I Am Not Ashamed of My Survival

By Jenny ChapmanMarch 4, 2024

Note: This piece talks about self-injury. Please use your discretion.

I still think about it.

My face and my body look different now than they used to. My skin feels different—the effects of aging are evident. A sign to the world I was gifted with the act of surviving in order to age, to see my skin wrinkle, to become a bit weaker, and to grow more cautious.

I still think about it. Sometimes I’m reminded of it when I reach to grab my coffee, when I hand a friend a book, or when I’m driving and have someone occupying the passenger seat. The scars don’t make me feel ashamed. I don’t feel shame when I sometimes catch someone quickly glancing away like they accidentally overheard a secret. I can teach others that that’s how some of our brains are wired. I don’t feel bad and I don’t feel the need to lie and say a dog attacked me like I used to.

I just hate it when I’m treated like a ghost again.

It’s a complicated feeling—but if you felt it, you know what I’m referring to. Being handled differently, when people look at you and something in their eyes changes almost to say, “I’m so sorry.” This used to feel worse than all the shame and guilt.

I’m not just an adult body with teenage scars. I’m alive, I’m radically joyful, and I’m fiercely dedicated to anything I say I’m going to do. I’m a partner, I’m a co-worker, I’m a human who has emotions, experiences, cool books, and art to show you. A being that can feel deeply and talk about the wonders of life with you. I’m here. I refuse to be treated like a ghost—even if it’s fear rooted in sympathy.

I don’t want to be a ghost in your eyes, but a human with a past, present, and future.

I haven’t self-harmed in over 15 years, and I still think about it. Growth isn’t easy and it isn’t magical—not at first at least. It takes a lot of hard work, it’s difficult to acknowledge your pain and actually sit with it. It is uncomfortable and painful. It is like love and justice, it doesn’t always feel pleasant and sometimes you want to stop and recoil. But it is what makes life worth living. The other side is worth the effort.

Self-injury is a pathway I have rewired, but the remnants and residuals have not been completely covered up with new growth. One day, maybe my paths will appear like an old-growth forest. Blanketed in moss, cloaked by trees, and lined with a creek full of frogs and other signs of life sprouting and thriving. And yet, even with the new growth, the original pathway nearly invisible, it remains just as much a part of me as the rest. For I am not ashamed of my survival.

You are worthy of love and grace, from others and yourself. You are enough, here and now. If you’re dealing with self-injury or self-harm, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected]

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Comments (5)

  1. Leisel

    That was beautiful, thank you for sharing

    Reply  |  
  2. Nikki

    Your words and truth give me a sense of hope for my loved ones struggling with self-injury and self-harm. Thank you for sharing parts of your story. It was a pleasure to connect to your words.

    Reply  |  
  3. Rachel

    This…hit the nail on the head today. I was literally just talking to someone about how I am stronger than my past but that some days are harder than others when I am reminded of things I survived or fought to overcome. Then this through my email and I read it…it is beautiful how you mentioned the original pathway being barely visible but still a part of me. What a way to put into words what is sometimes so hard to express out loud. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  4. Jim Verity

    I have a daughter that has been incarcerated for the previous 5+ years. She was denied parole last October. She will not be eligible for parole until October 2025. She is struggling. She has been talking about suicide for the last month. The prison does not offer help, besides medication. 👎🏻
    Is there anything this charity does in that environment?? She is in need.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hi Jim,

      We are glad your daughter has someone looking out for her mental health. Could you email our FIND HELP team at [email protected] with this information so we can see if there are services we can point you and your daughter to? We will do our best as we recognize that everyone has mental health and deserves the tools to care for it.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
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