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How I'm Trading Self-Harm in for Self-Care

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

We are seated at the balcony of a nicely lit restaurant having dinner with my boyfriend “to-be” (you know how it is with us girls and planning for the future) when he suddenly says, “I’ve never seen you in the red sleeveless dress I got you for Valentine’s Day.” I want to tell him everything. I want to tell him how I wear my scars every morning to school when others wear skin. I want to tell him how at a point in life, razors and I fell in love. I want to tell him the reason I don’t accompany him to watch football games in jerseys is because I don’t want people staring at us and wondering why he settled for a broken piece when he deserves a masterpiece. I want to tell him everything but I don’t think he is ready for the truth. Or maybe it’s that I don’t want him to be ready for the truth. Ever. And for that reason, “It’s just how red the dress is, I’ve not found the right occasion” becomes my answer. Thankfully, he shrugs and goes back to struggling to string these spaghettis we got and leads a different topic away from what he’d come to know in the future were my insecurities.

“Spit that out!”

If my mum was here, she’d tell you the biggest challenge with raising me was how careless I was with myself. How things that made children my age scream in fear didn’t make me bat an eyelash. I mean, if you found me crying, it was either because I was beaten for sticking a needle between my teeth or I just got a whooping from shoving a pea up my nose. And it was “normal.” Because children do careless things.

But children grow up. And when they do, but still stick needles in their mouths or suffocate themselves in plastic bags, then it turns from “normal” to abnormal very fast. You might not be quick to grasp it when you do painful things to yourself, but they bring a kind of happiness. Not the good, positive kind of happiness that makes your face glow and you feel like you could share it with the world. But instead, one you wait for the darkness to make souls sleep and evil spirits roam and you slouch in a corner with instruments to self-harm kind of happiness. Just to help you understand the severity, if today we said the more marks on your body, the more the happiness you’d have — I’d be the happiest woman in the fucking universe.

My mental illness didn’t hit me like a truck like my mom would say when she threatened us. It crept in slowly like a child from stealing the visitor’s steak in the kitchen. Not that I would know. It’s small, broken puzzles like the needles and mathematical compasses that come together. It was the plastic bags and two peas up my nose that somehow brought me to the desert of self-harm and depression. And I’ve felt like I’m dying from thirst every day, but I wouldn’t wish to be in an ocean of the same. I’m in need of land; something solid I can hold onto. And I think my mom would be so proud of me, because finally, I’ve learned to hold my life like an egg.

Unsplash image by Shanique Wright

Originally published: December 23, 2019
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