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Self-Injury Is Not Just Black or White

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People sometimes have a difficult time deciding what to wear in the morning. However, for me, so many questions run through my mind before I even think to open my closet door.

How confident am I feeling today? How many times do I want to answer the same question? Am I feeling brave enough to accept my flaws?

You see, I ask myself all these questions because for me, wearing shorts, or anything that reveals my legs for that matter, exposes a whole different side of me, a story not many people would assume or know about. All my life I grew up not knowing there was anything different or wrong with what I was doing. OK, my mom was always telling me to stop or asking me questions, but I used the excuse that she gave me: I have thin skin.

Maybe I do and maybe I don’t, but either way that is not the cause for the scars that creep up my shins like spider webs, each with their own unique story. Some started as harmless bug bites. Others were deliberate in a state of anger or anxiousness, but nonetheless, people never guess the scars left are from acts of self-injury.

It actually wasn’t until my second year of college that I realized what I was doing was actually classified as self-injury. Before, I always thought of self-injury as being cutting and burning, but never did I even think that the act I had been doing my entire life also fell into this category.

This is when I learned self-injury is not just black or white. Every single person has their different ways of coping and their different methods of dealing with the emotions and pain that can come with mental health struggles. One thing I have learned is that we should not judge each other for this.

Over the years, I have come to accept my scars and that they are a part of me. Yet, how am I supposed to respond when a 3-year-old asks me what is wrong with my legs or when I get constant stares while out in public? It is hard for people to understand, especially when they have not struggled themselves.

Like with everything else surrounding mental health, this is where education is needed. It is needed so this subject is not just black or white. There needs to be education so people know this does happen more than they realize and so that people don’t say, “Why don’t you just stop?”

This is a part of mental health and like the rest of it, it is complex. Yet, if we all do our part to educate, get educated, support and not stare (as I am sitting writing this in Starbucks I have gotten many stares due to the gauze on my arm) because nothing is just black or white.

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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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 15, 2016
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