This piece talks about self-injury. Please use your discretion.
To anyone who wears a mask but longs to be seen.
I am an artist. I write, draw, paint, sing, play, tattoo, and design. I am a Christian. I believe the God of the universe is reaching out for your hand and mine. I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I love concerts and coffee, band tees and cats.
I am also a self-injurer. I am depressed, sometimes suicidal. I have good days and bad days. I carry a burden of darkness with me that in moments feels consuming. In those times I feel like everything but the pain is fake. The rest of me is just a facade maintained to keep people from getting to know who I really am.
On rare occasions, with trusted people, I open up about my mental health challenges. Even then though, I don’t generally share about my struggle with self-harm (an issue still heavily stigmatized). I make it sound like a thing of the past, something I tried in high school but grew out of. I make it seem like it’s not a problem anymore. I make it seem like I don’t still carry scars—some that are purple and angry and difficult to look at, and others that have faded to calm, white lines. I make it seem like I don’t carry around a sharp object in my purse “just in case.”
I started when I was 14 and I’m now 22, still pretending that the thought of picking up where I left off after my last relapse on fucking Christmas doesn’t haunt my mind. I’ll smile and you’ll never see the pain behind my eyes. You see, we all wear these masks which at their best allow us to function in normal, casual society, and at their worst, ensure that we will never be fully seen.
Doomed to carry the burden of pain and shame all alone, I made myself into this closed-off, impenetrable fortress by choice because it was easier than the alternative. The alternative where I got hurt when I tried to speak up. It feels safe here but I still secretly wish someone would for once see past the bullshit smile plastered on my face.
The mask is important because it compels me to carry my scars in places only swimsuits won’t hide. I lug this burden around daily. It weighs on my mind like some kind of sick prank I’m playing on the world. The world thinks I’m “normal.” The world thinks I haven’t looked darkness in the eye.
And yet, at times I wish I had scars in places plainly visible so that strangers could wrestle with my secret instead of me. I want this to be someone else’s problem for once. I want to prove that I’m someone who’s seen things, been places no one should go and survived. I want someone to see my scars and tell me, “What you did to yourself looks like it hurt like hell.” I want to tell them it did. I want to prove that I’m strong and tough, that my pain is real and intense. But my scars stay hidden. I carry them alone and I chose this so I really can’t complain.
Maybe you chose this too. Maybe you have regrets about ever hurting your own body. Maybe you have regrets about scars that are visible or hidden, regrets about them being too small or too large. Maybe you’re in the middle of the raging tempest that is self-harm and nothing is ever “bad enough” to expel what you’re feeling inside.
If I could tell you one thing, as someone who is healing but hasn’t quite made it out the other side, it’s this: You have nothing to prove.
Your feelings are valid because you feel them, not because you went deeper this time.
You are strong because you are alive, not because you can endure self-inflicted pain.
You can reach out for help. You don’t have to wait for someone to notice your scars and be brave enough to ask if you’re OK. You don’t have to wait until you end up in the hospital because you went too far. I promise you there are people out there who want to get to know all the parts of you, light and dark. Comfortable and uncomfortable.
Find a safe space and practice using your voice. It’s powerful, even if people make you believe it’s insignificant. Even if people make you feel like you’re too sensitive, too dramatic, too far gone to ask for help. Using your voice is terrifying, but the darkness we carry feeds off our secrets—which is why we have to bring them into the light.
You are so much more than your pain and you don’t have to prove that it’s real. Find the light—we’ll chase after it together.
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].