“It’s easy to turn on yourself sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy”.
Self-harm is my not-so-secret addiction. It is difficult to keep a secret when it is written all over your body. No, I am not a goth or an emo. This is not another crazy trend. And no, I am not attention seeking. The only thing I am seeking, is comfort. Self-harm helps me by providing relief when no one else is there for me. Sure, people may physically be there; but I truly feel alone. Self-harm makes me feel more alive. I need to see physical evidence of life. I pour my emotions out through my skin rather than speak of them. Every scar I have is a reminder of how I have failed myself and everyone around me. I cut because I feel numb. The physical pain makes me forget the mental pain for a while. And that is the addicting part. I want to eradicate the mental pain completely. It’s like when people were desperately trying to beat their high score on Flappy Bird. I desperately want the mental anguish to disappear.
I have very visible scars on my arms, from years self-harming. People will occasionally ask how I got them, and I find it slightly intrusive when people ask this. If I trust the person my answer usually is, “it’s easy to turn on yourself sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy”. When I was questioned about a scar on my arm, I recall saying that I was acting stupid as a child and that led to me falling out of a tree. I was ashamed to tell the truth. The excuse of acting stupid as a kid was more socially acceptable than telling that person that I have a mental illness.
However, self-harm makes things much, much worse at the same time, sending me cravings throughout the day, reminding me how much I need it. I need comfort. Control. Peace. Self-harm is the physical evidence of my depression and anxiety for me. It shreds me to pieces, quite literally. I cut myself if I get overwhelmed with stress. And there is an abundance of it. I crumble when under immense pressure.
I will be sitting my Leaving Cert in June. And I know already that by then my self-harming will be at its peak. The stress of orals, learning essay after essay, quotes, vocabulary… The list goes on. The Leaving Cert is tough enough as it is but throw in depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal tendencies and it just gets a whole lot worse. Being in school physically and emotionally hurts me. I hate people staring at me and I hate hearing everyone’s stupid opinions about me. I hate the look the teachers give me when I haven’t done homework because I wasn’t mentally able. When they talk about how people don’t work enough, I feel like its directed at me and it makes me want to self-harm even more. I don’t think they understand how much of a workload I have to manage. I get so much homework and am expected to study also, it’s impossible to complete it all without losing sleep. My emotions and hormones are already a lot to deal with, then the teachers start throwing ridiculous amounts of work on top of me and it quickly becomes unbearable. The stress is eating away at me. I go home and cry myself to sleep most nights because of stress. It is so unbearable that I feel the urge to self-harm to gain some sense of control back into my life. It is a vicious cycle.
I recall telling a friend one time about my stress and self-harm, and she panicked. At the time, coming out with this ‘not-so-secret’ secret, made me feel ashamed and disgusted with myself. I felt like a burden and that I was worrying everyone. This is why I think that many people refuse to open up about their self-harm. They are afraid of worrying people. Afraid of the negative comments. As I’ve already said, people sometimes call those who self-harm “goths”, “emos” and “attention seekers”. The last thing I want is attention. I don’t like people fussing over me. I don’t go around showing everyone my scars. I have not worn shorts in 5 years. Why? Because I am wary of others. The staring, the dirty looks and the stereotypical comments. However I cannot avoid concealing all of my scars. After all my body is like canvas. My skin is riddled with fine horizontal lines, which glimmer in sunlight. Opening up was very difficult but my friends and family were extremely supportive when I told them and helped me through that tough time. I thought I was alone but there is always someone willing to listen. Big problems or small.
When everything became too much and all of these feelings combined, it led to perhaps the biggest demon of all. Suicidal ideation. Yes, this is a very sensitive topic, but people need to know how much it haunted me. Suicide was in my thoughts. More than I would like. It was an escape, an end to the demons and feelings. I considered accepting this escape route many times.
Too many times. I am now being treated with medication, I rely on it for chemically induced normality. It’s funny how people assume I am the happiest teenager when in reality, they are seeing the effects of an anti-depressant. Not me.
This is why I’m encouraging Ireland to talk about their issues. I know that I couldn’t see myself getting better at all, but look at me now! If telling my story helps someone realise that they need to reach out, then I know I’ve done something worthwhile with my life. It makes me feel more at ease to remain anonymous, but I’ve reached out and I am trying to let people know that it is okay to seek help.