So first of all, this post will contain explicit talk about self-harming, suicide attempts and depression. Massive trigger warning. Secondly, if anyone is going to say this is too private to put online or that it’s oversharing or that ooh what if a future employer sees it – I don’t care. This is my space, this is my blog, and this is a part of me and everything I’ve overcome. I am not ashamed of it, and if you think I should be, or think I should be hiding it, then you really need to look at why you think that.
Okay, so July 19th 2015 (I would post this that day, but I’ll be away without wifi) – July 19th, it is three whole years since I last hurt myself. Or, in fact, since I stopped hurting myself. For people who don’t know what I’m talking about I’ll briefly diverge into my backstory: for many years I self-harmed, and I suffered from depression. I tried to end it all too many times to count. When I was sixteen I was put on medication and saw psychiatrists and psychologists regularly, when I was fifteen I had decided I was going to stop self-harming. Ever since I began doing it (when I was about eleven) I’d tried on and off to stop, but never succeeded, and when I finally did succeed it was purely out of sheer stubbornness. I literally decided ‘right I’m never doing it again’, and I haven’t. I would quickly like to say that it was (and is) in no means easy, and many people have different ways of stopping that kind of addiction. Mine was simply how I did it.
I don’t really know whether this post is a musing on that, or a post for other people like me to read and see they’re not alone, or something celebrating what I’ve achieved… maybe it’s all three. In some ways perhaps it’s a kind of memorial for that part of me – the part that truly never left. It might sound stupid to people who’ve never hurt themselves, or never felt the urge, but self-harming – or cutting, as is more accurate and less clinical – was a friend to me. It was always there, even when I felt like no one else was, it always made me feel better, and it was always in my control. I guess I did it for two reasons – for the control element, partially, but more so because I deserved it. Yes, in some sense cutting gave me a release for all the anger and pain I felt inside, but more than that it gave me a way to inflict that pain from inside back inwards, and that truly helped. I don’t recommend it in the slightest, but it did help. I think that’s why I still miss it, and one of the reasons I never wanted to stop. In a rather twisted kind of irony, there’s something very therapeutic about it. Some people say they feel guilt after hurting themselves, or regret it, but I never did. The only thing I’d regret would be that I didn’t do more, go harder, go deeper, or hide it better. I went through a phase of wearing the cuts like a badge on my wrist, like I was somehow proud for giving myself ‘what I deserved’. Unsurprisingly, for the whole five years I was at secondary school, no one ever noticed or commented on my cuts or scars. Whether they didn’t know what to say, or whether they didn’t care, it never really mattered to me. This was the one thing I did for myself.
When I did finally stop hurting myself, it wasn’t because I wanted to or because I was ‘better’. It wasn’t for any of the reasons it should have been – I didn’t think I deserved better, I didn’t like myself, I didn’t care what happened to me – I simply stopped because I finally saw what a toll it was having on my parents, and
also mainly, I’m sad to say, because I was in a relationship and it made her unhappy. Mostly, I stopped because of her, and because I wanted to make her and my parents happy. That year was the happiest year of my life (thus far, I sincerely hope there’s better to come!) because of her, and because I’d stopped hurting myself. But I was still depressed, and still desperately wanted to hurt myself.
When you hurt yourself like that it becomes a second nature – whenever you feel any negative emotions, particularly a burst of them, it’s your immediate reaction to do that. To this day whenever I’m sad or angry or I’ve argued with someone or something’s upset me, even just the smallest things, my immediate go-to solution is to cut. I don’t, and as the years go by that is getting a tiny bit easier. It’s never that you don’t want to, it’s never even that the desire fades away after you calm down, it’s just that possibly, sometimes, you’re able to hold off the feeling more than usual. But most times it’s not like that. Most times it’s dig your nails into the palms of your hands, punch the wall, claw at your hair, do whatever you can to just try and not rip at your skin. It gets so bad you’re unable to talk or think or even breathe. You just hold your breath and squeeze your eyes shut and pray that the feeling will go away.
