If I had to try to explain why I began to self-harm, it would look something like this:
I would tell you I needed to matter; I needed to feel as though I was worth something, anything.
Our society would tell you I was looking for attention.
I would try to explain my struggles with depression and anxiety.
Our society would invalidate it with a few simple words: “Someone else has it worse.”
I would tell you that sometimes it was easier to deal with self-inflicted pain than to acknowledge the hurt that runs marathons in my brain.
Our society would say, “Get out of your own head. Get over it!”
This Sunday, March 1, is Self-Injury Awareness Day. For me, this Sunday is a reminder that I am nearly two years clean from self-injury. For some, this Sunday will be just like any other day. But for so many others this day will be an uncomfortable reminder. It’s a pointed finger at one of our darkest habits. It’s a forced memory of our most horrible nights. It’s a reminder of the urge we face on a daily basis. The stigma around self-injury makes me feel ashamed, convinces me I’m worthless, and scares me into refusing to open up about this dangerous habit.
And that’s the problem with stigma. It means this struggle we face is rarely talked about in the open. And if it is discussed, the right language isn’t used. How could we be honest about the overwhelming guilt we feel when covering our scars? How do we admit when the habit happened recently? Often we feel we can’t be honest about the boulder that sits in our stomach and between our shoulder blades when we wake up and we’re forced to face the choices we’ve made. We don’t talk about how to say – even after years in recovery – that we still have days where we purposefully keep ourselves busy. We don’t say we still have days where we purposefully reach out to our therapist and loved ones in order to not become exhausted by the urge to self-injure. And we rarely talk about relapse, a reality that has made me hate the word “process” more than I should.
We were not meant to do life alone. We were not meant to carry our brokenness by ourselves. This expectation is not realistic or safe. I needed my loved ones to get through my darkest nights just as much as I needed them to rejoice with me on my brightest days. We need to love each other right where we are. That kind of love and support holds the power to make the biggest difference.
We live in a broken world, and it is filled with hurting people. The stigma we face has claimed more collateral damage than we can imagine, but we were never promised a world without trouble. This Sunday I hope you remember this: There is something so much bigger than that trouble, so freely giving of peace, and that is hope. If you can’t hold onto that right now, that’s OK. Let the people in your community hold the hope for you until you can believe again.
This Sunday I will wear orange to fight the stigma, to advocate for my story, and to stand up for yours. I never thought the day would come where I would wear orange clean of self-injury. If you can’t imagine that day in your future, don’t worry. I’ll hold the hope for you.