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Shannon Purser from 'Stranger Things’ Shares Message About Self-Harm Recovery on Twitter

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Just in case you didn’t love Barb enough, now you’ve got another reason. Shannon Purser, the actress who plays Barb on “Stranger Things,” tweeted an image of an old razor she used for self-harm. “I haven’t self-harmed in years, but I kept this around, ‘just in case,’” the actress shared via Twitter on Monday. “I forgot it was there & now it’s in the trash.”

In a follow-up tweet, Purser also added some words of encouragement for her fans: “Recovery is possible. Please don’t give up on yourself.”

 

Since posting to Twitter, hundreds of people have thanked Purser for sharing her experience — many chiming in with their stories of recovery as well.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you or a loved one are currently struggling with self-harm, here are some resources that might help:

To Write Love on Her Arms

Self-Injury Outreach and Support

Or, if you need help now, please reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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To the Student Still Awake in Your Dorm Room Afraid to Ask for Help

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Editor’s note: This post discusses self-harm and suicidal thoughts. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Dear 18-year-old self,

Right now you are wrapped in your dirty dorm room sheets. It’s 5 a.m. Your roommate is sleeping soundly, taunting you with her snores. You know that in three hours, the sun will rise and you’ll be expected to attend your 8 a.m. class. Only you know you won’t be there.

Instead of taking notes on paper with pencil, you’ve spent the week marking up your abdomen with razor marks. Instead of answering multiple choice questions like the average college student you hoped you could be, you’ve etched lines into your hips and thighs like you’re trying to communicate some message to yourself.

I wish I could’ve been there with you to help you figure all this out.

You’ve been suicidal for months now. You’ve been suicidal in years past, too, but this year’s been the hardest. It’s January, and the trees are bare of leaves. Darkness falls early in the afternoon. You grow resentful of the pigeons who can escape your 11th story window, the one that opens only a few inches — the one that makes it feel like you’re suffocating. Not even a month into the semester and you are failing all of your classes. There is a moat of trash around your bed. You stay in sweatpants and skip your showers.

Since orientation, you’ve thumbed through the college information booklet on serval occasions, your trembling finger resting on the page with the counseling center’s phone number.

Of course, you don’t call. You’re too scared.

You’re worried that once you ask for help things will never be the same again. They won’t be. You’ll need to put life on pause for a bit while you learn to live again. And this does mean some scary things, like inpatient and intensive outpatient hospitalization. It means swallowing pills, and it means looking into your parents’ faces and telling them, “I’m not OK.” It means resting up and resuming school only when you’re ready.

You’re worried that, once again, you won’t get a straight answer about what’s “wrong with you.” You won’t. Yes, you’ll receive a diagnosis. But you’ll learn this is no recipe to feeling safe and sane. You’ll discover that even with the right medication, life’s stresses and changing seasons can make it hard to find stability and balance. But you’ll eventually learn to read the signs, to lean right when the world pulls you left.

You’re worried that once you get treatment you’ll “screw up” your recovery and have to repeat the cycle of getting well all over again. You will. You’ll question your diagnosis and your therapists. On more than one occasion, you’ll refuse to take your medications. You will blame your illness on the doctors, blame it on your mom, blame it on societal stigma. It will take years before you can comfortably put the blame where the blame belongs: on your brain.

You’re worried this will be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do in your life: Walking past the Dunkin’ Donuts, turning right onto Tremont Street, and making that left-hand turn into the building that houses the counseling office. And it will be.

When you cross the threshold into the waiting room, you’ll immediately break down and cry. Splotchy tears will create wet marks on your purple shirt, and snot will run out of your nose. The concerned receptionist will call for someone to see you right that moment. You will shiver and shake as you explain the silence of struggling with mental illness for the past six years. The intake therapist intake therapist will nod, take rapid, scrawling notes, and hand you a box of tissues. When you leave, you’ll feel like you’re made of rubber.

So, I know this might not sound so appealing right now. But believe me — please — it is worth it.

It is worth it because you will come out of this whole thing stronger than ever before. You will become empathetic; you will become resilient. And hey, if nothing else, you will have a story to tell. You’ll be able to talk openly with others who have been in your shoes, and you will heal through the once-unspeakable conversations you’ll have. The world will eventually turn from gray to light. This is somehow not impossible.

It is worth it to seek help because, even though you have done nothing but aimlessly surf the internet for four days straight this week, in less than a decade you will have done all these things: You will have completed college with a Bachelor’s degree; you will have skydived, traveled to London, been a barista, and seen Florida and Chicago. You will even get a full-time job and see your older sister get engaged. Most importantly, your family and friends will have you in their lives to hug and laugh with, and you will have them to hug and laugh with, too.

