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Why I Am Actually Proud of My Self-Harm Scars

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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.

It may be a confusing and concerning title, but hear me out.

In high school, after years of struggling in the shadows with my mental health, I had reached my limit. No one knew anything was wrong, I had developed the perfect mask. When I did finally open up to someone, they even said to me, “You did a great job of hiding it.” But that is a different part of the story. I am going to talk about something that came about before then.

I had exhausted every healthy coping mechanism I could try (except of course, being honest and open with my struggles. I was trying everything to avoid that). I had always been so independent and reliable. I had fooled myself into thinking I had to deal with this on my own. To some degree, I still think that way. But again, that is a topic for another time.

After I reached the end of healthy ways to deal with my problems, I began to venture into the unhealthy ways. Drinking was the obvious choice for me. I basically chose from the list of behaviors society had forced on everyone through the media that showed how people dealt with their issues. And while I knew they would only cause more problems, I wasn’t getting anywhere with what I was doing, so why not try something else?

When drinking didn’t help, exercise became an escape. And while that is considered a good way to relieve stress, I took this to an extreme. I would workout heavily several times a day, sometimes very early in the morning, like 2 a.m. I also began some very unhealthy eating habits. Being in high school, some of my friends took notice of the fact that my lunch consisted of only one of those single serving peanut butter spread cups. But none of this helped either.

When suicide began to look more attractive, I became even more motivated to find something that would keep me from that. The other most prominent self-destruction many see in society is self-harm. I have a very low pain tolerance, so this was not a fantastic idea for me. But again, nothing else was working, so why not?

Besides deciding suicide was my only option left, the decision to self-harm is my largest regret in my mental health journey. It may feel good in the moment but in the long-run, it again doesn’t solve any issues — and in fact creates more. I was becoming emotionally numb and blunt in the worst way. I had given up on life — I was done with it. If I could start feeling something again, maybe I would feel some hope. And for some reason, I thought pain would be the feeling I needed to do that. Boy was I wrong.

Pain is not an emotion — it’s a physical response to tell you to stop doing something. It is not a substitute for feeling genuine human emotions, like happiness, joy, sadness or anger. For me, it has left permanent scars and some part of me feels regret and embarrassment from them. But another part finds hope in them.

I reached so low that I had to resort to hurting myself. And yet here I am, still alive and in recovery. I got through one of the darkest moments in my life and the fact that I can see and feel the scars of my past reminds me I can get through anything. I certainly do not look at them with pride as I used to. Sometimes, I am tempted to go back to creating more scars but all I need to do is look at them and realize I was lucky enough to get out of putting them there in the first place.

If you have reached the point of using unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with your problems like I did, know one thing: You have what it takes to leave them behind. I won’t lie to you, it won’t be easy. It may the biggest challenge of your life so far. But you are still here, now.

You may feel broken and shattered but regardless, if you are reading this, you are still in this fight and have proven that you can keep going. Keep. Going.

Look at your scars, whatever they look like, and know you can get through this season of life and live with the reminder that you can do anything, including reaching recovery. I believe in you. Keep going.

Getty Images: santypan

Originally published: December 3, 2019
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