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Her Story: Why I Encourage You to Take Self-Harm Awareness Day Seriously

March 1st is Self-Harm Awareness Day.  Self-Injury is defined as the act of deliberately harming oneself by ways such as (but not limited to) cutting, burning, scratching, etc.  It is estimated that 2 million Americans self-harm, with the majority of this number being teenagers or young adults.

Winter is my absolute favorite.  If you’re in the New England area it’s likely going to be freezing, so the “I’m just really cold” excuse works like a charm. I find comfort in the long-sleeves, pants, and layers that come with this season.  But then spring approaches and collegiettes get excited for the warm weather, which means less clothes and more skin. Me, though? I dread every second of the warmer months. Tank tops and shorts are at the very top of my things that give me anxieties list. If it were up to me, I would be covered up all the time.  

I wasn’t always depressed. I actually used to be a carefree and optimistic person.  But then I entered high school and I felt like the walls were crashing down on me. I went through a break-up that practically ended in a restraining order and a few broken friendships.  Then, I was the prize my parent’s could hold over one another during their divorce. The world kept moving and although things around me got worse, I got better at faking a smile.

There was a point where the pain became unbearable. I couldn’t control the things happening around me, and I hated myself for it. How could I be so weak? How could I let it all control me? I was the one who needed to control it, I decided. The only way I could do this was by causing the pain myself, and that’s when I started cutting.

I want to make it clear that I did not start cutting myself that night with the intents of dying.  That is not what I wanted.  I wanted to feel something again, anything that wasn’t how I had been feeling lately.  I wanted to take the emotional pain of each day and mask it with physical pain controlled by myself.  I found power in cutting.  It soon became a habit. Self-harm is an addiction.  I did not want to stop, and I could not stop.  That is, until one night my best friend convinced me to try.  He told me that I am so much more than what I was doing to myself, that I did not deserve it.  I did not believe him, but he cried as he spoke the words.  He was my rock and seeing him this vulnerable was enough to convince myself to at least try. 

I threw everything dangerous I had in my room to the trash, and I told myself I would stop.  I told myself I could not do it anymore, that somebody was going to find out.  I started attending therapy sessions and made an attempt to get clean.  But, quitting is not easy.  I relapsed the first time a few days after the talk with my friend, and then again a week or two later. But thanks to support from my father, I now had a will to stop once and for all. 

I went a year being clean.  Twelve whole months.  The scars were fading and I began feeling less urges day by day.  But then, after a minor panic-attack during my first semester at college, I went back to my safety net.  I relapsed and I could not have been more upset with myself.  Anxiously, I told my best friend knowing he would be mad.  But, he did not express anger.  He simply expressed his love for me and that he believed in me.  He told me he understood it must be hard and that “just stopping” is not an option.  His friendship has helped me get stronger.

It has been a few years since I started self-harming, and almost two since my first last time.  I still relapse occasionally but I am continually getting better.  As with any addiction, quitting takes time and a lot of true effort.  It also requires much support.  That is why I encourage you, collegiettes, to take Self-Harm Awareness Day seriously.  Unless you are one who self-harms, there is no way you will ever fully comprehend the feelings behind taking direct action to harm yourself, and that’s okay.  I get that.  But, the important thing is that you understand how strong of an issue self-harm is.  Self-harm is not a punch line, and it is not something to take lightly.  It is a disease in itself and must be treated as one. 

If you know somebody who self-harms, offer your support.  It is best that they know you are there for them and that you believe in them.  Know your options when it comes to helping.  There are many organizations such as TWLOHA, 7 Cups that can help you learn more about the issue, and there are hotlines in every state that offer 24/7 help.

If you suspect somebody self-harms, do not stare at their scars or ask where they are from.  There is no more uncomfortable question to answer than “what’s that from” or “how’d you get that?”   Please, be respectful.

If you yourself self-harm, please know that you are not alone.  Whether it is opening up to a trusted friend, or going to see to a professional, talking about it is always good to try.  Take care of yourself, and know that you do not deserve to cause yourself this pain.  You are not alone.

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