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For Those Who Think Self-Harm Makes Them Unworthy of Love

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During my experience with self-harm, it’s safe to say that I never believed I would have a relationship or fall in love, simply because I believed I was unworthy. But then a relationship did happen and I ended up marrying the person of my dreams. I am still struggling to understand how and why this happened to me, when self-harm can make me feel so undeserving of this love. This is a letter to past me, to you and to anyone whose experience with self-harm makes them feel as though they will never experience the relationship they deserve.

Dear you,

Despite the worthlessness you may feel, this is not a true representation of you. Despite the horrors and depths to how much value you may give yourself, remember your perspective is only one. You exist to other people and you also exist beyond your doubts and fears. And these other entities, beyond your pain, they can see you beyond the darkness you feel. They can see your potential to be, the potential in who you already are and therefore your innate value. It’s immensely greater than you could ever imagine.

You are not your condition. Just as you are not a merely common cold when you experience a cold, or just as you are not an apple when you eat an apple, you are not self-harm. You are more than the limitations and pain of self harm, and you exist beyond this one season of your life. You are an accumulation of your values, your experiences, your favorite people, your best memories and the songs you sing along to. You are so much greater than merely one aspect of your life, despite how all encompassing and overwhelming it can be. As my therapist once said to me, “You are a fiancee, a daughter and a friend. This is just something you are experiencing.” You are not limited to the boundaries that self-harm makes you believe you deserve.

You are more than your physical appearance. Self-harm, being a physical manifestation of mental torment, can sometimes harm our bodies in a visible way. Although our bodies are shells and are transport for all of the other aspects of ourselves, they are important. It is OK for somebody to not like your scars, for they may see them as constant reminders of the pain you endure. However, anybody who reduces you merely to your scars is not somebody who deserves to be part of your life. When it comes to a good, healthy relationship, having scars will not make or break that. The scars will simply be.

If somebody else was in your shoes, what would you say? We can all too often be our own greatest critics, our biggest demotivates and largely magnify our flaws. Taking a more outside perspective can often help. We wouldn’t believe that our best friend, sister or second cousin’s neighbor would be prevented from being in a relationship due to their experience with self-harm. This is no different for ourselves. Self-harm does not limit you in the way that your doubts relay to you.

However, it is also important to understand that only you can save yourself. Within relationships, we cannot save each other. It’s crucial that I understand that I cannot cure my husband’s allergies, just as he cannot save me from self-harm. And this knowledge hurts, because all we want to do for the people we love is help them. It can be both frustrating and heartbreaking to learn that we cannot take self-harm away from them. A good partner can support and encourage you. A good partner can be with you while you go through self-harm recovery. They can be someone to cry with, to hold you accountable and to celebrate your successes in recovery too. However, they cannot save you from this journey, as only you are capable of climbing that mountain.

Furthermore, pain echoes. The pain that is the catalyst for your self-harm will in turn be painful for someone close to you. Just as when your best friend, or your dog is upset, that makes you sad too. This isn’t your fault. However, within your role of being a partner, this also means that it is your responsibility to reduce that pain for them. This happens by beginning to heal. By getting professional help, engaging in therapy or learning strategies to mitigate the self harm, this will lessen the pain that you are experiencing, and thus too the pain that echoes within those close to you.

Love from,

A person who is learning to believe she is worthy of love

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.

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

Thinkstock photo via Max5799

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How I Wish I Responded When a Co-Worker Said People Self-Harm for Attention

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

Recently, something happened at work that really struck a chord with me. And when I say “struck a chord,” I mean it really pissed me off.

The other day the topic of cutting came up. A guy I work with was retelling a story about his ex-wife and how she used to cut herself. He said he divorced her because he couldn’t deal with her mental illness. But that wasn’t what made me mad. The comment of another co-worker is what really got to me. Because I’ve heard it before, and each time I do, I get upset.

“The people who cut across their arms are looking for attention and the ones who cut vertically are the ones who really mean it.”

To my surprise, no one laughed — a reaction I have witnessed before. The guy who made the comment then awkwardly said that it was a joke, but then another co-worker followed up with, “Well, it’s pretty true.”

My first reaction to the conversation was to call the guys ignorant, among other things. After a few deep breaths though, I held back those few choice words and just walked away without saying a word. But looking back, I wish I had the courage to say something constructive and insightful about the situation to educate these people on the topic of self-harm, something I struggle with. Although I have been harm-free for over a year and a half, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about doing it when things get tough.

