Scars — **Trigger Warning : Self-harm, cutting, suicide**

**Trigger warning: Self-harm, cutting, suicide.**

scars1

Scars.

Everyone has them.

The one above your eyebrow from when you walked into the coffee table, age 2. The one on your knee from when you skidded across the gravel-laden driveway on your way to the perfect street hockey save, age 13. The one on your heart from the first boy who broke it, age 17.

Some people say scars give you character; others, that they give you lessons.

I think scars are whatever you make of them. But some are a little harder to live with than others.

I have my fair share of scars. The knee one from above is one of mine; still have some of the gravel embedded in that m-effer to prove how dedicated I was to the save. I have one on my lip from a baseball injury. I have a few from practicing karate.

I have more than a few on my hands and wrists and arms and thighs that I don’t ever want to talk about.

The thing about self-harm is that it is really misunderstood. It is vastly and horrifyingly misclassified over and over again. And along with leaving scars, it leaves a sense of overwhelming shame that doesn’t ever go away.

I’m breaking my silence today and it scares the shit out of me. Bear with me, please.

My scars stare up at me every day. As I type, the crescent moon patterns on the meaty part of my right hand wink at me like eyes with a dirty secret. My hands know how deep the pain goes. They know so well because I’ve bled the pain out of them.

This is my favorite Stephen King quote. So damn true.

This is my favorite Stephen King quote. So damn true.

I have fake stories for all of them, ingrained in my memory to save me from the awkward pause as I try to think of an excuse. Part of me hates myself for the lies. But what other choice do I even have?

“Oh, that? Yeah … totally scratched myself until I bled.”

*cue awkward silence*

I vacillate between wanting to educate people and needing to hide. Even as I write this, I’m cringing at the spotlight I’m shining on myself with these words.

When you talk about cutting, there are a lot of gut reactions. People do it for attention. People do it because they are suicidal. It’s a fad. It’s fake. They’re just crazy.

There is very little empathy or compassion in the general public for cutters. It is a misunderstood side-effect of depression and anxiety. Lots of people talk about cutting, but very few people actually understand what it is.

And it’s not surprising. There are a glut of romanticized images of cutting out there. If you go on Tumblr or Pinterest you can find thousands of images of delicate wrists bleeding, of intricate white lines up and down an arm. They’re triggering and they only show either the act or the consequence. They don’t deal with the cause or what leads a person to cut. And they certainly don’t deal with the aftermath.

I think that is really dangerous.

Like any mental health issue, self-harm is unique in each person. I can only talk for myself here. I don’t cut because I want to die. Or to get noticed. On the contrary, I hide those scars from everyone.

myself

I cut because I cannot take the internal pain anymore. Because the inner hurt is so great, so unbearable, that it needs a physical outlet.

The internal scars that lead to a cutting episode are so much more pervasive than any scars I have on the outside. And that is what is so hard to explain. I ache inside for so long. I push it down and let it build until the black, smoking pile of hurt takes up almost all of me. I feel like I might burst from being full of pain.

And it comes out at the worst times. It’s not A + B + C = D. It rarely ever happens at the moment of pain.

Have you ever read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom? It’s a kids’ book where the entire alphabet piles on top of the poor coconut tree until it literally bends in half from all of the weight. It’s kind of like that. An entire alphabet of circumstances pile on top of me until I break from the pressure. The cuts are the fissures in my brokenness.

I guess that sounds a little romanticized. I assure you there is nothing romantic about locking yourself in a bathroom and digging your nails into your own skin so that you no longer feel like you’ll explode from the pressure. There’s nothing romantic about watching yourself bleed and knowing that you did it to yourself. There’s nothing romantic about looking down at scabs that bleed again and again and knowing that they will scar and knowing that you fucking did it again.

There’s nothing romantic about it; it’s just sad and painful and full of personal shame.

I’ve been self-harm clean for over six months now. I wish I could tell you that it is getting easier, that I’ve found something else to release the pressure and get me through those tough times. I wish I could tell you that, but I don’t like lying.