In a few hours, the sun will come up. There will be dark bags under your eyes, and the places where you’ve hurt yourself overnight will groan in pain. I’m sad I can’t wipe away those sores for you, but I’m happy they can heal in time. I’m here to tell you that you can do this, that you are strong enough to do this, and that you deserve every minute of the life that’s ahead of you. Especially the good ones.

Love,

Your 25-year-old self

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Clawing My Way Back After a Self-Harm Relapse

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Before yesterday, the last time I self-harmed was 43 weeks and four days ago. Almost a year. That’s a pretty good streak for me compared to my adolescence when the longest I could go was three months. Yet, still every time I relapse, I can’t help but feel like a failure.

I’ve worked so hard to combat the underlying mental illnesses and childhood traumas that fuel this behavior. I’ve been to therapists. I’ve developed coping skills. I’ve learned how to assertively ask for what I need. I’ve downloaded apps to help me calm down and challenge the unrelenting thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness that swarm my brain. I’ve tried medication and stopped medication when its side effects were more trouble than they were worth. I’ve battled, tirelessly, to become a stable-seeming, 30-something mental health professional, wife and mother.

The urge to self-harm has been building for some time, going unnoticed until I was triggered yesterday. I’ve had monthly panic attacks, but I coped. I’ve questioned how much I am loved, but I coped. Then, little by little, I started breaking. I began acting out in destructive ways, ways that hurt people who I care about.

Ultimately, I began to see myself as unlovable and worthless again. I lost hope that I would feel loved and worthwhile again. I ruminated over every mistake I made as I struggled with my emotions. I began to blame myself for struggling and believed I deserved it. I did what I do when I feel this way, and I can’t make it stop. I cut. I still have the urge to continue. Shame does not help with healing.

Yet, I am determined to stop seeing this relapse as a failure. I am determined to start over on a streak of being “clean” and make it last longer than 43 weeks and four days this time. I called my insurance company for a psychiatric referral. I used “I” statements with my husband, asking him to send me encouraging or funny messages while he is out of town. I downloaded a sobriety counter to help me keep track of how long I go without self-harming. I downloaded more coping skills apps and actually used them. I began to draw in my sketchbook.

In time, I’ll be stable again. If you also self-harm, then you should know relapse is not failure. You can claw your way back too. Let’s do it together.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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When You Almost Relapse Into Self-Harm

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Editor’s note: This post contains language around self-harm and may be triggering. 

Personally, it seems easier to admit to a relapse into self-harm than it is to admit to almost relapsing into self-harm. This probably seems off to those who have not experienced it before, and that’s why we should discuss relapse and almost-relapse when it comes to self-harm.

Before going any further, I’ve accepted that for me, self-harm is an addiction. Meaning, just like with any other addiction, there are triggers and temptations that come with it. Self-harm varies in type, from cutting and burning oneself to pulling out hair and interfering with old wounds healing. When an urge to self-harm takes over your mind, you either have to give in or know you’ll have to fight it until that thought finally decides to leave you at peace. The thought of relapse can be horrifying, though relapse in itself is completely normal and should not be seen as a negative in terms of long-term recovery.

This is where I must admit that I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who is over three years self-harm free. It’s been over three years, and I still have days where the only thing on my mind is to burn myself. You get to a certain point, and you think it’ll be easier. The triggers won’t be so strong. You’ll be able to use better coping mechanisms. In reality, when thoughts of self-harm hit, you’re stuck.

The past week has been covered in the fog of intrusive, self-harm thoughts. I stayed away from old triggers, but each day I woke up and the first thing on my mind was to harm myself, it got more difficult. I spent a few days in my pajamas and bathing with the lights off because the idea of seeing old scars made me want to feel the way I did when I created those wounds. I was spending what little energy I had on trying to distract myself.

I knew if I relapsed, I could go back. I could go back to hiding the wounds and wearing a metaphorical mask so I could leave the house and play the part of being social. Even after all this time, I remember how it felt. I could get my release through self-harm and then continue my life as though nothing had happened at all. I could go back, I had done it before. During the fog days, I wanted to go back. I wanted to go back so badly, but I didn’t.

I could say I didn’t relapse because the right song came on at the right time, my mom came home right on cue, the show I was binge-watching was too exciting, my cat needed attention, the dog needed out, my friend sent me a text, but it was none of these things. Sometimes, there is no reason. I have no reason as to why I did not relapse into self-harm this past week.

One day I woke up, and the first thought I had was about coffee. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief, and a weight was lifted. The fog was gone. The fog was still close, but I was no longer standing in it. But I felt guilty. The guilt I carried for not telling anyone the thoughts I had and for allowing myself to get so bad again. Guilty and angry because when I looked at my thigh for the next few days I believed there should have been a new wound.

I was angry at myself for not giving into the intrusive thoughts of self-harm because it would have been easier. I can’t explain how hard it is to keep fighting and pushing forward when it makes sense to go back to what you know worked for you once. At one time, self-harm was the go-to answer in my life. Now, there are days it’d be real nice to have a go-to answer or a back-up plan.

