It’s taken so long to realize some things about myself – things I thought were normal. There are certain emotions, thoughts, and feelings that I am just so used to thinking and feeling that they’ve become part of me.
My self-esteem is being whittled away, piece by piece – the marks invisible to an untrained eye.
“You’re stupid.” Slice.
“Look at everyone else, they’re way ahead of you.” Nick.
“Ugh, why do you even bother looking in the mirror?” Cut.
“Cripes woman, why the hell are you even trying? It’s not like it’s gonna get you anywhere.” Slash.
It’s just a small sample of the things I’ve told myself over the years. In twenty-three years of life, I have never once seriously congratulated myself for anything I’ve done.
Doesn’t matter that I was in the gifted program or was constantly told what big, pretty eyes I had or if someone told me I was cute: I still felt black, inky, sticky, dirty, utterly filthy, and undeserving of anything even remotely complimentary.
I am my own biggest critic.
It’s never been a fair critic; it’s always been like this wave of self-loathing and mental self-injury being thrown at me like arrows to blot out the sun.
So why do I do this? How did I learn it? Did I learn it from someone?
To those questions, I have no answer.
Two days ago, I had a panic attack so severe it left me passed out for several hours. I literally blacked out from my own fears and anxieties.
The next morning (yesterday) when I woke up, I knew something had to change. I started making a list of all the positives and negatives about myself. To my surprise, the positives outweighed the negatives. I was happy about that; it made me cry, but it felt good.
This morning, I was attacked – beaten and bitten. My brother and our parents saved me; they chased away the fucker. If it hadn’t been for them, I probably wouldn’t be here. More than likely, I’d still be baking in an unusually warm winter sun, waiting for a fridge in the morgue.
It makes me think, “If I’m so horrible, why did these wonderful people come riding in like the white knights to slay the dragon”?
The answer: They love me more than I love myself.
And that was a hard pill to swallow. I accept so much, yet give myself so little. When you hate yourself, you starve yourself of love, and a human cannot be without love – not a thing on this Earth can be without love.
So here I sit, beaten, battered, bitten, and bloody, telling each and every one of you who cares to read this, do NOT hate yourself.
Do not wake up and realize that someone loves you more than you love yourself because all you’re doing is killing yourself. It’s not the same as taking a bottle of pills or loading up a gun, but the effect is much slower and so much more painful.
It’s a battle, learning to love anyone. It’s so much harder to love yourself: you know each and every aspect of yourself (God willing), strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices.
Please don’t let a near-death experience be your wake up call. Please don’t let it get so bad that you think it might not be too bad, because it is.
Learn to love yourself, because you are the only person that can’t leave or be taken away. Have the faith in yourself to love and be loved.
Wherever that faith may take you.
It was with a loud crash that she hit the floor, her knees gone weak with fear. “Help,” she cried, to no one in particular, a sort of mangled prayer to a god she never once believed in.
“Help me,” she whispered, hoping to see someone there, yet there was nothing but vast darkness, her hands clenched tightly.
There was a hollowness in her soul, an icy chill that ran through her veins when she hit this point. The bottom, again, a place she promised to stay away from, spun so quickly up to greet her. “Help me,” again she whispered, desperate.
The cold steel seemed to awaken in her hand. It was so strong, so faithful, and so delicate. She closed her eyes, tears falling hot and fast, such opposition to the cold running through her heart. One line, then another, cutting across her flesh.
“Help,” she whispered, partially to her ever trusty blade, partially to the blood now trickling down. It was warm like her tears, and safe, a reminder that she was real.
Exhausted, she wept.
This was never how it was supposed to be.
I haven’t told many people about this. Very few know any details. My husband knows the gist of it, but not all of it.
I was around 15 years old and I’d already spent time battling my personal demon. It was named Self-Harm and it came armed with a blade and a lighter.
