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The Mental Scars Self-Harm Left Me With

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. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

It hasn’t been an easy journey, but it has been close to three years since the last time I self-harmed. Many of my scars are fading, and I feel like I have so many freedoms I didn’t have throughout the time I was doing these behaviors. The problem is that while the physical scars are going away, the mental ones are still etched into my brain. 

It’s easy enough to say I’ve been self-harm free for some time, but I don’t feel like I can say I’m free from self-harm.

I don’t remember the last day I went without thinking about self-harm. Some days, the thoughts are less intrusive than others, but they haven’t completely gone away. I still cringe when I hear or read or say the word “cut” because it feels too harsh, like an action instead of a word. Any time I see a tool I used to use, I can’t help but feel powerless for a fleeting moment before I can convince myself I am in charge now. 

To anybody not looking too closely, the markings on my body are nearly invisible, but the issue is that I’m the one who most often has to look closely at myself. Whenever I look down or in a mirror, I am reminded of the painful things I felt in the past. Whenever I am not wearing something on my wrist, I feel naked and self-conscious. Whenever I wear a two-piece bathing suit, I feel a tinge of panic that somebody will notice or ask questions. My scars are connected to a web of feelings, and every time I see the marks I made, those feelings come back.

It doesn’t just happen when I look at myself. Whenever I see someone else’s marks, I’m hit with a surge of emotions – sadness, anger and worst of all jealousy. Sometimes, it feels like I didn’t do it enough. I feel as though I have to do more to prove I was really that sick. Those are some of the hardest moments for me, and a lot of times, I panic — worried that this time my recovery will crumble around me, out of my control.

But through all of this, through the hovering hands and the thoughts of “just one more time wouldn’t hurt,” I have to keep reminding myself that it truly and honestly isn’t worth it. I keep a countdown app on my phone to motivate me when I’m at my lowest. Looking at the number of days since I last self-harmed climbing higher and higher not only gives me a feeling of accomplishment, but the thought of having to start the clock all over again gives me just the amount of hesitation to let me really consider what I’m about to do and choose not to do it.

Recovery will never be easy. I don’t know what the future holds, and I don’t know if somewhere down the line I’ll relapse. If that ever happens, I’ll just have to remind myself I don’t have to let one time turn into more, and it doesn’t mean I’ve failed at recovery. Sometimes, even if you’re on the right path there are stumbling blocks in the road, but you just have to pick yourself up and keep going until the road ahead seems clear at last.

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

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via L-house