It starts small. You see the person you’ve been daydreaming about dating standing a little too close to someone else. You get in trouble with your boss over a mistake you shouldn’t have made. You fail another test that is going to lower your overall grade.
You feel depressed, worthless, useless. Instead of blaming the world, you take the blame yourself. You tell yourself that you’re an idiot for thinking you had a chance with someone out of your league. You tell yourself that you’re an idiot for screwing up such an easy job. You tell yourself that you’re an idiot for thinking you were smart enough to pass that test. Idiot, idiot, idiot.
You cut yourself apart from the inside — but eventually, that isn’t enough.
One day, you get so frustrated that you press your nails deep into your palm. It makes you feel better, so you dig even harder. It gives you something to focus on. It gives you a feeling of control. It gives you a burst of adrenaline.
Besides, you feel like you deserve the pain. You feel like you have earned it. You feel like it’s right.
It becomes a habit, something so small that no one notices. When you’re upset, you dig your nails into your palms or into your thighs or into your arms. You leave little crescents in your skin that fade in an hour. Imperceptible. Harmless. Nothing to talk to a therapist about.
Until it gets worse. You can’t take it anymore, so you hide yourself in the bathroom. You stare into the mirror. You look at yourself but you don’t feel like you’re looking at yourself. You can’t process the fact that the human in the mirror is you. You feel disconnected. Numb. You’re either feeling too much or nothing at all.
You don’t pick up a razor blade though, because you don’t consider yourself someone who self-harms. Instead, you accidentally burn yourself when you’re straightening your hair. Or you use your nails to scrape white lines across your skin. Or you pick at your scabs until they leak pus.
You dislike yourself so much that you don’t think twice about hurting yourself — but only on your upper arms because your sleeves will cover the marks. Or your thighs because you’re always wearing jeans. You touch the spots no one is going to see. The spots that aren’t going to get you thrown into a cushioned room with four white walls.
You tell yourself that you aren’t doing anything that bad. You aren’t making yourself bleed. You aren’t covered in scar tissue. So you’re fine. You’re fine. You’re fine.
You feel like you have control over yourself — until something bad happens (your ex changes their relationship status, you overhear your parents fighting, you lose your job, you lose a grandparent, you lose your sanity). In that moment, your impulses take over. You pick up a razor. You cross a line and do what you swore you were never going to do. At that point, you know you need help. You know you can’t keep coping in such a destructive way.
But you don’t need to wait until that line is crossed to talk to a therapist. A parent. A friend. You don’t have to wait to start taking care of yourself. You don’t have to wait to make a change to your lifestyle. You don’t have to wait to love yourself. You don’t have to wait to protect your mental health. You don’t have to wait anymore.