I’m a dwarf who self-harms herself. I can’t help but feel that one sentence opens up the possibility for so many questions. “Why do you cut?” “Is it because of your dwarfism?” “Soo..how tall are you exactly?” As of 2009 there was a very rough average of about 30,000 people living in the United States. Given that was about 6 years ago, it can be assumed that number has gone up a little bit. But still, that only makes up a small percentage of this population, as a result our numbers are few and far between. I live near the highest populated city in the state of Michigan but I still stick out like a sore thumb with my uniqueness. Not at first of course, because I’m 4’ tall and people never notice what’s right under their noses. It’s when I’m close by and naturally within hearing distance of the comments that I’m discovered.
In my first sentence I also admitted that I’m a self-harmer as well. To answer one question that may be going through people’s minds, no I don’t self-harm primarily because I’m a dwarf. I have what I’ve come to think of as undiagnosed depression and anxiety. Does my dwarfism play a factor sometimes? Of course it does. I’m a rarity and the world is not a nice place. People sometimes feel a sense of privilege when they’re around someone who’s different and this seems to think they have the right to make whatever comments they feel like and take all the pictures they want. If I’m having a bad day and a stranger decides to impart their wisdom to me about being the size of a 10 year old then yes, that can become a trigger to lead me to hurt myself. Does it happen often? No it does not.
Self-harm is something that millions of people of all ages suffer from. Whether they go public with their struggle or keep it hidden, it’s always going to be there. I shared my story 4 years ago at a leadership conference where I was giving a presentation. I became tired of having to make up lies about my scars to my friends and realized that someday they were going to figure out whether I told them or not. Since I’ve shared my story that first time, I’ve spoken at several middle/high schools and college events about my story because I wanted people to see that there is hope and support if you’re struggling with a mental illness. Each time I shared it was painful, this isn’t easy. But I my best friend/presentation partner by my side before, during, and after each one to help pick up the pieces I left scattered behind on the stage. However, even though I present on this topic, I am in no way an expert at the different factors that come into play, nor am i a counselor/therapist. I’m merely a vessel to hopefully help give someone the courage to come forth to a loved one about their struggles by sharing my story.
Whenever I give a presentation, I never say my dwarfism is one of the triggers. I’ve only met a few other dwarfs in my lifetime, and I’ve discovered that a tall person can’t really relate to the struggles that someone of short stature my face on a daily basis. The main trigger my dwarfism brings about is when someone comes up to me and automatically thinks less of me just because I’m small. They assume I’m learning impaired, or just can’t do the tasks they may need at that moment. I remember while I was at work one day I had an older gentleman come up to me and he immediately started making short jokes and trying to get me to agree with him about the negatives of going to college. After not laughing at any of his jokes and calmly telling him that I had just graduated from a Michigan university with my bachelor’s in teaching this past May he quickly stopped talking and made up some excuse to get away from me.
I wish I could say that these instances don’t happen often but they do unfortunately. Since moving to a bigger city, I’ve discovered that people aren’t as open minded as I naively thought they would be. I’ve actually had a lot more comments thrown my way and people have been much more blatant/rude about isolating me from the “giants” that I’m surrounded by and putting me into my own category. It’s made me much harder/stubborn/determined to prove myself because I need to get people to see past the lack of height and focused on my experiences to even have a chance at being taken seriously in this world.
Now, all of this is not to say that my story is over. I’m roughly one month clean of harming myself currently and still stand at a solid, proud 4’. Self-harm has the potential to become like any addiction, making it hard to ever be fully free from it. Even though I haven’t hurt myself, my thoughts still stray to it often. If something triggers a negative emotion, it’s hard for me to fully let go of that negativity and my thoughts stray to harming myself because I know it will bring relief for a brief time as biology has shown. It’s very easy to fall back into a cycle of self-harm, what become difficult is the detox from it and the aftermath because this leaves behind marks that are visible to the people who know where to look.
I have yet to figure out why I was born a dwarf. But I don’t believe that it was an accident from genetics. The day I do figure it out completely, will be a day the world will change and begin to see life from a lower point of view.