I swallowed a bottle of… something. I can’t remember what. They had me on so many different medications. They wanted to “fix” me. The mutilation scared my parents. Not, of course, enough to try anything beyond anonymous prayer requests to the church group and a random assortment of pills. That, along with attempts, pleading with me to just stop and shaming me for my behavior, was supposed to be my “miracle cure.”
I don’t remember what finally tripped the trigger and pushed me to that point. Was it an argument? A particularly bad day? I don’t know. I can’t remember.
I remember being rushed to the ER. I remember the staff being unable to get a tube down into my stomach. I remember vomiting, repeatedly, every time they tried. Eventually they stopped trying and handed me a big mug of some charcoal mixture and told me to drink it.
Afterward, I had to stay in the ICU for 24 hours. I should have been sent to the local Psych unit for 72 hours. But I wasn’t. The doctor came in and talked to me.
He made me promise not to do this again, patted me on my head, handed me another prescription, and sent me off.
And that was it.
I went home.
I saw a “Christian Counselor” (despite religion being one of the major things my parents and I fought about) a handful of times over the next six months. My medication was changed a few more times. I can’t even remember everything we tried.
And that was it.
I stopped taking the medication when it was “mutually decided” I should move out.
I struggled with depression and other issues off and on for the next three or four years. It wasn’t until after the birth of my son and my second bout of Paranoid Personality Disorder that I started taking medication regularly or seeing a counselor on a regular basis.
I wonder how things would have turned out if they’d been handled differently way back then?
Between 2 and 3 million people in the US alone self-injure.
This is her experience.
I just want to start out by telling you about the gift God has so graciously provided me: I have an awesome, incredible, beautiful, rambunctious three-year old named Libby. She is my everything. Her smile, laugh, voice, everything about her makes me wake up in the morning with a smile on my face. She is my best friend, my ally, my stepping stone to true happiness.
We were sitting on the couch watching TV, and she was holding my arm with her hand.
She asked, “What happened, Mama?” when she saw my scars. I was in shock. I quickly changed the subject because she has the attention span of, well, a three-year old.
But I couldn’t get it off my mind. I know if you’re my friend or have ever been around me, you must have seen them. They are pretty noticeable. I’ve never tried to hide them; there’s no point.
I started cutting myself for the first time when I was 18 and a senior in high school. I was in a bad spell. This was before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder.
I lost almost 20 pounds in three weeks, I cut all my hair off, I spent hours locked up in my room, and I felt so… numb. Lost. Hurting so badly inside. I felt stupid that I was so upset and depressed. I thought I was crying for no reason, that I was being a dramatic girl.
So, I tried self-injury one night. It felt like a world full of black and white suddenly went colorful. I finally felt the pain on the outside that I was so desperately feeling on the inside.
I continued cutting.
It felt good and I loved doing it to myself, as narcissistic as that sounds. I didn’t do it for attention, necessarily. Maybe sub-consciously I did; I can’t really be sure. I didn’t do it to try and kill myself, either. It gave me reason for hurting. It gave me actual scars instead of the ones on my brain and on my heart. Real battle wounds instead of the ones I could only speak of. I used to hide in my closet for hours and self-injure a little at a time.
The closet is my safe haven in my brain. Whenever I’m super upset about something – when it’s really bad – I hide in my closest, most of the time with no lights on, and I cry. I try not to, but the reason I go to the closet is that is where I used to hide when my father would beat the hell out of my mom. I would go in there, ears plugged, eyes closed, and cry.
I stopped cutting after I found out I was pregnant with Libby. I didn’t do it for over three years, until July of this year.
I’d called my then-boyfriend one night, freaking out. I was so lost, in such a dark place, so afraid of myself. I collapsed mentally. He had to carry me out of the closet because I was shaking so hard.
I don’t know how to answer the question to Libs when she asks me again. Honestly, I’m afraid: I’m not supposed to be weak. I’m supposed to be her mom. Her protector. I’m supposed to be her knight in shining armor. How do you explain that to a child? I don’t want to lie to her, but I don’t want her to look at me differently when she’s finally old enough to understand.
Are they battle wounds or are they just a crazy girl’s self-inflicted scars?
