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What I Wish My 16-Year-Old Self Had Realized About Self-Harm and Depression

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I was going through a pile of old things I wrote at 16, and one of them was about my struggle with self-harm and depression.

I started inflicting pain on myself back in high school, but it got particularly worse when I went to college. What used to be once in two months gradually became a regular habit. I used to fully grasp my reasons behind each relapse, but then I started having episodes when I wasn’t even sure why I was doing it or why I felt so upset.

I was only able to hide it for so long. My friends started to notice the scars on my forearm. I couldn’t explain what I didn’t completely understand then, and I was forced to deal with being judged by by the people whom I almost hoped would at least try to understand.

I remember having had a friend who laughed when he found out about my problem. He said I was “overreacting” and that I only did what I did to get attention for myself. What I wanted to tell him was that I struggled with anxiety often, and I struggled so badly to just fit in and be accepted.

That type of comment was something I had to deal with more often than I had hoped. I surely wish I had the guts to tell everyone upfront how wrong they were.

I know I never seemed like a person struggling with bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, and I was very much aware of that. I always looked happy and confident especially when I was younger, but I have always been battling with depression. I was one of the loudest people, always laughing and talking, and because of that, I get why people used to always doubt I had issues. But depression isn’t like your favorite sweater you wear to show off to the world. It was just like the scars on my forearm I often tried to conceal because I was too ashamed of the fact that I was sick.

I didn’t have many friends I could talk to when I was at my very worst. All of the breakdowns I had, I dealt with on my own. Until now, I’d still find myself lonely and desperately going through my contacts list looking for someone I could possibly talk to. I got to the point where I gave up trying to make people understand.

Soon enough, I reached a new low, when I could no longer identify myself as anything more than my disorder. All I could think of when asked about myself was exactly how people thought of me: the weak girl who had always claimed to be depressed.

It took me so long — years on end — before I realized that sometimes the only opinion that should matter was my own. I was never any of the things people thought of me as, and I feel sorry for myself for ever believing I was.

I am not self-harm.

I am not anxiety.

I am not depression.

I am not bipolar.

I am not borderline.

No, none of those things define who I am. I may not be at my strongest now, but I am not weak. I will get better. I will recover.

Sometimes all we need is one friend who would be willing to understand — and to me, myself is enough.

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

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Originally published: February 6, 2017
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