The thought is there in the back of my head all the time. I sometimes have to use all of my energy to fight that impetus to excise my pain. There are times when the scars help: I see them and I remember “no more.” There are times when they call out like a siren tempting me to let it out again. Because it’s so easy in that moment to think that cutting will ease the pain. I have to tell myself on loop that it isn’t that simple.

my reminder ring: I am enough

my reminder ring: I am enough

I have a few talismans that help. The first one is this aluminum ring I wear on my left thumb. It wraps around just tight enough that it leaves a ring indent, but not so tight that it is uncomfortable. When things get bad, I look down at it and read the fading inscription on it: “I am enough.” I can turn it around on my thumb and feel the metal move against my skin. All of that helps.

There are other things that sometimes help, but my biggest talisman is actually hidden from most people’s view. In August, I got my largest tattoo finished. It takes up my entire right side, from just below my breast all the way to my hip. It’s a gorgeous color piece of a phoenix rising from its own ashes and bursting into a bright explosion. In the swirling smoke, the words “Still I Rise” are written.

IMG_3559

You can’t get a more poignant reminder that you need to rise above the hurt than looking at almost nine hours’ worth of intricate artwork forever etched on your side. The bumps of the line work have long since faded, but I still often run my finger over the area and remember. There was a ton a pain involved in getting that ink. It covers my ribs and the very sensitive side area; not an area I would recommend getting inked unless you were really committed to having artwork there.

I knew exactly what I was getting into pain-wise when I chose it, but that was where I pictured my phoenix rising. The time it took to get it and the recovery from it were really hard, but that image is always with me now. I look at it before and after every shower, every time I get changed … I see the words and I remember. Still, I rise. I can do this.

It’s the most powerful reminder I have and I’m grateful that I was able to do that for myself.

Posting about this subject is really difficult for me. Thinking about it and ruminating over how to talk about it puts cutting foremost in my mind. I know that isn’t great for me. It makes staying clean harder. But … I can do it.

My other, and perhaps worst, fear is that something I say may trigger others. It is really, really hard to be in a situation where self-harm is part of your self-care. It is twisted and seems so foreign to those who do not engage in it, but for many cutters, it is actually a way we care for ourselves when the pain gets too much. If you find yourself hurting yourself in any way (cutting, scratching, hair pulling, hitting….), please, talk to a good therapist.

It was the best thing I ever did for myself. I found it hard to admit my habits, even to a therapist. But when I did and I wasn’t met with disdain or anger or misunderstanding, I began to forgive myself.

enough

I really believe that forgiving yourself for the impulse is half the battle in getting better. Letting go of some of the shame I feel for my impulses has helped me stay clean. I no longer have that huge, dark cloud hanging over me. Or, at least, not as prominent. It’s still there, but it’s dissipating.

Talk to a therapist. Confide in a trusted friend. Find someone you can call at any time and say, “I’m in danger.” They’ll know what you mean by that and they’ll show you the compassion you maybe can’t show yourself.

Compassion, my friends, is where the healing needs to begin. Compassion for yourself, for your pain, for the impulses that you try to control but cannot always fight. Compassion.

Try it with me.

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Holiday Overload

Raise your hand if you’re ready for the holiday break to be over!

ME!!!!!!

Our family has been home together for a record twelve days. Of those twelve days, six of them have been sick days for two out of the four of us. Momma needs her house back. Pronto.

I do love the holidays. We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our household, so our holiday season lasts extra long. I love the kids’ excitement, the traditions, and all of that food. I really enjoy entertaining, so cooking for Christmas day at our house is always something fun to look forward to.

I made ALL the cookies.

I made ALL the cookies.

But now? I’m done. I want my quiet mornings back, where Hubby is at work and both kids are in school and I can breathe over a cup of coffee before getting errands and cleaning done. The lack of that routine is starting to wear on my patience and I’m really starting to feel it. My anxiety has been higher than normal the past few days and I’m starting to notice daily headaches creeping up on me.

