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When Your Mental Illness Makes You Want to Punish Yourself

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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.

I’m happy when I see articles about self-harm, eating disorders, depression or anxiety or anything else. Self-destruction is a wide topic that should be spoken about more. There are so many different ways people are caught up in a web of self-destruction and self-hatred.

But there’s one thing, always one thing I’m missing and I feel like it’s still such a taboo — self-punishment that outs itself differently than self-harm or eating disorders. The cruel habit of punishing yourself day after day because you feel like you are deserving of that because you truly believe you need to be punished. But no one is going to do it for you, so you force yourself into these situations or habits that grow more painful, hateful or destructive in any way every time you engage in this behavior.

Self-punishment has a lot of shapes and forms. It can go from not taking an umbrella when it rains because you feel like you don’t deserve to be dry, to writing 100 lines saying “I am worthless and the world is better without me.” The latter I have personally done many times, with many different sentences that ranged from kind of vague to harsh words. I felt so alone, I thought I was the only one who engaged in this behavior. I felt ridiculous and foolish, and feeling like that gave me more reason to punish myself; my self-hatred grew as I felt more and more isolated from the world. But here is a fact for me and for everyone else — we are not alone. There are more people in this world who have those habits for the exact same reasons as you do — because you feel like that is exactly what you deserve.

I’ve seen and heard of many shapes of self-punishment, like not turning the heating on when you’re freezing cold, or walking two more miles because your legs don’t ache enough yet. It’s choosing chocolate over vanilla because you prefer the vanilla one, or writing an essay by hand because typing would be easier. It’s not allowing yourself to sleep, or to take your medication or go for a relaxing walk. It’s putting yourself in dangerous situations but it’s also is not taking that shower because you feel like you are so incredibly undeserving of kindness towards yourself. Self-punishment can be small or big, often unnoticed because it’s either so private or not obvious. But I want everyone to know that no matter how big or small your self-destruction is, you are “bad” enough, you always are. You don’t need to compare yourself to others. You are enough just the way you are and yes, you definitely do deserve to seek help with these behaviors. No one is going to laugh, and you are not silly for having them.

You, reading this article, are magical. You are made of stardust and sunlight; never let anyone treat you any differently. Have hope for the future, you never know what enchanting adventures it may hold. You are worthy and deserving of love, care, hope and kindness. It’s OK not to be OK, you are not alone!

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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