It’s been over three years, and I don’t tell people when I almost relapse into self-harm because I’m afraid of what they’ll think of me when I admit there’s a piece of me that misses it. For a while I’ve had a plan on what to do if I relapse, but I still don’t have a plan on what I’m supposed to do in case of the almost. This is a reminder that recovery is a constant, ever-changing part of my life.

We need to create an open dialog when it comes to self-harm as an addiction, because I know I’m not the only one afraid of what others will think when this is shared.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image by Maksym_Vlasenko

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Don't Ignore the First Scratch

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Editor’s noteIf you struggle with suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

I was 14 when I first tried self-harm. All I could manage to do was make a scratch across the palm of my hand. That’s where it started, one scratch. Then, they would go on my arms. I would make a hatch sort of pattern, going horizontal and then diagonal. I wanted help, but I didn’t know how to get it.

Then, I started burning. I learned how to cut deeper. I self-harmed in places people could see but became more discrete as I got older. Often, I would tell people it was my cat. Then, when I was 17, I took my antidepressants out of my bedroom drawer and swallowed them. That was the first time I was hospitalized, but it wasn’t the last.

I have been hospitalized four times. The last time was this year, 2016. I’ve been through so much pain, so many meds. I’ve seen so many doctors and had so many diagnoses. So many times I’ve lost the will to live. So many times I’ve just wanted destruction. I chose to harm myself rather than nurture myself. Now, after so many years, trying to love myself again almost feels impossible.

I’m 19 now. I can go months without self-harm now but sometimes I give in. Sometimes, I just need to see my blood. I have a reward chart. When I go a certain number of days without self-harm of any kind, cutting, purging or drinking half a bottle of vodka, I reward myself. As I am writing this, it has been 27 days since I have self-harmed. There was a time when I was getting into the upper hundreds.

I remember that first scratch when I was 14. I remember exactly what it looked like. Now, I look down at my thighs. I see old white scars. I see pink. I see red. I see the ones that had to have stitches. I see the ones that needed them but didn’t get them. I see the most recent ones, angry red. I see an ugly work of art I cannot erase. These scars will always be with me.

This year, I turn 20. I want to love myself. I want my scars to fade and I don’t want to create anymore. I want to live. Maybe, when people are being “attention seeking” it’s because they need it. Desperately, I know I did. I know I made that first scratch for a reason.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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3 Pieces of 'Advice' I Don't Want to Hear as Someone Who Self-Harms

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As a child, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression shortly after my maternal grandmother passed away. As a teenager, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder on top of the anxiety and depression. As an adult, I got yet another diagnosis to add to my “collection.” I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after being caught on fire, years upon years of bullying and an abusive relationship that was abusive in every way imaginable. On top of all this, I had self-harming tendencies.

As a teenager, my family assumed I would “grow out of it” or “get over it.” Much to their dismay, neither one of which ever happened the way they had anticipated. At 30 years old, my husband had me admitted into a psychiatric facility because of my self-harmimg. While I was in the hospital, I decided against my better judgment to reach out to my family and tell them what was going on. I told them I was in the hospital for hurting myself, that it wasn’t deep or a lot, but my husband feared for my safety and felt it was in my best interest to have me evaluated.

As someone who was in a fragile state of mind, I was hoping my family would be understanding. Well, that isn’t exactly how it worked. One member of my family actually said to me, “You’re to old to be doing this! You’re 30 f***ing years old! Grow up!”

I’m sorry… come again? Grow up? In my mind that’s quite possibly one of the worst things you can say to someone who cuts. 

So, how about we go over “bad advice” and the reason this advice is so detrimental when it comes to self-harm.

Don’t say: “Grow up”/”Get over it/yourself.”

Reason: This implies the person self-harming is behaving immaturely. This also (to some) comes off as saying that their thoughts/feelings are not right. 

Don’t Say: “Your life isn’t that bad.”

Reason: First of all, you don’t know firsthand what demons your friend or family member are dealing with on a daily basis. This can make them feel as if their pain (be it mental or physical) is being over-exaggerated in their mind. Like they are blowing a (most likely) devastating situation completely out of proportion.

Don’t Say: “You’re just doing this for attention”

Reason: This is seriously no better then telling someone “Your life isn’t that bad.” This, once again, makes them feel invalidated in their mental health struggles. Some people may self-harm because it is the only way they feel any control in their life. 

There are so many other ways to approach someone who has resorted to self-injury. Ask them why they feel the need to hurt themselves. But do it with no judgement. Let them know they aren’t alone in their battle. Show them compassion and understanding. When I realized I had a support network (though it was small, some is better than none) it helped tremendously to hear I had someone in my corner to fight off my inner monsters. To know someone actually cared weather I lived or died, to know I wasn’t alone… that was what was needed more than anything.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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