See, when I used to cut myself, I assure you the last thing on my mind was getting attention. After an episode, it would take weeks for my cuts to heal and scar. During those weeks, I would spend hours of my life trying to hide my cuts and scars. Boxes of band aids were used to cover up the evidence. I wore long pants and long sleeves all the time and constantly had to remember to keep my sleeves down, even when I got hot and sweaty while working out. I tried to get the cuts to heal as fast as possible, using every remedy under the sun to make the scars fade. And I made terrible excuses when anyone did happen to see something. It was exhausting. So when someone thinks cutting is done for attention, they are truly mistaken and most likely misinformed about the underlying mental health condition.

If I had wanted attention, I wouldn’t have done any of those things to hide the fact I was hurting. The one time I did bring attention to it and asked for help, it seemed to make things worse. Thankfully things worked out in the end, as I have written about previously, but those experiences, when combined with some people’s ignorance around self-harm, make asking for help harder than ever. This is something I still struggle with today.

For those of you who have never self-harmed or can’t understand why someone would actually do it, the best way I can explain it is that it’s my form of emotional release. For some people, crying is enough; or maybe they scream into a pillow or punch something. Some people ask for help, or have someone to talk to. But for me, when things seemed hopeless, when crying wasn’t enough, when it seemed like I had no one or nothing — cutting provided that release. The emotional release it provides in the moment is no longer worth the guilt and distress that comes after.

Mental illness doesn’t just go away. It is just that — an illness. And unfortunately, that can be a common misconception among people. It’s so frustrating to hear and witness firsthand comments like the ones my co-workers made. But at the same time, it does give me the opportunity to educate others, to make them see the truth and to hopefully change their opinion on mental health and self-harm.

I always say that when I write, if my words touch one person, then I am a successful writer. I hope my words spark something in your mind, or make someone question their views. I want my words to help expand the horizons of others and help educate everyone in some way, shape or form so that one day, no one will make uninformed comments about others who struggle with mental illness.

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.

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

Thinkstock photo via kieferpix

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Why I Decided to Stop Hiding My Self-Harm Scars

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

The remaining white lines are always going to be a reminder of when I felt hurting myself was my only option. A reminder of when I was numb and felt nothing, and felt there wasn’t anything I felt was worth living for.

I didn’t want to die though, I just wanted to feel; to feel something other than nothingness. And that’s what self-harm provided me.

At first, I would feel relief… then anger and sadness because I broke down and did it when I told myself so many times that I wouldn’t.

The following weeks, I would wear long sleeves or long pants to cover up the fresh marks. Sometimes I’d cover them with makeup. I’d do all I could to make it appear as if the marks didn’t exist.

I didn’t want anyone to know. I felt I’d be judged. No one had the slightest idea what I was going through and I didn’t want to let on that I wasn’t as put-together as I appeared to be.

But here’s the thing: Trying to hide them and cover them caused so much stress, so much anxiety over what I assumed people would think, over how it would change the way people saw me. So, I stopped. I tried my hardest to stop self-harm in general and I gave up trying to hide the scars already on my body, because yes I have had my struggles, so why should I make it seem like I haven’t?

Years of severe anxiety, severe depressioneating disorders and self-harm really took a toll on me. But you know what? I made it through. I am here. I am strong and I am still going. I have goals and I have a purpose. Those scars are a part of me; they reflect a difficult time in my life, but I hope those who see the faded white marks can look past them and see the woman I am today.

Maybe instead of being ashamed, I should consider the fact that I overcame most of those troubles. I have a type of strength that some people may never understand. I am alive and I am well. Why hide that?

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.

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

Thinkstock photo via Jupiterimages

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What I Wish My Parents Knew About My Struggle With Self-Harm

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

Dear parents,

Your children probably mean the world to you. So when you see your child hurting him or herself, you may be completely lost as to what to do. As a young person who self-harms and recently told her parents and didn’t like their reaction, I wish to give you my advice on what I wish my parents had done for me instead.

But first, some context. I have been self-harming for around six months now, and I made the decision to tell my parents about a month ago. I had played that conversation over in my head from the day I started self-harming. I imagined every possible outcome of that conversation — good, bad and the absolute worse. But what I never imagined would happen was that my parents would just ignore it.

When I told my mother what I had been doing, her reaction was one word: Why? I tried to explain the little I understood about it myself, and got no reaction. My mother took away my knife and that was the end of the conversation.

That conversation I had played out in my head a thousand times — with results varying from them getting me professional help to them signing me up for a Christian “get better” summer camp. What I hadn’t imagined was that their reaction would simply be — nothing. And thinking back, I would have preferred they had kicked me out of the house than pretend nothing had happened. Because for me, nothing at all hurts more than any kind of punishment. With punishment, at least I would know where I stood.

Parents, if your child opens up to you about their self-harm, please give them a reaction. Obviously, a caring reaction would be 100 percent better, but please, under no circumstances leave it alone after being notified of the problem. Sit them down, talk to them. If you really don’t know what to say, then ask them what you can do to help. What they often need you to do for them is to help them come to a solution to what’s going on in their head. Offer an ear, a hug and support. This will mean the world to them, as little as it may seem on paper.

