Ten years ago today, I self-harmed by cutting the word FEAR into my thigh with a safety pin.
It wasn’t the first time I had ever self-harmed. I had been doing it for two years at that point, albeit not very often, and rarely drawing blood. Most of the time, I would just trace over an existing scar on my wrist at the base of my hand, but sometimes I’d get more aggressive and scratch and cut a little higher up on my wrist. It was always to cause pain to create a physical release for emotional stress and pain – Never to try to die.
January 26, 2007 I was told by the boy that I liked that he didn’t want to date me. It was yet another blow to my fragile self-esteem. I took a few emo selfies (although that word didn’t exist yet at the time) and then decided I needed to self-harm to bring emotional pain to a physical level.
It was the first time I’d ever cut on my leg. It was also the first time I ever told anyone I knew in person about it. (I had a group of internet friends who knew and we were all open with each other about our struggles). I told a friend the next day that I was struggling and what I had done, confiding in them. They promised they would come and pick me up and we’d go driving around and hang out to cheer me up.
They never came.
I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to the ER by my parents who believed I was suicidal. I was forced to strip naked and be examined by a nurse, who was also a classmates mother who I had known for years. I was then also examined by a doctor who was the father of another classmate. I had to talk to a therapist on the phone at 2am because it was snowing really hard and the therapist couldn’t make the drive down from Kalamazoo. I was eventually released from the ER after almost 6 hours, feeling humiliated and more miserable than ever, and forced to see a therapist a few days later for one session to make sure I was okay.
It was the beginning of a long ride through rock bottom for me.
For weeks afterward, my mother would walk into the bathroom while I was changing, pretending to do other tasks while she searched by body for signs of self-harm.
I had been betrayed by my friends, and that cut more deeply than any sharp object could. I had reached out for love and support from my friends and had been given embarrassment and suffering instead. At the time, I was livid, but so desperate for friendship that I let them back in. However it took a long time for me to be able to fully trust them again. In hindsight I know that it wasn’t betrayal but rather teenage kids trying to help another teenage kid with something over their heads in the only way they knew how.
I knew I wanted to be free from self-harm. I didn’t know how to do it, so I began keeping track of how long it had been since that night. A week passed. Then a month. Then a year.
So now, here I am. Ten years later. I honestly never thought I would be able to say that. I knew I would struggle – and struggle I did. I had the support of a lot of friends through the hardest times, which were the first few months afterwards. (At that time, I didn’t know that part of my problem was undiagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder, which I began treating in 2012).
I adopted a “fake it til you make it” attitude to get me through, and that was a large part of my success. Did I have my life all together and figured out? No way. But I told myself that I did. I would tell myself that I had it together and that I was succeeding and beautiful and happy until I slowly started to believe those things for real.
With each passing year, it got a little easier to resist the pull to harm myself. There were times where I nearly failed – but I didn’t. I held fast to the belief that if I just held on, that I would get through – and I did.
While compiling this entry and reading through old journals for reference, I found this that I had written two months after the last time I self-harmed:
if i have already felt this much pain at seventeen, then what shit will i have faced/be facing when i am twenty-six or thirty-four or fifty or eighty?
I’ve faced so much since I wrote that ten years ago. I dated a man who was sexually and emotionally abusive, and it shaped so much of who I am as a person. I found and married the love of my life. I was diagnosed with diabetes. I started my own business and have traveled all over the country to do what I love. I received several promotions at work, where I do a job I never thought I’d be doing. I dedicated myself to an extremely strict church for the better part of a decade. I’ve faced my seasonal depression head-on.
And that’s all by age 26. I can’t vouch for 34, 50, or 80 yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got it on lock. If not, I’m going to keep faking it until I make it.
If I can do it, you can do it.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, or just need someone to talk to, please reach out to one of the resources listed below. You are important and we need you here with us.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (available 24 hours per day)
Suicide Hotlines by State: suicide.org
Crisis text line: Text message GO to 741741
Additional resources: To Write Love On Her Arms