Can it be Monday morning, please?

I can’t lie. I feel badly when I say I’m overloaded and ready for the break to end. They are my kids and husband; they’re my favorite people in the world. But, man, can they be exhausting….

Truthfully, I don’t handle these long stretches of forced interaction well. I know that I don’t, but I don’t have a good coping mechanism in place to keep it from getting out of hand.

We live in a small twin home, so when the four of us (plus two animals) are home all together, there are very few rooms available to be alone. Even the bathroom isn’t guaranteed to be a no fly zone. Can I get an amen, moms out there? It’s just hard to find quiet, and if you’re an introvert like me, that can end up being sandpaper to your psyche if you’re not careful.

Hubby and I tried to break the pattern this year. We planned an adventure in the middle of our staycation to get the kids out of the house. We trekked to Washington D.C. with the plan being that we’d explore the free museums for two days. Great plan. Sucky timing.

Me, Amelia, and her Little Red Bus. Personal hero...

Me, Amelia, and her Little Red Bus. Personal hero…

Oldest and Hubby both came down with nasty colds while we were away. We made it to two and a half museums that first day and then no one slept. Oh my god…. It was horrific. Woke up the next day and everyone was crabby. No one wanted to do anything except go home. Except we were all sleep deprived. The drive back to PA was truly magical. Not.

I had also failed to factor in how much I really despise crowded museums. Answer? A lot. It was a hard trip all around, but …. we tried. ‘A’ for effort?

I spent some much needed time contemplating quietly this morning and realized that much of the stress from this break came from your’s truly. I look around at my family and they are fine with the mild chaos. I know that I’m not, but I didn’t do a whole hell of a lot to avoid it. It got me thinking… How much ownership do we as anxious people need to take for our own anxiety?

It’s a really hard question to answer. On the one hand, some anxiety is out of our control. The looping thoughts are part and parcel of the mental illness we call our own. Mindfulness can help, but at the heart of anxiety, we all deal with those recurrent thoughts. We try not to let them control us, but we can’t always control them, if you catch my drift.

But what about the rest of what made my holiday stressful? A lot of that was poor planning on my part. I struggle with the need to stay home and chill and the knowledge that my two active kids can’t handle too many days in a row of that kind of inactivity. They go stir crazy, and with good reason.

okay.... maybe not this stir crazy. The poor mom who took this picture. >.<

okay…. maybe not this stir crazy. The poor mom who took this picture. >.<

The holidays provide their own activity on many occasions. Visits to grandma and grandpa’s house, playing with new toys, and visiting with friends help to ease the monotony. But the days where we have no plans can easily melt into each other. When that happens, we easily start to get on each other’s nerves. No matter how close your family is, I bet this happens to you.

I didn’t really plan well for that this year, even though my anxiety has been bad lately. I should have done better with that. I think those kind of things are areas in which I can take charge of my anxiety disorder and get hold of those reins before it gets out of control.

It’s not easy by any means. I always worry that I’m going to over-plan us and wear everyone out. Well, I worry I’ll wear myself out and then I’ll make everyone crazy. It’s a legit worry… When I get overstimulated, I’m a super-bitch.

Of course, under-planning hasn’t exactly worked out for us in the past. I think, maybe, instead of trying to plan a bunch of stuff, I need to plan some quiet time each day of vacation for myself. Even if I need to schedule my freaking showers, I need to make sure my family realizes that those times are mommy time. No one is to come in and talk to me. No can come in to ask where something is. No one can interrupt the silence by screaming until I notice.

Even if it is just a half hour each day, those quiet times will balance out the noise of the rest of the day. I think that it will go a long way to making sure that I’m not so tapped out at the end of holiday time.

introvert

My fellow sensitive introverts, what do you do to ensure your sanity amidst forced interaction? As much as I love spending time with my crew, I have my limits even when it comes to them. Do you have any tricks to make that time go smoother? I’d be interested to find out what you do and how it works for you. It’d be good to know that I’m not alone in feeling overloaded at this time of year.

