Friday, May 23, 2014

You Remind Me of ME (An Open Letter)

TRIGGER ALERT:  This post is about cutting/self harm.  I've included popular internet memes included that may be upsetting.  I also understand that some people may be triggered or upset by the subject matter.  I ask that you not read this if you think you would be triggered or unable to respond compassionately.  I've worked on this post for months and somehow sharing it for Mental Health Awareness Month only feels appropriate.  It started after seeing some younger people I know posting memes about self-harm, something I'm all too familiar with because I was that girl.  I see the memes and I still understand them.  And while things are "better" now, I remember those times when I was that age all too well.  And I want to reach out and hug them, and this is the only way I really know how.  I hope someone who needs to hear these words sees it...and maybe feels less alone or is encouraged to seek help.  I hope maybe someone struggling to understand someone who is hurting this way sees it.  ANYTHING to get the word out, help even just one person.  This isn't every self-harm story.  But this is my story. 

Hey You,

You are not alone.

When I was in High School, we didn't have Facebook.  MySpace came out a year before I graduated.  I'm aware that I am slowly becoming archaic.  Which means that when I was your age, and even younger, I couldn't post what I was feeling in the form of a meme.  I wrote poetry instead...things I've never shown people to this day.  But somehow, seeing the kinds of things you've been posting and sharing...I suspect I strongly know what is going on with you because if I had been able to I would have shared the same things.  You remind me of me.

Today I looked at your Facebook page, and I hoped that you weren't living in the darkness I once knew so well.  I know there are things you've been struggling with.  I saw the meme you shared and I hoped that you shared it because someone you love is hurting themselves and not because you're hurting that way.  And yes, I know that just because you post something doesn't mean you're going through it or directing it at someone, but it kind of seems to be a theme so I do have to wonder.

PostSecret shared this secret this week.  It made me think of you.  I hope that isn't the case. 

The first time I cut myself, I was 14.   Self harm, self mutilation, cutting, self it whatever you want but we both know exactly what I'm talking about and we both know why.  Or at least I do, maybe right now you just know that it makes you feel better about whatever is going on in your life but you haven't figured out the underlying why.  It took me years to answer that for myself and in many ways I'm still figuring it out.  In the beginning, all that mattered was that it made me feel better.

I didn't want to die, not to say that I've never felt that way but most of the time I just wanted the pain to stop.  I didn't do it for attention; I hid it because attention was exactly the last thing I wanted because then people would know and would watch me and I would have to stop.  I had so many reasons...I started before my dad died and I continued afterwards for years.  I was struggling with grief no one should ever know so young.  I entered into relationships expecting love and a "real" relationship, but what I got was people who took advantage of me.  When those relationships ended, usually because I realized and grew tired of being used...I broke.

Your reasons are your reasons.  I respect that and I understand that you are going to do what you are going to do and that you won't stop until you are ready.  But there are some things I hope you will consider...

Right now you are building habits and coping mechanisms that will be with you for the rest of your life.  If I knew what I was starting when I made that first cut, I would have never done it.  I started when I was 14.  I am 28 now.  I wish I could say I quit when I was 17-18, but I can't because I've relapsed even as an adult.  When life gets really, really dark I have to fight like hell not to do the things I wouldn't have thought twice about doing at 15-16.  You might struggle with it forever, but if you stop now maybe you won't have the urge every time things get shaky.

I never thought about what I was actually doing to my body.  Not until years later when I would take my clothes off before my shower and I would look in the mirror and could see the scars.  They've faded, but I can find them.  Anyone who looked closely at me could see them if they wanted to.  I'm self-conscious about them.  I'm not proud of them.  While I realize that this is your choice NOW, some might not be.  While I appreciate my scars because it means I survived what I've been through and in many ways remind me that I survived myself, I wish I would have survived with emotional scars instead of the kind that can be seen.  Don't punish yourself forever for the terrible way you feel today.  Looking back, I can barely remember the things that happened that caused me such pain more than a decade ago, but I still have the scars.

