I sobbed over the phone to my best friend Sam—I couldn’t help but wonder how I had gotten to this point again. I was at a hockey game, having a panic attack.
I walked myself outside to the corner of a stairwell and I couldn’t stop crying or shaking. It was almost impossible to hear her, but Sam just kept telling me to slow down and breathe for a minute. I kept telling her that I would be OK, and that I wasn’t going to go home and hurt myself again. But I wasn’t saying this to reassure her. I was saying it to myself. I needed to hear those declarations out loud. Because maybe if I said it enough times, I would begin to believe it.
I wish I could go back to the moment I relapsed this year and tell myself the same thing Sam told me: “Slow down and breathe for a minute.” I wish I could tell myself that self-harm wasn’t the answer. It didn’t help before, so why would it this time? I was trying to fix broken bones with band-aids, never actually addressing what needed my care and attention.
After my relapse, I couldn’t help but to feel like a fraud. Had the time I previously spent in recovery been a farce?
As someone in leadership at my local church, I sat across from girls every single week and taught them to run from things like self-harm. How was I going to face them now?
Soon, people began to catch on—quickly realizing that something was indeed wrong. I was hiding my scars, but I couldn’t hide my sorrow.
So I decided that it was time to let go of the shame and disappointment I was harboring, and not hide from it anymore.
I told someone I trusted.
And as I sat across from one of the girls I disciple, her asking questions about my history with self-harm, I saw my isolation begin to disappear. I wasn’t alone in my struggles; more people were walking through this pain than just me. I even found that a few students in the ministry I serve were battling self-harm, too.
I started to let go of the guilt and shame I felt about my relapse. I hoped that by pushing what I struggled with out of the darkness and into the light, I could start to silence the lies and speak the truth. By speaking up, I could finally be genuine and honest about where I was and where I am—maybe encourage others to do the same. Because some people need to see that someone is willing to start the conversation. To inspire courage to say how you’re feeling, share what you’re walking through, to finally seek help.
I’ve started looking at the question of “How did I get here?” a little differently since then. This is not the first time I’ve struggled, but I pray it will be the last. And if you had told 17-year-old me that I would be alive at 20—I would’ve told you that I didn’t want that, that I didn’t want to keep living. But I did. I’m still breathing, and I’m grateful for that.
Recently, a friend quoted a lyric from the musical Hamilton to me: “Look at where you are / Look at where you started / The fact that you’re alive is a miracle / Just stay alive, that would be enough.”
I’ve made it too far to quit now, and I’ve fought too hard to give up.
You’re still here to tell your story, too. And that is more than enough.