Ringing in the New Year

Happy 2015!

Seems crazy that it is already a new year. So much has happened this year. The family and I traveled to Disney World at the beginning of last year. My youngest started Kindergarten. I tested for my black belt. My oldest delivered her first in-class science presentation and nailed it. I started a little blog called Serotonin Junkie….

It really was magical. ;)

It really was magical. 😉

And here we are: ringing in 2015 on that little blog.

2014 wasn’t always the sweetest year. There were a lot of times that kind of sucked, actually. But all in all, I look back with happiness at a year of accomplishments and hard work.

Probably the hardest thing I did this year wasn’t on the karate mat. It wasn’t that four hour black belt test. It was starting this blog and coming “out” to family and friends about the struggles I’ve faced in dealing with depression and anxiety. It’s been a bumpy road, but I haven’t regretted one moment of it.

this is hard for a lot of people. but it is very true. i am the same person.

this is hard for a lot of people. but it is very true. i am the same person.

I started this blog right around the time of Robin Williams’ unfortunate suicide because I found that I had a lot to say about mental health. I’m not a mental health professional; I just have a lot to say about my own battle with mental illness and how the stigma surrounding it has affected me.

Apparently, what I have to say makes a tiny bit of difference. This blog receives more traffic than I ever envisioned and for that I am profoundly grateful. I never expected more than a couple of people to stop by. But now that I’ve connected with people from around the world, I realize that I want this little blog to succeed. I enjoy reaching out to people, hearing their stories, and sharing their struggles with them. It gives this often difficult journey a purpose and meaning that I find exhilarating.

So, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to post here every three to four days. I wrote up a calendar for January, complete with blog titles for the month. I also sent the calendar to my best friend and asked her to ride my ass to make sure I stick to it. And stick to it I shall, with her keeping me honest.

So what do you want from this new year? Either from me, here on the blog, or out of life in general? Any good goals or dreams you want to share? Any hopes for your year, either mental health wise or other? Feel free to share here in the comments or on Facebook if you so choose.

See you soon and many thanks for taking this journey with me.

no, but we are. seriously. we. are. fabulous.

no, but we are. seriously. we. are. fabulous.

Healing Hard

Running a mental health blog is a dicey prospect, especially when you do it the way I have. I pull no punches here; to me, it seems pointless to write my posts with anything less than total honesty. That said the content can get pretty damn raw. It’s been hard for me to balance the raw truth with my desire to hide behind a mask.

Papa knows what's what.

Papa knows what’s what.

My most recent post scared a lot of people close to me, and for that I’m sorry. It was extra rough and showed a very vulnerable side of me. It’s just the nature of loss, and that is exactly what I am going through. Loss.

I lost a position that I had held for a very long time and that had become part of who I am. It was a sudden, unexpected loss; it felt almost like the loss of a limb.

I’m healing, moving through the stages of grief as it were. With the help of my friends and my husband, I’m even laughing about some of it. Some…. It still stings like a motherfucker.

I don’t regret that last post. I know that for some, it was shockingly bitter. Many people reached out, worried about my mental state and what might have caused such a heartbreakingly honest post. For those who reached out, thank you … from the bottom of my heart. It meant so much to know that you were there.

Let me be very clear: I have a mental illness. I can laugh and joke about it with the best of them, but that is actually a defense mechanism. The hard truth about depression and anxiety is that it isn’t fucking funny. It sucks. It is as draining as that last post made it out to be. When I get down, really down, I’m not funny. I can’t laugh about it. Because it sucks the life out of me. Most people don’t see that side of me because I hide it away.

See? Funny ha ha. That's how I hide... ;)

See? Funny ha ha. That’s how I hide… 😉

Look, I don’t like that vulnerable side of me. It’s so much easier to laugh at the crazy triggers and make a self-deprecating game of all of the self-doubt. But the reality is still there; I live with it every day. My husband lives with it every day, and I know it is no picnic for him. Somehow, he loves me anyway and I’m damn lucky for that. He’s one of the main reasons that despite the pain of the last week-and-a-half I remain self-harm clean. I really couldn’t have done it without him and my friends.