One warm summer night, after another hell-ish day as a freshmen in high school, I came home to take off my dreaded long sleeves. Usually, one of three black jackets I owned at the time, or my favorite long-sleeved shirt printed with an ode to some marathon my Dad had run many years before. My mother and two sisters had already moved out of this enormous house that my Dad and I lived in now, alone, together.
He was gone this night, at his new girlfriend’s house, and I must have been exceptionally upset. Sparing the most triggering details, I ended up calling him to drive me to the hospital where I received 47 staples between both of my forearms. This wasn’t the first or last time I hurt myself.
Now I am six years “clean,” minus one superficial relapse, and I am struggling for words of encouragement to someone going through what I went through. Number one: Take your pills, even if you feel good. Two: Talk about it. Find a way to put your shame to rest and speak about all the raw emotions that come and go. If you are tired of sweating it out, only to hide your truth, instead use your experience to grow and move forward, and wear short sleeves again.
Sure, they will pester you at first, but even the deepest, widest scars fade with time, and then you can shed the cloak of secrecy with confidence and empathy. That is the greatest thing I earned from my personal suffering: empathy. Having been through rough waters makes one want to be captain of a rescue boat.
I am neglected.
I’m the product of parents who didn’t know how to fulfill my emotional needs.
I alternate between believing both that “my parents gave me everything; I had a happy childhood; I don’t have any reason to be this messed up,” and “my parents emotionally neglected me; I had an awful childhood; no wonder I am this messed up.“
I fantasize about being in the hospital because that seems like the ultimate (and only) way that people might finally see me and care about me. Logically, I know that it’s not true, but my emotional brain is convinced that being sick or hurt is the way to get the love, attention, and care that is not present in my daily life.
I am ashamed.
I’m a 22-year old who is still desperately attached to my mangled childhood stuffed animal, Lambie.
I surreptitiously, but uncontrollably, pull out my own hair. I know have trichotillomania (and dermotillomania while we’re at it), but it’s one of my most shameful “secrets.”
I eat spoonsful of Nutella straight from the jar, and sometimes that will be the only thing I eat for the majority of the day.
I am depressed.
I am pained getting out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to relate to people who casually say, “Yeah, I didn’t want to get up this morning,” but may not understand the gravity of depression. It hurts to the bone.
I have trouble taking my daily antidepressants because a hidden part of me doesn’t believe I’m worthy of feeling better.
I am obsessed with filling my brain with as much information about mental illness as possible. And yet, no matter how much I read books, articles, and studies about eating disorders, depression, anxiety, or impulse-control disorders, I struggle to control my own mental health.
I have a hard time with “I’m depressed.” Maybe because I don’t believe that the real me is just buried under mental illness. It’s more like “I’m a person living with depression.” It has taken so much of my personality and soul out of me, but without depression, I am a lively, joyful girl.
I am taking care of myself (or I’m learning to).
I practically begged my parents to see a therapist, nutritionist, and psychiatrist, when I was only 15 years old. It certainly wasn’t easy, especially because we didn’t talk about anything “emotionally charged,” but I knew that it was a step I had to take in order to alleviate my pain.
I reach out to others when I need it most. Even though I isolate, too, I also know that in moments of desperation, I do instinctively ask for help and support from those I trust.
I treat myself to occasional manicures, special purchases (a dress, a pillow, some art supplies), and a lazy Sunday. As much as my brain tries to trick me into thinking that I am worthless and unlovable, I try to actively do things for myself that remind myself that I deserve care.
I am brave.
I share my story with very few people, but when I do, it is the most rewarding experience. Sharing real experiences and thoughts is how I create deep connections with people.
I moved to Denmark for my first job out of college. I don’t speak the language, I’ve never been away from home for more than four months, and I left my entire support network at home.
I am working full-force in therapy at facing the demons and insecurities I have hidden for years. I am taking charge of my life by learning to be vulnerable, accept my flaws, and love myself in spite of them, and find happiness for the first time in my life.