Last week, on July 27th, I celebrated being exactly one year clean of self-harm.
I’m not exactly sure when this habit turned into an addiction. Self-harm has been a problem for me since I was a sophomore in high school. I’ve done my research on the topic, and the scientific side of this addiction is pretty easy to explain. When our bodies experience pain, our brain releases endorphins that calm us down and block out pain. This is why when we are injured traumatically, our bodies go into shock and we can’t feel the pain. Self-harm works in the same way, only on a smaller scale. Anytime I cut myself, I was having an anxiety attack. When I did this, my brain released endorphins to calm my body down. After I was finished cutting, I could breathe again. I would lay down in bed and have a handle on my emotions and what was going on. The emotional side of self-harm isn’t as clear cut or easy to explain. In a lot of ways, I was seeking control. I’ve never truly been able to control my emotions and when I feel out of control in circumstances I tend to panic. This panic would lead to anxiety attacks and I began to believe the only way I could calm down was to self-harm.
My cutting started out small. Tiny little scrapes across my arms. It was something I kept hidden, and didn’t want anyone to know about. I wasn’t doing it for attention or pity. I had no intentions of killing myself. It was just a way for me to cope with my anxieties. Over time it progressively got worse and worse – more cuts, bigger razors. I tried to stop on many occasions, but I would always relapse. I use the word relapse because for me cutting is much like an addiction to a drug – it’s an easy way to handle life when things get tough.
The last time I cut was a disaster. I was in an incredibly vulnerable state. I was dealing with a broken heart and it was worse than I could’ve ever imagined. I was unaware of just how bad it had gotten, and I made a mistake. I went too deep. It was late at night, and I ended up having to wake my parents up. As I stood there in a tear soaked, bloody, snotty mess, my parents did what parents do best – they loved me. My dad cleaned up my cuts while my mom told me what I was experiencing wasn’t love, because love doesn’t make you hurt yourself. She also told me that this bad habit had to stop, and that if it didn’t, I might end up killing myself.
That night was like a wildfire in my life. It started with me and spread out to not just my family but also my close friends, one of whom had to pick me up that night and help me before I woke up my parents. While I talked to my parents, she threw away all of my razors. Her and her family have supported me endlessly and I could never be more thankful to them. So, to the Praters, thank you so much.
Over the past year, what that wildfire touched has slowly been experiencing regrowth. The Grace of God has touched my life in so many ways. I’ve experienced true love – love from family and friends and the love of God. Love that doesn’t make me want to hurt myself, because it never runs out. I am not completely over self-harm. There are still days where it’s hard not to pick up a razor. But on those hard days, I turn to my awesome family, my amazing friends, and my loving Father in Heaven. Without those three things, the regrowth I’ve experienced in a year wouldn’t be possible.
I’m excited to see where I am in another 6 months, and even more excited to see where I am in another year.
After a forest burns down, regrowth is gradual but eventually, the trees grow back, the wildlife returns, and it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful, but there is still marks left behind by the fires of the past.
Much like that forest, I will always have those marks. Both physically and mentally. But now, looking at them, they’re just as beautiful as the rest of the forest. They’re a part of my story, and I wouldn’t change a thing.