I’m going to get through all of this. It sucks and there are still moments when I’m bogged down in sadness, but I’m going to pull through. I’ll be stronger for having faced it head on. I’ll be steadier for having accepted help and relied on good friends. And I’ll be wiser next time.

word.

word.

Airing Out the Bunker

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I realize that is stating the painfully obvious, but I want to acknowledge my absence. I could blow it off on mundane crap and say that I was too busy, but the fact of the matter is I didn’t make time amid the crap to sit down and write. And I have paid the price.

I sat down yesterday and tried to just breathe. My therapist right now is really into mindfulness exercises, and truly, they work well for stopping a panic attack in its track. That said I suck at doing them on my own. Especially when I look around and it seems like the whole of humanity’s shit is piling up around me. Instead, I girder myself inside a bunker, wait for the shitstorm to pass, and inevitably focus on all of the bad things.

... again.

… again.

There is something broken or in need of fixing in every part of my life. Literally everywhere I look, I see something that needs attention or fixing or healing. When I sat down to do my mindfulness exercise, I minded my way right into a full on panic attack. Go me!

The point of this veritable pity party is that I need to draw a line somewhere. I cannot let this get to me the way it has. I’ve been moping, wrapped up in the thoughts of what is going wrong and where I am failing, unable to see anything positive. There are rays of light, for sure. But for the most part, I haven’t let them touch me. And I am worse for that.

Perhaps the mindfulness exercises are working better than I give them credit for because I can see now that it’s a choice. I’m choosing to wallow in the impossibility of my current situation instead of letting the light shine through. Instead of valuing the things that go right. I may not be able to will myself out of a deep depression, but I can choose to open up a freaking window in my bunker and let in the air.

So, that is what I’m doing. Airing out the bunker a bit. Things may in fact be fucked up all around me. There may be more to fix than I am humanly capable of handling at this point, but that doesn’t mean that I am without hope. It doesn’t mean that I have to sit in a cold room wrapped in the thoughts of what is wrong. I can take my own advice and let small victories lift me up.

 

So … Good news: My mom, who had major surgery on Monday is now home and resting comfortably. Though she’s going to need more PT and recovery time than we anticipated, the surgery itself was a success. She’s in less pain now and on her way to recovering fully.

More good news: I opened an Etsy shop offering cross stitch patterns and hand stitched items just in time for the holidays. It allowed me to take something that was just a little hobby and make a bit of money from it. And since it’s my shop, I can be as irreverent as I want to be. For instance, I can sell bookmarks that are lacy and delicate and read “bookwhore.” Because I want to and I think even lacy, delicate people should be allowed to love the dirty words. You feel me, I know you do.

Even more good news: I was nominated for a blog award! Despite my absence! I will be adding a post on Monday describing the blog award and nominating some other blogs that I would recommend to my followers.

It feels fresher and brighter in here already. Little bit of air, little bit of sunshine … it clears the bunker right up, doesn’t it? When I’m in a rough patch, I often find it very difficult to breathe and accept any good. It’s so much easier to focus on the negative and let that stack of bad grow to monstrous proportions. I’m not negating the bad stuff. I’m not saying I should just blithely ignore the problems. But I do need to work on ways to refocus myself. I have friends and a therapist who can help me with that, but honestly? This is something I need to work on for myself. I’m not always going to have someone around who can refocus me and help me breathe.

What do you do when the bad stacks up and looms over you like the big, bad wolf threatening to blow down the walls of your safe space? Does meditation work for you or do you prefer heavy metal blaring in your headphones while you work out? I often prefer the latter, but have lately been unable to work out due to some health issues. It sucks. But, in keeping with allowing in the light, I’m also getting a great chance to heal. <~~~ Look at me all Zen and shit.

and that shit has just GOT to stop.

and that shit has just GOT to stop.

