Self-Harm Recovery Is More Than Just Self Control


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.


National Suicide Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255 - available 24/7

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