Her Story: Breaking the Self-Harm Habit

I spent about eight months during my sophomore year of high school cutting myself. I have had fairly severe depression ever since, and it’s honestly a struggle every day. Though it’s been years since I last self-harmed, I still consider myself to be breaking the habit. But unfortunately, it’s something that, once you start, becomes incredibly difficult to stop.

When I was cutting, I was at a time in my life when I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone--and that is the worst thing I could have thought. My first piece of advice if you’re going through something similar is to tell someone. Anyone. It doesn’t have to be a parent or guardian, but tell someone. A sibling, a friend, a teacher, a coach. Literally anyone. This is not something you need to go through alone. I came very close to taking my own life because it took me almost a year to tell someone that I needed help.

Unfortunately, mental illness is still shrouded in stigma these days. Sometimes, it’s not seen as a “real illness.” Sometimes, people advise to “just be happy” or “smile more” when those of us who have suffered or are suffering know it’s nowhere near that simple. However, the only way to end the stigma is to talk about it. We won’t normalize mental illness by whispering about it in dark corners, or only sharing our stories when we’ve “recovered”.

Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety aren’t things that just get better or go away with time. More often than not, they require medication or counseling to even alleviate some of the symptoms (like self-harm). While self-harm can seem like a way to cope at the time, I promise you it’s not. I thought for months that I was helping myself, but truly, it was just a distraction. Underneath all the scars, I was still depressed and I still needed help.

I’d love to be able to say that I stopped because I was brave, and that I got help, or that I had a glowing moment of clarity where I didn’t want to hurt myself anymore. But the reality is that I stopped because I was afraid of the stigma. I didn’t want to be known as “the girl who cut”. I was already known as “the girl who slept around” (thanks to some choice “friends” who decided this lie was worth spreading). I stopped cutting to save what was left of my reputation and that was not a healthy way to stop.

To this day I still struggle with the temptation. On my worst days, I still want to go back to it. I’m proud to say I never have, but I am still struggling to break the habit. I still dig my nails into my arms when I get anxious, my stomach still sinks when I get a small cut. But every day, every month, every year that passes since I self-harmed, is a victory for me.

If you are currently self-harming, please learn from my mistakes and reach out to someone. I wish I could go back and tell my 15-year-old self that it would all be okay if she spoke up. I guarantee, it will be so much easier to have someone by your side. It’s not hopeless, it’s not impossible, and you are not broken.

Self-Harm Prevention Hotline: 1-800-366-8288

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255