If you’d like to share your secrets, please feel free to share them in the comments. I think this is a problem many who suffer from mental illness face on a regular basis. I’d love to have a conversation about what we can do individually to combat the problem. I will see you soon with my next blog post. Feel free to poke and prod me if I leave you hanging for too long. The bunker can sometimes suck you back in if you’re not careful.

Reaching Out and Being the Light

So someone you love has a mental health diagnosis. They are struggling. They may or may not have reached out to you for help. You want to help. Now what?

This honestly was my favorite part about Eeyore and the 100 acre wood gang. They accepted all of Eeyore and loved him totally.

This honestly was my favorite part about Eeyore and the 100 acre wood gang. They accepted all of Eeyore and loved him totally.

I think one of the most important things that family and friends of those with mental illness need to do is be honest with themselves. Dealing with a mental illness is hard; no one knows this more than those who suffer with it. Being the “go to” person for someone who suffers can be just as draining as dealing with the actual disease. That is why it is so important to be honest with yourself and your loved one about what you can handle.

Support can come in many forms: an ear to listen without judgment, a shoulder to cry on, the extra push someone needs to attend therapy, tough love when it comes to taking meds… We need all of that at different stages in our illness. But dealing with all of that can be exhausting and overwhelming and you might need to take a step back for your own mental health. How you step back can make or break your loved one, so I’m going to talk a little bit about that here.

When someone you love is in the midst of a crisis, obviously you want to be at your best. Completely on top of your game and there for them 24/7. The reality of crisis is that it doesn’t know timetables. My crisis might come at the same time that your youngest starts teething, your dog starts vomiting, and your car gets rear-ended. You’re stretched to the limits, but I need you. What do you do?

Your first instinct might be to hide all of the other shit and try to be on for me. It’s a noble act. But it can’t last, can it? We are not made of elastic and we can break if we try to stretch ourselves too thin. The best you can sometimes do for a friend in need is to tell them the truth: this is my life right now. These are my challenges. Tell me what you need most and I will do my best to cover that need.

I’ve struggled tremendously through my battle with depression and anxiety. I love the people who walk by my side, but I have never expected them to go down with my sinking ship. I would much rather honesty from them than to watch them slowly burn out as they try to be my everything.

So what else can you do? Your friend is cutting. You notice they’re not sleeping. Or you notice sleeping is all they do. What can you do?

Leave it to Hyperbole and a Half to sum up what NOT to say. Don't be this chick, mmmmkay?

Leave it to Hyperbole and a Half to sum up what NOT to say. Don’t be this chick, mmmmkay?

Ask.

They’ll probably lie.

Ask again.

And again.

I do not mean bombard them with a Spanish Inquisition style interrogation. I mean remind them of your love and of your acceptance. And ask them what they need. Ask what they are missing. Ask how you can love them better.

It might not happen right away. It might not happen in a week. But if you can prove to your friend that you will not judge them, the gift of trust is immeasurable.

depression_helpfriend

Below are some resources for talking to a loved one about mental health issues. If you truly believe that someone you love is suicidal however, the time for gentle prodding is over. Call the suicide prevention hotline listed below and talk to one of the counselors immediately. They can give you the words you need to give your friend help. They can help you save a life.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/)

How to talk to a friend who is depressed: http://www.wikihow.com/Help-a-Friend-with-Depression

Talking with a friend or family member: https://www.lundbeck.com/upload/ie/files/pdf/leaflets/How_to_say-lean_on_me.pdf

Specifically for younger readers: http://www.youthbeyondblue.com/help-someone-you-know/supporting-a-friend

Shining a Light on My Truth

This is a special week: Mental Illness Awareness Week. While I have some issues with including “Illness” in the name instead of “Health,” I think this is one truly important week. And I am honoring this week with daily blog posts, guest writers, and lots of real talk. It’s time to speak the truth, my truth, and not be afraid of the stigma. I hope you join me.

stephen_fry_on_mental_illness___by_rationalhub-d5ebmuz

Today as we kick off the week, I want to answer a really important question: What IS Mental Illness. It’s not an easy question, and so I’m going to start with defining what is NOT Mental Illness.