After I told them, my parents acted as if nothing had happened. As if what I had just told them was a conversation that had never existed. They thought I had just stopped. That by not having the knife, the problem was gone. That this problem was just skin deep. I felt as if my parents didn’t care. That what I was doing to myself was a trivial fact, one that was unimportant and didn’t matter. I have been told by some of my friends that this may just be their way of dealing with it. That they don’t know what to say to me, and so they don’t say anything just in case they might make matters worse. But how that feels to me is that they don’t care.

Parents, if your child opens up to you, don’t assume the behavior has just stopped after that. That the problem has just gone away. Please remind them you are there for them, if they want to talk or need some help you will help them as much as they need. Don’t just leave it for them to come to you, because the likelihood is they are waiting for you. Don’t push them, but don’t stand back and wait.

I have not stopped self-harming since I told my parents, like they think. I have just hidden it more. Because — and I believe all parents need to know this first and foremost — I can’t just stop because I’ve been asked to. My parents told me to “not do it anymore” when I told them, and they thought this was the end of the matter. But this isn’t something I can control. If I could just stop then I wouldn’t have started. Being told, “Can you not do it for me?” isn’t helpful and won’t change what I do. In fact, it just drives me further away from reaching out. I hurt myself while still in earshot of them, and neither of them are aware. They don’t think the hours I spend in my room alone are filled with sharp objects and self-hate. And from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t feel like they care.

This is devastating to me. The two people I care about most are also the two people who understand what’s going on the least. And what hurts me, even more, is that I found out my parents have known about my self-harm for at least four months now. I slipped up in hiding my marks, and although I gave excuses as to how I got them, it would seem my parents knew what the truth was. And yet I got no comfort, no offer of help, not even a second ask to tell them the truth. And then I didn’t hear about it again.

Parents, if you suspect your child is self-harming, please reach out. Know they may not want to talk, but let them know you are there for them and that you will do everything you can to help them. If they think you know, and you choose not to say anything, I believe it will cause more harm than good. Because I spent ages treading on egg shells around them because I wasn’t sure if they knew or not. And to then later find out — after I had convinced myself that they had believed my lie and forgotten about it — that they had known. They had known for so long and not said a word. And that has made me feel like they don’t care what I am doing. I know this may not be the case, and that they are just afraid to reach out to me, but this is how it feels. And I don’t wish anyone to have to think that.

I am not writing this to whine about my story, but in order to help parents and people struggling alike. Because if young people have at least someone they feel they can talk to, it could make the world of a difference.

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.

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

Thinkstock photo via finwal.

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20 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You're in Self-Harm Recovery

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

Self-harm is typically largely misunderstood and stigmatized — many who self-injure may feel the need to hide the behavior or the scars left behind. But even when you’re in recovery, the urges don’t always just “go away,” and some might still feel the need to hide the coping strategies they use to manage the urges they experience now.

We wanted to know what recovery from this typically hidden practice really looks like, so we asked people in our community who’ve engaged in self-harm to share with us one thing they do because they are in self-harm recovery. If you or a loved one self-harms, please know you’re not alone and help is available.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “I haven’t self-harmed in two and a half years. When I have a strong urge, I ask my partner to hold my hands and push against me while I push against him. I find it helps get the physical energy of the urge out of my body.” — Kristen B.

2. “[I find myself] pulling away from physical contact, like hugs. I hate having my cuts and scars touched.” — Erika H.

3. “[I] get a tattoo. I got a tattoo with my kids’ names on my wrist to cover up my scars. It’s not because I’m trying to exert more pain, it’s just nicer to look at my kids’ names than the scars I left.” — Inna Z.

4. “I haven’t had problems with my self-harm in five years. However, I still do not shave my legs… Nicking myself is a really big trigger.” — Stephanie Q.

5. “When I’m struggling and have the desire to harm, I look at all my scars and trace some of them. It helps me remember the times when I felt so low that I didn’t think I could carry on, and it helps me see I made it through. If I can make it through those feelings, I can push through the feeling to harm myself.” — Kent W.

6. “When I’m having a bad time, I will avoid anything sharp. I will make excuses to leave the kitchen or whatever room I’m in. I can make anything a [self-harm] tool if I’m struggling, [so] I try and put myself in the safest spot possible.” — Steph H.

7. “[I’m always] cutting and changing my hair.” — Sierra A.

8. “[I like] writing on my arms. It gives me the sensation of something being pressed on my skin.” — Rachel D.

