My own personal story with self-harm began in ninth grade. I can remember sitting in my room feeling overwhelmed and confused. I didn’t know what to do so I turned to self-harm. I had remembered that a friend of mine in seventh grade had struggled with self-harm. I knew how hard it was for her to stop and the pain she went through, but that didn’t stop me from doing it. I was determined not to feel this way, I wanted the pain to end and not to feel so out-of-place. At the time I thought it would be a one-time thing and then I’d be okay. Little did I know I would fall into a pattern of self-harm.
The unknowns and misunderstandings related to mental health lead people to hide what they are feeling. Fear of judgment and shame hold us back. There are misconceptions about most everything in life, but one that sticks out to me most is mental health and how it relates to self-harm. My goal is that through sharing this part of my story, I can help those who are struggling not feel alone as well as help others gain a new perspective on this topic.
Self-harming is often seen as attention-seeking but it is far from that, often times it is very personal as well as private. People that harm themselves may feel very lonely or disconnected and need a shoulder to cry on or someone to listen. Another misconception is that those who self-harm are suicidal. Although this can be the case and prolonged self-harm can increase a person’s risk for suicide and suicidal thoughts, most of the time self-harm is used as a way of coping. Some believe that only teenagers self-harm but this habit can continue into adulthood as well. Self-harm has many addictive qualities due to the fact that every time you harm yourself your body releases endorphins. Telling someone to stop hurting him or herself is like telling a person who drinks coffee every day to just stop. Chances are they can’t.
It wasn’t until later when I opened up about what was going on to a wonderful counselor who supports me was I able to begin controlling my self-harm. Through therapy, help from teachers, family and friends, and the desire to stop this from controlling my entire life, I am now able to go long periods of time without harming myself. Something I have learned and began to accept is that relapses happen. But that does not mean I am – or anyone else is — back at square one. You can continue on, and it will get better.
For anyone reading this, whether you are struggling yourself, know someone who is struggling or just want to get the world out: please share this and reach out to those around you. You never know what battles a person is fighting unless you try and communicate.
Resources for those who self-harm: