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When Asking for Help for Self-Harm Brings Fear of Shame and Judgment


“Help this to not be a game for her, Lord. Help her to seek you with her whole heart.”

My eyes popped open to see my small group leader’s face tilted up toward heaven, eyes tightly closed, hand heavy on my shoulder. Heavy like the words of the confession I had just murmured in her ear at the front of the church during a call for healing — “I struggle with cutting.”

To me, games include softball, soccer and pinball.

Self-harm was not a game to me. The scars. The box cutters I bought, hid and threw away in a hopeless cycle. The fear I felt when I broke my promises to never do it again.

I wasn’t having fun, and if this was a game, the only thing I wanted to do was figure out how to win — to never hurt myself again.

When her eyes opened, I saw how she gazed at me warily. The same way my family member’s eyes had clouded when I whispered that I needed help. Then she asked, “Why would you destroy yourself like that?”

I didn’t know. But it seemed like asking for help brought shame and judgment. It was like if I couldn’t get better, I could at least keep my problem from skewing the way other people saw me. Silently, I watched my scars accumulate under layers of clothing and a smile.

And my story could have continued in silence. I could have been too ashamed to speak — too scared to ask for help — but I’m grateful every day that it didn’t. I’m grateful to the therapist who waited out my silence, for being the first person who did not cringe when I finally admitted my struggle.

I’m also grateful for the people who share their stories. Stories I read on support websites before I could muster the courage to share my own. I hope if you’re reading this and struggling, you know that you deserve healing and hope. You might not find the support you need the first time you ask, but that doesn’t mean you should stop asking. It means the people you asked were not equipped to help you.

Asking for help is an act of bravery, the best way to love yourself, the first step in your journey toward healing.

You deserve that.

So ask. Ask until you find what you need.

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 Maria Kuznetsova


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