This piece discusses the topic of self-harm. Please use your discretion.
“It’s 3:24 a.m. and all of a sudden I feel the emotional pain I’ve internalized this week start to boil to the surface. My skin tingles. Usually, this pain escapes through my tears or my words, but tonight, I have none. It needs an exit, and my hands want so badly to carve it one. But I will not…I will not…”
What you just read is a journal entry from the night I stopped self-harming. That was two months ago, and sometimes I still struggle. The harming ceased, but the thoughts, the urges, didn’t. The thing about self-harm is that it’s essentially an addiction. I’ll be the first to admit that at one point in time, I was addicted to the pencil sharpener I kept in my phone case. I don’t remember when or exactly why I put it there, but in times of darkness, it was an eerie comfort—a way out that I knew would relieve my emotional pain—if only for a moment. It’s as if my brain associated that temporary relief with the act of injuring. I relied on it like an asthmatic relies on their inhaler, except my way wasn’t ever going to save my life.
But I didn’t see it that way at the time. Substituting my emotional pain for physical pain felt like the only option. They don’t make band-aids for the brain, and I didn’t really mind buying long-sleeve shirts. I didn’t mind the sting of the shower on my skin, I didn’t mind the scars. What I did mind was the vicious cycle I was stuck in. When I started to actually see what I’d been doing to myself, I felt so worthless, adding to the emotional turmoil I had come to believe could only be relieved by continuing to hurt.
Self-harm is often rooted in shame and secrecy. I hated myself for what I was doing, but I felt I couldn’t tell anyone. The same may be true for you. But what’s also true is that you are not the only person to feel this way, and you are not the only person who does these things. Although I can’t tell you how to stop it, I can tell you that it’s possible, and worth it, and all the cliché things used to describe recovery. That’s the thing, the truth can often be cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. You can fight it and win.
Don’t count the days, trust me on that one. Don’t suppress the urges but instead offer them a different outlet. Running or hiding from the way you feel leaves no chance to resolve it. It’s a tiresome life to always be living in fear of what you feel. Self-harm was my way of hiding. I never made a conscious decision to stop, I just made a conscious decision to tell someone, to throw out the blade in my phone case, to go for runs, to eat, to shower, to write. Little choices that saved my life.
And maybe for my own self-reassurance, I want to tell you that these bad moments don’t equate to a bad life. There will be days where laughing and breathing become a lot easier. Someone will need to hear your story of overcoming. I know you’re tired and your feet may be weary from trudging through this chapter, looking for a light that never seems to grow closer or brighter no matter how far you walk. But that light is still there. I wish to tell you what that light tastes like, but I can’t just yet for I am still moving away from my addiction with every breath I breathe in favor of life. I want to tell you there’s not much further to go, but I am uncertain. I can, however, tell you it’s possible to live with scars, to feel the same pain you feel right now and to not hurt yourself because of it, to want to stop. I can offer you my hand, for we are traveling similar roads and I am headed towards the light. Care to walk with me?
Amazing…thank you for this.
Thank you so much for this. I have struggled with self-harm for about a year and a half, this was so encouraging to me! It helps me know that freedom from self-harm is real and that I can make it. Thank you again!
This is beautifully written. It feels more believable than the too-happy “I made it out and you can too!” mantras I hear too often. Thank you.
I desperately needed this today! Thank you!
This was beautiful and helpful but for me personally, counting the days helps so much. I can see what I have accomplished (33days y’all!) and make a decision if whatever I am going through in that moment is worth giving up my hard earned days.
This is a brilliant description of how recovery can feel! I am sure many people agree..
I am 8 years into recovery from self harm and I can tell you, those urges are still there. But they are nowhere near as frequent or as strong and overpowering as they were 8+ years ago. You will learn healthier coping mechanisms, you will get stronger and happier by the day. And the longer you go without doing it, the longer you will *want* to go. Eventually it is just not worth turning back, because you have come so far. That point is different for all of us, but trust me, it will come 🙂 congratulations on two months, that is HUGE!
Hugs and kind thoughts to you 🙂
I needed this today, more than ever.
Approaching 3 months without harming… and the urges almost got the better of me today… thank god for this post. Keep strong. I’m holding your hand firmly, for you as much as for myself
This is so beautifully written and I can relate completely. Thank you for sharing!
Wow, I feel like I could have written this. Thank you, and blessings in your journey towards recovery.
This is great. I struggle with self-harm and I have wandered alone in this world for so long. I had turned to sleeping with people because it made me feel that in some way, that person cared about me when in reality I was throwing myself down a slippery slope that I couldn’t seem to find a way back up from. I want everyone and especially you to know that this has helped me, and this is the first time i said anything about this to anyone. Thanks for listening… Stay Strong.
I’ve been clean since last October. It is difficult but it is possible, and worth it. I’m here walking right along with you.
Thank you, this definitely lifted some weight off my shoulders, I was clean for around 3 to 4 months but I let things get to me a couple days ago so now I’m only less then a day clean, but im trying to not because I no it’ll help me more if I try to stop instead of just giving up. For anyone that reads this keep staying strong. Even if your self harming it doesn’t make you a bad person and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, have a good day everyone
You’re absolutely right, self-harm doesn’t make you a bad person whatsoever. We’re proud of you for continuing to fight and for being vulnerable and honest with us. Thank you for being here, for being you.
This came at an exact moment I was just fed up… that light won’t show but this right here has made me feel less alone. Thank you.
I’m suffering from selfharm for 14 years now. I started when I was 10 years old. It’s hard not to do it and every day I don’t hurt myself is a victory. That does not mean those other days are a failure. They are just part of my way to stop it for good.
