My parents call me into their bedroom. My mother is standing in the corner, my father sitting on the bed. I can tell from the tone of my mother’s voice that I have done something wrong. As soon as I set foot in the room I know what it is. They want to talk about what I’ve been hiding for the past year, what I’ve kept hidden under long sleeves and bracelets, shorts under my pants when I’m changing in gym.
My muscles are tense. It’s hard to breathe. My palms are sweating. I don’t want to be here. I’m only 12 years old. I know most girls my age don’t have to speak about this with their parents.
I feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty. Mainly, I feel like crying. Every sound my mother and father make seems muted. It’s hard to focus, but five words cut through the confusion and bring me back.
“Are you listening to us?”
I don’t know who said it. I wasn’t paying attention, so I nod.
“Well, say something!” That’s my mother, her voice high and wavering.
“I don’t know what to say,” I mumble, my eyes falling on my lap. I’m scared to look up. I’m worried that if I do I’ll start to cry, or my parents will.
“Why would you do that to yourself?” my father asks. I can hear the strain in his throat.
I’ve upset them.
I shrug. “I don’t know. I just hurt. I deserve to hurt.”
My mother starts to cry. “Let me see,” she says. “Let me see your scars.”
Moving like I’m stuck in a huge pot of molasses, I slowly remove my sweater. Faint white lines are a map on my wrists from last week. Next I pull up the sleeves of my T-shirt so my parents can see my shoulders. Those scars are deeper, and there is a fresh cut. When my father sees that, he starts to cry.
This is the second time I have seen my father cry. The other was when his father died.
I slip down my pants and expose the scars across the front of my thighs. They’re not as deep. I only recently realized that no one would see if I cut my legs.
I stand there with all my scars showing. I feel sick, ashamed. Ashamed that I caused myself this much pain. Ashamed that I’ve upset my parents.
Suddenly, my mother steps forward and wraps her arms around me. “I love you so much, sweetie,” she says softly, her face wet with tears.
I am surprised at the hug, and I cling to my mother as if my life depends on it. Now I’m crying, hot tears streaming down my face. Sobs wrack my body as I repeat “I’m sorry,” as if saying it over and over will make it better.
With my mother holding me and crying, and my dad crying as well, I realize how terrible I feel for making my parents feel this way. I never like to upset them, and by doing this, I have upset them greatly.
I feel shame, deep shame.
When I used to cut myself and watch myself bleed, it reminded me that I was alive on the inside, even though I felt dead. The physical pain that I inflicted temporarily relieved the emotional pain I felt every day. I thought I was getting rid of the emotional pain, but it just made everything worse.
When my parents found out, it was the lowest and highest I’d felt in a long time. I felt happy that I had finally gotten this huge secret off of my chest, but when I saw how upset my parents were, I felt terrible. This feeling of regret and shame for hurting them is what helped me quit and what still keeps me clean today.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.