Cincinnati, OH USA
Editor's Note: If you are currently struggling with self-harming behaviors, the following story could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741.
"For many, having an invisible illness is beyond frustrating. You are struggling and suffering so much on the inside, but to the world you appear fine. For me, although I struggle with four mental illnesses, my internal struggles are displayed all over my body. I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and ADHD. And, each has left its mark.
I had been self-harming, in the form of cutting, since my freshman year in high school. I just finished my junior year in college. Seven years of harming my body. It was the answer, solution, and relief to my overwhelming emotions and conflicts. It simply was fueling the addiction to it.
Even at 21-years-old, I still struggle with urges and relapses, but I work hard to fight each day. I remember what first provoked me to self-harm, which was this overwhelming fear of people disliking me, that I was to blame for any conflict, and that ultimately those people would leave me.
I always questioned who I was. I felt like I didn’t have a sense of self. I carried a constant self-loathing and looming emptiness. As a result, I would turn to the one thing that made me feel something other than these ruminating thoughts.
However, other than the cuts on my skin, no one would have ever guessed I was consumed with such overwhelming thoughts and feelings. I was super outgoing, fun, loving, and spunky. I had friends, I came from an affluent, loving family, I was an athlete, and a straight-A student, so what could possibly be so wrong in my life?
I wore an armor to protect myself from these thoughts and feelings and that armor was self-harm. Self-harm is one of the most taboo mental illness struggles in society. The way that complete strangers stare with a mix of awe, pity, or disgust has been a source of a lot of shame and guilt for both myself and others who self-harm.
The judgement- 'Why would you do something like that to yourself? You do know those scars are for the rest of your life, right? Self-harm is just for attention-seekers. How do you expect to get a job one day with scars lining your forearms?'- both ruthless and hurtful.
For so long, I wore long sleeves to school and especially around new people. Other than around my few closest friends, I wore makeup to coat the redness of the remnants of the internal pain I suffered. Being a 'self-harmer' in college is an added struggle, as so many uneducated people believe cutting is a 'teen' thing. It was an added anxiety for me to go to classes and hope no one would see.
One day, I had enough. Why was I hiding my body to save others from feeling uncomfortable? If I could not accept my appearance and suffering, how could I expect anyone else to be understanding or accepting?
The looks, the stares, and the comments still happen every day, but I don’t hide anymore. My scars do not define me- they’re simply a manifestation of the mental illnesses I struggle from. My scars are red, raised, and attention-grabbing, but I make a point to grab others' attention with my personality, my unconditional support, and, most importantly, my knowledge.
It’s our responsibility to end the stigma around mental health and I just hope by educating others about self-harm, they will begin to realize it is just as valid of a struggle as so many others."