This is beautiful. It’s beautiful because I can relate and have gone through the same exact feelings. I’m now 2 and a half years sober but it’s still a struggle. Recovery is the hardest thing to do for yourself but it’s worth it and you are worthy of a healthy life. Build a life for yourself that’s worth living.
Im have also found this to be an addiction.. I started when i was 18 and i havent self harmed in 11 years but have found myself in a very deep dark hole that feels long lasting and recently started back up and cant seem to stop.. I completely relate to this entire post. ? sometimes just feels nothing will get better and that temporarily physical pain relieves the emotional pain..
We’re sorry that you are struggling with self-harm, but we want you to know that these tough days don’t define you. You are strong and you can start again with help and support. Would you email our team at [email protected]? We’d like to offer you support and encouragement.
Tears of pain and joy
Thank you so much, this is exactly what I needed to hear tonight. I have always felt so alone in this, thank you for reminding me that I’m not. I would love to walk with you, if you’ll have me?
This is saving me right now. I relapsed 3 nights ago after almost 2 years without self harm, and I feel lower than I ever have. I thought I was done with this, but clearly I need to put more practice into finding alternative outlets. Thank you for making me feel like I am not alone.
Please know that a relapse does not erase all of your progress. It’s OK. You’re OK. The fact that you’re here and you’re continuing to try is everything.
Would you email us at [email protected] so we can learn more about you and offer you some support?
You are not alone in this.
Thank you, Adanna Brown, for writing this piece, and for sharing your experience and vulnerability. I greatly appreciate your ending note in offering your hand to walk a parallel path along side you. That virtual hand is so important, especially to those who don’t have a helping hand elsewhere.
I wish I could go into my story, but it’s too long, too many details, too many struggles piled on others. It’s a heavy weight to bare, compounded by negative self-talk, spiraling depression, chronic widespread pain, self-isolation, and more. I self-harmed a couple weeks ago. Prior to that, I self-harmed a couple years ago. Just like lots of folks, when life is too hard, too dark, externalizing that pain is always on my mind. I’ve dealt with this since I was 11, and I’m 34 now. Thinking of progress as a spiral or circular, encountering similar struggles, but years apart, brings some light, maybe even hope.
What I’m struggling with is the constant test of resilience. I know I’m strong, since I’m still here. But, I wish for mercy. I wish therapy helped, and wish my appointments weren’t taken up by admin and paperwork. I wish my meds would help more, and wish my doctor would take my time and issues more seriously. I wish my baseline and new normal were better. This teetering is a difficult and uncertain place. Friends and family help, so does this blog, the comments, and the hand you offer.
Thank you for it. Wishing you and those who struggle a continued vision of the light, life, and hope.
Thanks for this. Just got off my antidepressants that I have been taking for a year and a half because of this. I really needed the reminder not to hurt myself. I’m about a year clean and man it is tough to keep this up. In fact, I was planning on self-harming tonight because I feel so much after my meds wore off. So I thank you for writing this.
We’re so glad that these words could help. And we’re so proud of you for fighting against the urge to self-harm even as you’re going through a medication change. Please know that you can always reach out to us at [email protected] if you’re ever in need of support.
Adanna, your story is so inspiring. You inspire me every day to become a better version of myself.
This brought tears to my eyes. Most days I feel like I’ll never truly be able to stop.
I want to walk with you.
I’ll walk anywhere with you and if you continue to hurt yourself it will be as though you’re hurting me. You don’t know what your smile means to me, you don’t know that if you told me this I would’ve been there to hide the sharpener for you love.
i dont feel so misunderstood now
Its been 10 years since I was here, and just recently I’ve found myself pulled in the direction of release, the addictive act of self-harm haunted me for the best part of 5 years, cathartic release, escape from my mind and my body.
Thank you for sharing your story.
We’re glad you found Adanna’s words and story. You are not alone in what you’re feeling and facing. Please know that struggling does not make you weak. You can email us at [email protected] or reach out to Crisis Text Line by texting TWLOHA to 741741—it’s free and available 24/7.
I understand the feeling. It’s not the same as an addiction to drugs or alcohol but yet it is. My need for self-harm was either because I was hurting so bad and felt out of control. It I didnt feel anything and pain was better than the nothingness. It is a struggle I will always have. I don’t hide from it anymore. Instead I have a “toolbox of activities” that are alternatives to injuring. I found it helped to have a variety since each feeling is different, hurt is different, so the help should be different.
Thank you for your honesty and the courage you exuded by sharing. We’re grateful. We’re also truly inspired by your toolbox and the wisdom you shared in saying “each feeling is different, hurt is different, so the help should be different.” Keep adding to and using that toolbox.
Such a relatable post. I had been without self-harm for almost fourteen years. This past August, I got to a very dark place and unfortunately didn’t know where else to turn. I am glad that I was honest with my husband about it, since he encouraged me to get the help I needed. I am glad I was able to get help and I haven’t self-harmed since that day. It does get easier, but even in dark times the thoughts arise. It’s so important to remember that just because you slip doesn’t mean you have to fall all the way down.
We are so glad you confided in your husband and got the help and support you needed. That took courage. Thank you for sharing and for inspiring us.
I’ll walk with you
This is beautiful. It’s bittersweet, knowing exactly what you mean because I was once in your place too- addicted to what was killing me. I’m happy to say that I’m too in recovery, and it’s much better to realise the positive outcomes for recovering rather than being pushed into changing for negative reasons. Walk with us. It’ll be okay
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I needed this today, a reminder that there is hope. I haven’t self harmed in years but lately the thoughts and urges have been unbearable. I needed a reminder that this too shall pass.
Thank you so much for your honesty and your courage. X