What I Learned in a Year of Self-Harm and Suicide ‘Sobriety’
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.
If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.
I recently received a sweet birthday gift, from a friend I met on Instagram, that really spoke to me and my struggles. It is a collection of poems and short passages and memos that speak the truths most people need to hear but are too afraid to say out loud. One passage that speaks out to me more than any other in the book is the following: “Just a friendly reminder: Nothing about you is a mistake. You are a gift and you are here for a reason. You deserve to take up space in the world, and we need you here.”
I am coming up on a year sober from self-harm and suicidal ideation, as well as extreme restrictive eating. I have been plagued by mental illness for over a decade of my life, severely interfering with my education and social life. While I have done well enough over the years — graduated college, received a graduate degree — it is not without struggle and much going in circles.
For me, a year sober is a huge milestone. While sobriety is often associated with drugs and alcohol, I want to shed light that sobriety relates to any self-injurious behaviors, whether that is through the ingestion of drugs, alcohol or physically through intentional self-harm. Sobriety is not simply for those who are struggling with drugs and alcohol because I believe we all have our struggles and drugs of choice.
For me, that drug of choice was harming myself physically in any way I could. I bear the scars from over a decade of self-harming behavior. I scrutinize my body image each day and fight myself when I want to resort to restrictive eating to lose more weight and control my weight.
In more than a decade of my battles, I spent time in psychiatric hospitals, numerous emergency room visits, rides in ambulances and police cars for my own safety, as well as time in a residential facility and countless hours in therapy – group and individual. During these years, I had stretches of a few months here and there where I was sober, but nothing ever lasted.
To reach a year sober is a milestone because that is a year of my life where I chose my happiness and safety over my mental illness. It is a year of choosing to be a success story and choose recovery over continuing self-destructive behaviors that have been damaging to my personal and professional life.
In my year of sobriety, I have come to appreciate and understand that life is valuable. It has been a year of reflection and facing contradictions that operate in my daily life. I have a diagnosis of chronic, severe depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Yet, I am high-functioning and able to take care of myself and my two dogs. It is a dichotomy that I struggle with, not only because it is hard to believe but that sometimes I just want to throw it all away. There are mornings where the demons come back and ask me to engage in self-destructive behaviors, yet there are mornings where I am able to get up and tackle the day as it is presented to me. It’s OK to have daily struggles because we are human. We are valuable. We are all worthy.
I come to celebrate sobriety not to forget about my past but to remember the struggle that has led me to where I am. I am who I am because of my past experiences. I speak about my sobriety because it provides me hope that it is possible to exist in a dichotomy on some days and on others, it is possible to live life to the fullest. I hope to show you that it is possible to triumph and be in a stage of recovery in your battle with mental illness, for your diagnosis does not define you. You are more than your diagnosis or condition. You are unique and valuable and oh so worthy. You can do this. You matter.
Photo by Courtney Cook on Unsplash