of the help I received from my therapist, and from the support of my friends and family, I can now say I am more confident in myself and though I am still struggling with my self-harming, I can forgive myself for the mistakes I made in the past, and can make myself stronger for the future. I am taking a martial arts class, and am learning that I’m not alone in my struggles. I write this now to tell the world that even though we have awareness for kids and teens struggling with depression, OCD, ADD/ADHD, anxiety and panic, bulimia and anorexia, we also have kids and teens struggling with self harm, stemming from, accompanied or standing alone with any of the aforementioned disorders. These teens’ voices need to be heard to, and today, I asked myself the question: “If I die today, what is my legacy going to be?”
I want my legacy to be awareness for those who don’t yet have the courage to speak for themselves, to raise attention for the kids and teens who harm themselves because they don’t know what else to do. They have no idea how else to cope for what they think they lack or what they lack. I lacked strength and power; I found and am raising both, along with the confidence to raise my voice to a world who tries with all its might to create ignorance and silence against those like me. We need help. We need a voice. I am trying to be that voice right now. The only reason I speak anonymously is because I value the safety in anonymity. I never liked social media. But I love writing, and I find I can write this now with ease as I try to spread the word. I am still struggling, but eventually I will stop. I will be free of this problem. Its taken me years, yes, but I am patient, resilient and strong. I am a survivor.