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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.