By Emily GallantApril 18, 2019

I reached five years of being self-harm free this past October. It was a milestone that often seemed impossible to achieve. There were so many times where I thought I would reach it, only to fall back to square one.

43 days.

3 days.

100 days.

21 days.

137 days.

Progress would be made, and in a split second, I’d be right back where I started. Frustration, anger, and confusion would soon follow.

Self-harm is a struggle often misunderstood, seen as being shameful, but finding even just one person to lean into when I felt the urge to hurt myself was essential to my healing. Vulnerability is terrifying, but I had to keep reminding myself that I needed people to stand beside me. People who could catch me when I fell. People to remind me that, contrary to what my mind was telling me, I deserved healing. I deserved love. I deserved freedom. I deserved to try and try again.

If you’re facing your own battle with self-harm, I want you to know that it’s OK if you relapse. It’s OK if the urge is too strong. But also know that it’s never too late. You are never too far gone. It is possible to get back up and keep moving forward. I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve sat on my bed feeling lost, hopeless, broken, angry. I’ve cried thinking of those I’d be letting down if they found out. I’ve had countless arguments with myself about whether or not to give up on the number of days I’d gone without.

The beginning of my journey toward healing held many ups and downs. I repeatedly felt as if I was finally breaking free from this kryptonite of mine only to stumble back to it. But as I continued to lean into those key people in my life, I was able to not only let them fight for me but more importantly, learn to fight for myself as well.

I found solace and relief in other ways, too. Music became a safe haven. I’d lay in my bed and listen to songs that made me less alone. I’d go for walks. I’d force myself to simply leave my bedroom and sit in the living room watching TV with others, just so I wasn’t stuck ruminating on all the bad and overwhelming thoughts filling my head.

There were times I would ask a friend to go for coffee or run to Walmart—simply so I wasn’t alone. Times where I’d write and let my thoughts flow out through a pen and onto paper. Other times I’d allow my head and body to rest from the chaos by taking a nap. I would also count. Count each day that would pass where I hadn’t hurt myself, aiming for small milestones, and celebrating the small victories with loved ones. Five days, a week, a month, 50 days, 100 days, and so on. Sure, I aimed for the same numbers over and over at the start of my journey, but they were milestones all the same. And the times when none of those options were helpful, I would instead reach out to a helpline, the stranger on the other end guiding me through what I was feeling.

The journey to healing is a long one. It’s hard and frustrating and exhausting. There are days where recovery feels impossible, days where you want to give up. But when you find your mind playing tricks on you, find something or someone to help clear out the storm clouds and guide you back to the life that sits eagerly before you. The life you are still writing. The life that holds possibilities. The life that longs for you to discover your path—the people you will meet along the way, the adventures you will go on, and the memories you will make.

My road to recovery may never be over. I still have scars. I still have hard days. I still consider going back to self-harm just to get through tough times. But even through these difficult moments, I choose to keep fighting. I go to counseling. I lean on people when I need help standing. I turn up the music and wait for the moment to pass. I keep moving forward.

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Comments (13)

  1. Elizabeth

    Thank you for writing this and congratulations! I just reached three years, though I never thought It’d be possible. Healing has been so hard, but so worth it!

    Reply  |  
  2. Kathryn

    Thank-you for your story, you have no idea how badly I needed to hear it right now. It’s funny how sometimes God can send the exact right words at the exact time that you really need to hear them…
    I, too, struggle daily, sometimes hourly, with the urge to self-injure.
    I recently relapsed (again), this time it was the day before my 19 month anniversary.
    Once I’ve given in once, I’m on a slippery slope of continuously telling myself “what does it matter? It’s only been less than 24 hours anyway…”. Somehow, as it gets longer, it gets easier… or maybe I get stronger, I don’t know.
    After my one slip, I slipped again. And again. I actually landed myself back in the hospital. But I’ve been out for a week now, and I’m back to 10 days self-injury free.
    Thank-you again for sharing your story, I really needed the encouragement right now. You are so brave to be so open about your struggles.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hi Kathryn,

      We’re so glad you found Emily’s blog. We know relapse can be difficult to face and overcome, but you are doing it and we are cheering you on. 10 days is incredible, as is just a single day, simply because you are showing up for yourself and that’s what matters.

      Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing a part of your story on here. We are inspired by your honesty and bravery.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  3. Katze

    This is the third time I’ve read this. It’s a huge help – and a huge challenge – for me as I try to quit self-harm for good. Thank you for writing this!

    Reply  |  
  4. Marie Boyle

    I too have dealt with the issue of self-harm for most of my 53 years…I’m working each day to reach another day without resorting to injurious behavior. Not quite 5 yrs, but I just celebrated my 3rd year free from harm on April 19th, 2019….it’s been a long road but the feeling of accomplishment is well worth it…..I actually took up boxing which was helpful both physically and MENTALLY!! I was able to not only release endorphins, but get rid of my aggressions not acting out against myself, but against the “bag”… is wonderful!!

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hi Marie!

      Congratulations on making it to 3 years self-harm free last month! That’s incredible. And thank you for sharing part of your story with us. Your honesty and openness are inspiring to us!

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  5. Noah

    Been about a year for me, but not a day goes by in which I want to go back to self-harm. It is a battle that I feel has just started. Thanks for giving me hope when I feel I might relapse. Let’s hope I keep this streak up for another year.

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  6. Marie Boyle

    It’s so amazing when u can “keep moving forward”…..congrats!! Don’t look back, unless it’s to see how far u have come and remind yourself how u are/were able to do it…….
    “It’s been a rocky road, but God makes pebbles out of it and puts me on the path to make sand.
    Sand is much easier to deal with than the boulders I’ve been carrying.” – me (March 2016 – approximately 1 month before stopping to self-injure)

    Reply  |  
  7. Sharon Heller

    Emily you may suffer SPD – sensory processing disorder. From my book, “Uptight & Off Center.”
    “Self-harming/Pulling Hair/Picking skin
    If you have low muscle tone, you have poor body awareness and feel out of touch with your body. Under severe emotional turmoil, you may feel emotionally frozen and cut off from your body. Injuring your skin or pulling out your hair (trichotillomania) provides intense skin sensation and pressure that helps you re-connect with your body and know you are alive and okay. And harming or pulling distracts you from intense emotional pain as it is proposed to release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, explaining why harming and pulling rapidly reduces tension rapidly. Some have described the feeling afterward as a “calm, bad feeling.”

    Reply  |  
  8. Mara

    Thank You ..!

    Reply  |  
  9. Rose

    I recently achieved 4 years self-harm free. I really never thought of it for a while, I felt weird looking at the white scars on mi forearms but the thoughts were not powerful enough to make me yield and give up, just until the pandemic. It’s been so hard since march, I’ve had to fight the idea of giving up almost every single day. I’ve managed to stay self-harm free but I am still struggling and this post Has helped me see a lot of people are in the same situation, for its own reasons, but has given me strength to continue fighting every day, as every day I am clean is a step forward. Thank you for sharing the experience.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA


      We are so inspired by your courage. Thank you for sharing this with us. We are so glad you found continued strength through Emily’s story.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  10. Stephanie J

    1 year and 27 days here! 5 years is HUGE and amazing. Thank you for the article.

    Reply  |  
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