9. “[I get] manicures and pedicures. I self-harmed with aggressive skin peeling, particularly of my feet and round my fingernails, so keeping my hands and feet looking nice motivates me not to spoil it by picking, and reminds me of why I shouldn’t pick.” — Caro H.

10. “[I find myself] spending a lot of money on anything that might potentially make me feel better, when I’m normally frugal.” — Sarah L.

11. “[I] look at the scars on my arms, [and] remind myself that physically hurting myself not only caused other problems, but wasn’t fixing what was wrong. I tell myself this is only temporary and I can get through it. I have before and can do it again and again.” — Ming N.

12. “[I wear] long sleeves pretty much all the time because I’m uncomfortable wearing short sleeves and tank tops.” — Abby B.

13. “I lift some weights, go for a walk, take a shower or drown thoughts out with music. It’s been a long time since I’ve cut, but I still consider myself in recovery.” — Stacey C.

14. “I ask people to go out to get ice cream with me on my anniversaries to celebrate without telling them why we’re getting ice cream.” — Kallie K.

15. “I’d wear long sleeves and put them over my hands then sit on them or draw doodles on my wrists to help me.” — Dana R.

16. “When I feel the urge to hurt myself or know my depression is getting bad, I usually keep something in my hands at all times to keep them busy. I’ll play with a marble or a bouncy ball or I’ll take the rubber band off my wrist and fiddle with it. Sometimes flicking it on my wrist helps, too.” — Tiffany T.

17. “I’m constantly talking to myself with self-compassion, reassurance and reminding myself to just breathe.” — Jennifer V.

18. “[I clean] in the middle of the night or [rearrange] my bedroom when my urges are bad.” — Lauren C.

19. “[I’m] constantly checking in with myself. I have my DBT diary card with me all day every day. It helps me stay on track and [helps me] know [if] it’s time to tap into some of my coping skills or reach out to my support team.” — Sarah C.

20. “I rub my wrists. I never self-harmed on my wrists, but when I first started the recovery process, I wore rubber bands all the time. Now that I don’t wear those anymore, if I feel an urge (they still come even in recovery for me) I will rub my wrist with my thumb. Most people assume it’s a nervous tic — and really, they aren’t exactly wrong — but it’s more to remind myself I’ve made it this far without self-harming, and I can make it one more day.” — Michelle D.

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.

Thinkstock photo via kerkez.


20 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You're in Self-Harm Recovery
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The Lies I Believe When I'm Struggling With Thoughts of Self-Harm

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

With self-harm, it’s easy to focus on the physical consequences, and not the emotional toll. For me, the emotional consequences are worse. I feel like when I struggle with thoughts of self-harm or give into self-harm, I’m telling myself lies. And then maybe the solution is not stopping the physical action, but fighting the lies.

When I choose to harm myself, I might be saying, “It’s acceptable for me to cause pain and injury to my body in order to deal with my emotions.” When actually, I know I’m worth more than that. I need to find a way to deal with my emotions in a way that doesn’t harm me. I deserve to be healthy and free of pain.

When I harm myself, I might be saying, “I deserve to be punished for something I did wrong.” When actually, I know I don’t need to be punished. I’m human. I make mistakes. I don’t deserve pain.

When I harm myself, I might be saying, “Self-harm is the best way for me to deal with my feelings and anxiety. When actually, I know there are many ways to deal with anxiety and feelings — other ways that don’t cause pain and damage to my body.

When I harm myself, I might be saying, “After I harm myself, I will feel better. When actually, I might feel better for a moment, but then I will feel terrible for causing myself pain, and be angry with myself for doing this again.

When I harm myself, I might be saying, “I’ll just deal with my feelings by harming myself, and not bother my friends or family with what I am feeling. It’s kinder to find my own solutions.” When actually, I know my friends and family would always rather I talk to them about how I am feeling rather than have me “deal with” my feelings by injuring myself. It hurts them to see me in pain. They love me.

When I harm myself, I might be saying, “Self-harm will help me control my emotions. It’s not that dangerous; I have control over it.” When actually, I know self-harm won’t fix my emotions, and it can be dangerous. There are other ways to feel in control of my mind and body.

After I harm myself, I feel so low. I feel completely broken. I feel like I am so messed up. I think to myself, What kind of person does this sort of thing? I cry. I feel incredible shame and am afraid people will find out. I’m afraid to tell people because I think they will judge me. I am scared I will develop scars or bruises. I feel empty inside. Everything feels dark.

For me, the emotional consequences of self-injury are worse than the physical ones. The physical consequences usually heal over time. But the self-destructive thoughts run deep.

When I am thinking of self-harm, I am experiencing overwhelming emotions of anxiety and anger. In that emotional state, somehow self-harm feels like an OK “solution.” But if I fight the lies that are behind my desire to harm myself, it helps me resist the addiction.

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.

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

Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.

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