  • Mental Illness is not the result of personal weakness.
  • It is not the product of poor character or dodgy upbringing.
  • Mental Illness is not a bad day or even a bad week.
  • It is not crying for no reason once in a while.
  • It is not an isolation sentence.
  • It is definitely not a death sentence.

Those “nots”? Those are characteristic of the stigma that surrounds Mental Illness. Those of us who suffer from invisible illnesses, like Mental Illness, bear the burden of that stigma daily. It’s why we are often silent. It’s why we shy away from telling people we see a therapist, or take medicine, or cut, or have suicidal thoughts. People hear those things and assume SO MUCH. Giving up on assuming is the first step in truly helping your friend or lover with their struggles.

Mental Illness is unique for every sufferer. There are endless combinations of diagnoses that someone can hold and every diagnosis manifests itself somewhat differently for each person. I can only talk about my own illness, but for once I am going to be painfully honest. Here goes nothing.

I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Syndrome with Acute Panic Disorder and mild Agoraphobia. And I am a cutter. Big words, those. Basically, I struggle daily with every blasted thing I need to do. It’s hard to get up sometimes. It’s really hard to be in a crowd. It’s hard to settle my own mind and stop it from racing. It’s just hard. And sometimes, when I can’t take it anymore, I physically hurt myself in a twisted attempt to make the invisible pain stop.

surviving

Outside factors absolutely weigh on my mental health issues. When my kids are sick, when I argue with anyone, when things don’t go as planned…. I suffer. These are issues that medicine helps, but cannot control completely. We all want a magic pill that we swallow and become normal. It’s a pipe dream and it is discouraging to know that we can’t have that.

A depressive episode or a panic attack is not something I can snap out of at will. Adding pressure to act normal only exacerbates the issues in someone who is suffering. When I am told to get over it, to fake it till I make it, to just deal…. Immediately I’m filled with a sense of overwhelming disgrace. I’ve let someone I care about down. I’ve burdened them. I need to try harder.

The fact of the matter is this: I can only hide for so long. I can only fake it for so long before I burn out and crash even harder than before. It’s at those times that I am most at risk of cutting. It’s really not easy to admit that I do this. SO many people look at cutting like an emo fad. That people who cut are just looking for attention. Time for a little bit of honesty. Are you ready?

So fucking what if that teenage girl with cuts all up and down her arm is doing it to get attention? Imagine the deficit of attention she must be feeling in order to slice her own skin to get you to notice her pain. When you hurt so bad that you take a razor, or a needle, or your own nails to yourself in order to escape the pain, you are in terrible shape. The last thing you need is judgment. But that is so often what we receive. Harsh judgment. Derisive laughter. Painful sarcasm. Easy answers that mean nothing. And people who think you’re going to kill yourself.

I don’t cut because I want to die. I cut because I hurt so bad that I need an escape. It is twisted to a normal brain, but the reality is that cutting helps diffuse the inner turmoil for just a second. And then the guilt piles on and it is even worse than before. But for a moment, the cutting helps. It is an attempt to care for myself in the most unnatural way possible. And I have scars on my body now that remind me daily of that pain. Harsh reminders of why I need therapy and good friends and a daily cocktail of meds to keep me stable.

rough days

I haven’t cut in four months. I’m damn proud of that, but it has been really hard. There are days when every moment requires concentration NOT to scratch at my own skin. I’ll finger my scars. I’ll text my friends. I’ll keep my hands busy with cross stitch. ANYTHING to keep from allowing myself the opportunity to slip up. With counseling and a lot of vigilance from a good friend, I remain self-harm free. For now.

But the monster is always there waiting. And frankly, it’s terrifying.

Tomorrow, I’ll explore ways friends and family can support those with mental health issues in a healthy way. If there are any topics you feel should be touched on, please let me know here or privately via email. I’ll do my best.