"Without your past, you never would have arrived - so wondrously and brutally, by design or some violent, exquisite happenstance
...here."

Regardless of the fact that my actual birthday is in December, I choose to celebrate today, October 30, as my birthday. It's the day that I chose to actually start living. The day where I looked in the mirror and chose freedom. When I decided that I no longer wanted to be a prisoner to my own sadness. I deserved to be happy. I deserved to truly start living.

My journey with self-harm started when I was only 13-years-old. Even now it's hard to state that so matter-a-factly, but it is what it is. That's been my reality for nearly the past 8 years, and there's nothing that will ever erase that from being such an important part of my story.

I got myself addicted to self-harm when I was far to young to even know what such a thing was. Even at such a young age, I felt so much pain built up and I needed an outlet to release it. I constantly wish that I had chosen a different way. If I could just go back to that very first day... then maybe it would all be different.

But I'll never be able to go back to that day and I will never be able to change the fact that self-harm is an incredibly addicting way to cope, and that it would never be just a one time thing. What began as something I tried as a curious middle-schooler, desperately looking for any way to relieve the pain that I felt internally, quickly escalated into a crutch that I would use for years instead of facing what I was dealing with. It eventually consumed me. It became an addiction and an endless battle that I never thought I would win.

It was the longest battle I've faced. It was months of highs and staying clean, followed by a sudden relapse, that led to weeks of lows. This was a cycle that I never thought that I would be able to break. I truly thought that I was going to self-harm for the rest of my life. I thought that when something bad happened to me that this would always be how I would deal with it. While I knew that it was wrong and I was by no means proud of what I was doing, there was no reason for me to break my habit. It was comforting and in some weird, twisted way, it helped me feel better, at least temporarily. This would be my life forever. This was who I was.

And thankfully, to my surprise, it didn't last forever and I chose to never let it define me. On October 30, 2012, I harmed myself for the very last time. I was tired of hiding my scars and tired of living in sadness, as a victim to this endless cycle of addiction that I swore I would never break. On October 30, I chose freedom. I chose to start living.

I wish I could say that it was easy. I wish that I could say that that day was the last time that self-harm ever crossed my mind, but like any addiction, it's an everyday battle that I fight. It will never be easy and there are days, even 6 years later, where I think of relapsing. Recovery doesn't happen on its own and it doesn't take a day off, it's a choice that you have to make every single day.

And while I cannot sit here and tell you that recovery is easy, I can tell you that it is worth it. I am no longer defined by an action that once controlled me. I no longer worry about if my sleeves ride up my arms on a day that I choose to not wear bracelets. I no longer worry about making excuses when someone asks me. I no longer live a life of fear and embarrassment.

On October 30, 2012, I finally started living a life that I was proud of.

Today I am 6 years clean.

I'm free.