This past May I celebrated being four years of self-harm free. As this landmark began to approach I reflected on the past four years. They haven't been easy. There have been times that I have laid the razor on my skin and contemplated what to do next. I first began self-harming as a form of symptom substitution when I entered treatment for bulimia. Eventually, I realized that symptom substitution wasn't going to work and I was heading down a similar dark path as I had with bulimia.
Self-harm became somewhat of an addiction – every time something went wrong (especially if I felt out of control) all I wanted to do was hurt myself. In a twisted way, it made me feel in control – I was in control of the pain I felt and no one could take that away from me. But then one day I was laying in my bed and I looked down at my thighs and they were covered with fresh and healed cut marks. I turned to my arm and saw fresh and healed cut marks. These marks represented all of my demons and I was letting these demons define me, and quite literally, leave their mark on my body.
It was then that I decided that I was going to stop for good (but I didn't really know how long that would be). My first goal was to not self-harm until my high school graduation. I didn't want any fresh scars for my graduation pictures. After I reached that goal I wanted to make it until I moved to college. And soon enough it had been a year, then two, and then four years.
Refraining from self-harm was only part of the battle. I had to find new hobbies and coping skills that could do for me what self-harm did. To be honest for the first two years nothing felt as good as hurting myself. But I kept trying new things and the same things over and over again. The second two years of my journey were much easier. I started to forget what self-harm felt like and I started to find joy and release in my new hobbies and coping skills.
However, there was one trigger that did not go away: my scars. Every time I looked at my thighs or upper arm I wanted to self-harm. I knew that getting my scars covered with tattoos would help me with this. Like many young college students, I'm a lil broke so I knew that I couldn't afford a tattoo.
And then one day I was scrolling through Instagram and I saw that a local artist was running a tattoo special that May (mental health awareness month). She was offering three hours of scar cover up for a very reasonable price. I knew that this was my chance. I contacted her and she helped me design my dream tattoo and she executed it beautifully. I now have one of the three areas covered up and let me tell you the urge to self-harm has never been lower. Whenever I look down at my right thigh I see a beautiful piece of art and I smile. I finally feel free. I finally feel like my scars do not define me. It's a beautiful and liberating feeling.
Everyone's journey through self-recovery is unique. My process and that tattoo are what worked for me, but may not work for others.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE STRUGGLING WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND/OR TENDENCIES, REACH OUT IMMEDIATELY. NO ONE SHOULD GO THROUGH THIS ALONE. SUICIDE IS SERIOUS.
National Suicide Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255 - available 24/7