When I wasn't cutting, I was searching for a "real" relationship.  I never found it, and when relationships I did find would end, I would cut to ease the pain.  The truth is that in this world, people are going to come and go in your life.  People will break your heart, let you down, and hurt you just like you will break hearts, let people down and hurt people in spite of how hard you try not to.  It took me a long time, but eventually I learned not to hurt myself over something someone else said or did.  Don't make someone who treats you like an option a priority, and know that someone who really loves you would not be OK with you hurting yourself.  And most importantly, and even I still struggle with this, don't rely on someone else for the love you can give yourself.  In this world, we cannot change the actions of others, make them love us or give us what we think we need from them but we CAN change our own actions.  Treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated, buy yourself flowers, treat yourself to nice things, forgive yourself, be kind to yourself, take good care of yourself.  The relationship with yourself is the only one you're guaranteed in this should probably make it a good one.  If you seek to have someone in your life, remember: you can't love someone else until you love yourself.

There is help out there.  I started taking antidepressants at 15.  I hated feeling like I had to take them to be "normal".  I hated the way I felt when I took them and the way I felt when I forgot to take them.  I hated the fact that at the time I was one of the only people I knew taking them.  It made me feel like I was crazy.  And when I stopped taking them, I suffered withdrawal so bad that I hallucinated.  What I didn't know was that if I didn't like what I had been prescribed, I could ask for something else.  There were so many other drugs out there that might have been able to help me but because I was dealing with so much fear and shame, I didn't know.  But I've come to realize that if something doesn't work for you, then there are always other options.  I felt ashamed for a very long time, but I needed to realize that antidepressants are medicine just like insulin.  If I were a diabetic, my body would need it and I wouldn't be ashamed of taking it.  Why then should I be ashamed of taking any other medicine my body needs?

I know this sounds so cliche and it really is, but it DOES get better.  That time period when you're in Middle School, High School and entering adulthood is confusing, stupid at times, and stressful... these are not the best years of your life.  But it is a time to be embraced before life becomes about being an adult.  Seriously.  Find yourself some good friends, smile, take pictures, dress up for silly functions, dye your hair funky colors, and make lots of memories.  Looking back, those times will be there...and the pain will have faded.

When you're ready or if you need help now, I hope you'll reach out to someone.  I was so good at hiding it that no one ever knew and I wanted it so bad.  Later, when I started talking to people about it or when I would relapse...I learned that people who love you or care about you will always try to help.  I also learned how sad it made people to know that I felt that bad and didn't reach out because they would have been there.  If there is anything I've learned, it's that sometimes we take each other for granted.  You might be blinded by hurt, you might feel more alone than you thought you could ever be, but I've found that sometimes people need to know that we need them.

And believe it or not, it gets better. 

There are lots of places you can go to get help and I hope you'll check them out.

If you're seeking more information about self-harm I highly suggest this blog written by a licensed clinical therapist who isn't stuffy.  It's the facts, from a professional who I enjoy and respect, presented in a new way.

Megsanity.  Women, Psychology and Expletives.


If you’re not sure where to turn, call the S.A.F.E. Alternatives information line in the U.S. at (800) 366-8288 for referrals and support for cutting and self-harm.

They also have an online community where people can seek and share resources.

National Hopeline Network

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)

The Trevor Project (LGBTQ)

Treatment Referral Hotline (Substance Abuse)



  1. Thank you so much for this. I relate so much. You truly are a goddess. Thank you for sharing. You are touching the life of a young girl (or boy) somewhere.

  2. Great post. It is so important to open up a dialogue about these issues in order to ensure that more people get the assistance that they need. <3

  3. Thanks for sharing this. A lot of people don't understand mental illness, or what goes on in the mind of someone who struggles with it. Strength to you!

  4. I write this with tears in my eyes, not because I lived this, but because YOU did. Because teens suffer in silence so often. My own son struggles with depression. I am so incredibly thankful that we have an open enough relationship that we can talk about his feelings so he doesn't resort to cutting. But I know he tried it once. I applaud your bravery for sharing your story. I know that must have been hard to put all those feelings into words, but you did, and it is beautiful. And even if it helps ONE person, it was so worth it.