When you first stop something like cutting, you get that feeling all the time, even when you’re not upset. Sometimes it’s there all night and you’ll just writhe in agony like there’s a thousand tiny things crawling over you but not quite enough for you to tell if it’s real or swat them away. You just have to grip the pillow with your nails and wait it out. The pain that self-harm is caused by, and the pain it inflicts on you, it’s the worst kind of addiction. So when I stopped cutting, it was hell. But I did it for her, and for my parents. I hated myself and wanted myself to be in pain, but I never wanted them to be in pain.
My depression has always been like a thick, heavy fog falling over the heath as I drive home. It’s not black and white, it’s not red or bright and harsh, it’s just like a blanket that dulls and covers everything. It dampens everything and makes it hard to move or think or see ahead. It feels like you’re constantly wading through quicksand and sinking all the time. Some days – most days – I can still feel that blanket looming over me, descending slowly, then pausing as though waiting for my move. Some days I wake up and it’s suffocating me.
When I stopped cutting, I was finally able to lift the blanket for just enough seconds to see what it was doing to the people around me. So I tried for them. I tried the therapy and the meds and the positivity. I always planned that doing it for them would be a temporary reason – although I’d always want to make them happy, eventually I’d learn to stay clean and happy for myself. But for some reason I never made it there. I finished therapy, I came off my meds, I was two years clean… but I was still doing all that for other people. They were my reason — she was my reason. And then my reason left me.
But I didn’t crumble, I didn’t break, I didn’t give in to all the urges that coarsed through my veins 24/7 for weeks on end. No. I fucking shattered. It was like broken glass – all these cracks just kept getting bigger and bigger until I shattered and shards of glass – parts of me and my life – were just staring up at me from the floor, reflecting my own sorry life and everything I’d come to be. So reliant, so trusting, so… dependent. The worst part of it all was just that – that I wasn’t crumbled, but I was shattered. That there was enough to pick back up. In all my life, I have never been as broken as that made me, and trust me if you’d been in my head all these years you would understand how big a statement that is. It’s completely normal, of course, to be upset about a breakup, about cheating and lying and all the usual crap that comes with it. Especially after a serious relationship, and especially if they just cut the ties so you’re unable to get closure or speak to them again. It’s normal to be upset and to grieve. And I went through all that, and then I went through it again, and again, and again, and in fact I’m still going through it all a year later. But I’m going through it. That is the point. I’m heading forward, even if sometimes I do still cling to the past. I am here, and I am completely torn up inside and most of the stitches that therapy and medication did to start putting me back together have been ripped out… but that’s still a hell of a lot more whole than I was to begin with.
I won’t lie and say I don’t think about hurting myself or any of the other things I used to think about. I won’t lie and say I love myself now because I don’t. For a while I was happy, and I was grateful for being alive, but in the past year I’ve wondered whether that was because of the medication, or the therapy, or her, or just sheer willpower. And it’s ridiculous that a few things can knock me back quite as much as it did. And that just makes me wonder all the more. But what I tell myself, what I tell my family…what I cling on to, is that I didn’t self-harm when I had no reason no to, and I like myself more than I used to, and those are two things I’d been fighting for a long time before anyone else came on the scene, and I’ll be fighting them ’til the day I die, whenever that may be.
This is an uphill battle, and I don’t kid myself it’ll get easier. It won’t. Stuff doesn’t just get easier, I’ve learnt that. You just learn to see through the fog some days, and other days to put your hands out in front of you and hope for the best. As soon as one things lifts another comes crashing down. As soon as you learn to trust someone, they let you fall. But that doesn’t matter. None of it matters. The voices in my head say that it wouldn’t matter if I was gone, because she’s gone too and she’d never know, so who even cares… but fuck them. Yes, she was my reason, and yes, I may have started this journey for her, and she may not care whether I finish it, but yes, I am damn well going to finish it – if not for her or even for myself – in spite of her. I’ve got my back, and I’m on my side, and although the blanket is forever hovering over my head and although my reflexes never differ from reaching for that blade, I got out of the fog once, and I threw away my blades, and I can do it all again when the time comes.
I will forever wear these scars with pride, and I will never hide them, because they are who I was, and who I am, and who I will be. Parts of me might be weak, but I have a resilience and determination that can get me anywhere. I’m like a weakened window that you can kick and kick and my cracks will spread throughout, but if you make me shatter I god damn guarantee you will cut yourself on my edges. These scars are a sign of my strength and I will hold onto that for dear life. Because maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll be doing this for me.