April 11th, 2013 was the day I decided never to self-harm again. I carry that date. I celebrate every 11th. I’ve never been prouder than when it became midnight and April 11th, 2014 began and I was still free of it. A whole year and now plus some.
I’ve never formally confessed to having a self-harm problem; if you even classify it as problem. This counts as my confession I suppose. I don’t tell most of the people I know. My parents never knew (and still don’t). Nor my brother. A small group of friends knows now. A boyfriend knew when it started. I was a sophomore in high school. I was always very outwardly happy for most of my early high school years. I was bubbly, bright, talkative, and energetic. I would dance around the house while I did any chores, I would happily do my homework and turn it in on time, I loved school, I wasn’t bullied, I was involved, I had a job, and I had great friends and family. I can’t think of a single thing I had a real reason to be upset about. Nothing horribly tragic had happened to me ever.
But I was hopelessly unhappy and frustrated inside. The only way I can think to describe it, is that I was lost in a maze inside my head that I could not get out of. I loathed myself. No matter how many friends or family supported and loved me, I hated who I was on a cellular level. Every interaction I had with any person was shadowed with negative feedback in my brain. I was shouting at myself, internally, that I was not fine, and I was not normal, and I was a terrible person who didn’t deserve friendship, love, or recognition. I would run around that mental maze and desperately try and find a light at the end, but instead I talked myself into darker corners every time. Actual confrontation, as life provides, would kill me. It didn’t matter if someone had wronged me, because my mind had convinced me before an apology could even be issued that I was the one truly at fault. If I weren’t so stupid, if I weren’t so awkward, if I weren’t so ugly… the list was never ending.
I had heard of the eraser game in middle school. It was stupid. My sassy middle-school-self dismissed the idiots around me playing it and thought I was above such silly, and clearly painful, games. I somehow had tucked that away until high school. I didn’t want to draw blood, I was scared of dying no matter how much I wanted to just fade away at the time. Instead I rubbed and scratched at my skin with an eraser until it had gone deep enough to sting constantly. I would immediately shower. I would hold the “wound” under the steaming hot water to make it hurt worse. And I felt better. Instead of feeling like bursting at the seams and wanting to bang my head against a wall repeatedly, I felt better. I focused all my hatred on the stinging skin and I felt better. It was almost a “you got what you deserved” feeling.
I hid the very first one like a well-kept secret. It was tiny anyhow. I remember having to lift up my sweatshirt sleeve in biology class to do a dissection and hoping that no one noticed, still feeling slightly embarrassed by it, and yet, no one did notice. I figured I was in the clear. I told my boyfriend at the time what had happened and he didn’t seem the least bit concerned, citing that he didn’t want to impede upon my free-will by telling me stop. And we never discussed it again. If someone I had been dating for several years and considered my best friend didn’t think it was a big deal, surely it wasn’t. Good. I was okay again.
Then it continued. I don’t remember the second, or the third, or so on and so forth; but I know little lines of pinker skin still line both my wrists, one of my ankles, and stomach. I came up with the most ridiculous excuses as to what they were from. Rug burn. Bracelets. A plate was too hot at the restaurant I worked at. And people bought them. And even though my personal life and relationships were actually declining, because I was getting more and more lost, for those small moments I was alright and I was getting what I surely had coming.
It continued all throughout high school. I would add in drinking occasionally. I would smoke cigars or hookah whenever I could because it felt like that was even something to fix the way I was feeling. I made poor, poor choices as to who I hung out with and chose to date, and seeing as though my three year high school romance ended, I was free to do whatever. It was awful. I still loathed myself and would do whatever to remedy it. I carried my habits to college. I refused to drink or party, though, because I knew deep down that I was really just self-medicating. How I didn’t see the difference between the self-harm medicating a deeper issue and the partying medicating a deeper issue, I’m not sure. And it continued. I wanted to stop but I knew no other solution. I had asked my parents to go to therapy, but they saw a happy, healthy daughter (which was what I had wanted them to think anyway) and asked lots of questions as to why I needed to talk to a therapist. Their questions were justified but I didn’t want to reveal the answers.
I finally had enough in March of 2013. I had carved two lines on my stomach because I just knew I was fat. I needed to stop eating so much and this was how I was going to do it; with nagging pain that reminded me not to eat. At the time I was absolutely a healthy weight, but my mind never let me see that. I had started seeing someone new and I wouldn’t let him see my stomach or touch it. He was so baffled as to why I had this weird fear of both things. I really liked him, and he knew there was something I was hiding. It sounds pretty cheesy, but I knew it needed to end. College had given me a fresh start and I was determined to take that opportunity and run with it. I told him and he cared a lot. For the first time, I truly, truly realized how absolutely backwards my thinking and coping process had been. It needed to stop.
Once the marks on my stomach healed, I pushed myself to stop. That was April 11th, 2013. I haven’t done it since. That’s not to say there have been days where I feel an itch to do it again or where I haven’t felt very lost, even still, and wanted an easy way to deal. I started seeing an on campus therapist for free that didn’t require parental consent. Her name was Annie. She talked me through a lot and got positive words into my mind again. I hadn’t been happier than around the time my freshman year of college ended since I could remember. I had started taking anxiety medication, saw a therapist once a week or so, and told people. I had new friends I had met at school and they knew. I now have people who know my past, accept it, and help me with it. I still have days where I struggle and I cave in on myself, but the difference is now I know how to deal and I have people who care enough to work me through it.
On April 11th, 2014 I had never, ever been prouder. My roommates took me to get ice cream. It was a beautiful day outside and I was truly happy in that perfect moment. I live with having anxiety and knowing I wasn’t always wise in handling it. But I carry 4/11/13 with me everywhere and know I’ve made the absolute best decision I ever could have made for myself. To this day, life couldn’t be better. If anyone ever feels similar, know that someone does care. I promise they do. And it does get better. I can personally guarantee it. I wrote this because of that. Because, whether it be my choice to hide my problems, or I made them known and they were dismissed; I did not know that other people had these same problems. I thought I was alone and that added fuel to my self-loathing. If you read this, and you feel this way, you aren’t alone. You can be so much happier than you are right now. Make today your date and be proud to carry that moment with you for all the days to come.