Relapse Does Not Negate Progress

By Audrey BeaudoinJune 15, 2021

This piece mentions the topic of self-harm in detail. We ask that you use your discretion.

I lie in bed, my belly burning from a self-harm encounter two days before. I’m tired of the pain, yet I continue adding fuel to the fire. I no longer know why… Why can’t I stop? Perhaps it’s some futile attempt to prove something—although at this point I don’t know what that something is. It’s a vicious cycle of trying to defeat hopelessness while simultaneously amplifying it. My go-to for a quick release, for a sense of peace and calm, has slowly evolved into a relentless, all-consuming forest fire.

And then I realize… it’s a trap.

It always starts the same. It appears enticing at first, lustful even. Branded with the slogan, “The quickest fix for all your problems.” How could one resist when pain seems her closest companion? Deceit hides in the fine print of the phrase, for there is no “quick fix” for pain.

Broken bones take time to heal. Sickness doesn’t fade overnight. Emotional anguish is no exception. Such an ailment must be fully felt in order to fully recover. Numbing pain or invalidating its sincerity only delays the healing process.

I wake up. The turmoil of despair constricts my lungs as I contemplate giving in. I fight. I fight and I fight and I fight with every fiber of my being. I find other ways to express my emotion. I sing Demi Lovato’s “Sober” at the top of my lungs as I play my keyboard. I throw punches at my pillow until my arms have no strength left. I reach out for support. I do not give in.

The portrait of a gray world slowly turning to vibrant color becomes my reality as I develop the ability to feel again. Urges come, but I cling to my will to live, to heal.

A moment of weakness. I give in. As I feel myself slipping back down the edge of this mountain, I realize: this is only one moment in time. I do not have to continue falling. This moment is fixed, frozen. I get to decide what happens next.

Happiness re-enters my world, although it takes weeks before I recognize its presence. As it grows, my desire to press on flourishes with it. I will do whatever it takes to maintain this state of peace.

The leaves start to turn. I admire the season’s beauty, but the crisp fall air, seemingly laced with sadness and despair beats down upon me as I struggle to stay standing. I wake up nauseated by feelings of grief and pain, barely able to rise out of bed each morning. Let alone making my bed. Let alone cooking. Let alone brushing my teeth. Let alone grocery shopping. Let alone doing homework.

I have a phone call with my doctor. I increase my antidepressant dose.
One week passes. Nothing changes.
Two weeks pass. Nothing changes.
Three weeks pass. The sadness begins to lift.

I sign up for boxing. It gives me a healthy means of finding relief. It gives me a safe place to explore and process the deep pain that is still in need of healing. In moments where tension tries to consume me, I shadow box in my room until the anxious energy dissipates.

I reach out.
I write.
I play my keyboard.
I sing.
I visit the mountains.
I draw.
I meditate.
I fight the urge to give in.
I refuse to give in.

Six months pass. Six months without searing pain. Six months without trying to hide the searing pain. Six months without having to wear long shirts and one-piece swimsuits.

This journey is ongoing. It is a one-day, one-moment-at-a-time type of journey. Urges come, but with time they become fewer and farther between. The moments when I did give in do not define my progress. Your moments of giving in do not define your progress. When a child has mastered the art of walking, they aren’t expected to never fall again. They fall less and less, but they are never guaranteed a life free from falling. They are, however, guaranteed progress. Each time we fall, we pick ourselves up, exactly where we left off. We pause to allow ourselves time to rest and recover, and then we keep moving forward.

Even in my hardest moments, even when I gave into self-inflicted pain, I never deserved the burning. I never deserved to be hot and sweaty from having to cover up. I never deserved to feel lonely or numb. I never deserved to be afraid of myself. I never deserved the scars. And I still don’t.

While the bravest, most powerful act of self-love occurred the moment I decided to stop hurting myself, I still never deserved its consequences.

Even if you fall. Even if you never fall again. Even if you have scars. Even if you don’t have scars. You are worthy of freedom from the pain. You are worthy of your body healing. You are worthy of wearing what you desire without fear. But most of all, you are worth fighting for.

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].

Leave a Reply

Comments (8)

  1. Jess

    I appreciate this article. For a moment where I feel that I am slipping that it was all for nothing. Its okay to not be okay. One day at a time. Be happy for the days that worked out and know that it will workout again. Thanks

    Reply  |  
  2. Grace

    Wow, this article really spoke to me. As someone who struggles with self-harm I understand all too well how hard it is not to relapse and the shame that comes with a relapse. This article demonstrates the reality of self-harm recovery incredibly well. Thank you for sharing:)

    Reply  |  
  3. Tammy Copland

    Beautiful words

    Reply  |  
  4. Corinna

    This article is so explanatory and helpful about what many are experiencing due to the pandemic and the power which those who are unwise hold.

    Reply  |  
  5. anonymous

    I just relapsed after 3 months and this message met me right where I am at. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      We’re so grateful you found these words. We hope they can reassure you that relapse is oftentimes part of recovery and your efforts are not erased.

      Reply  |  
  6. Andres Alejandro

    Thank you for your story! It is very inspirational and is helping me through a rough patch. Thanks again

    Reply  |  
  7. G

    This is beautiful. Somehow succeeds in being both exceptionally validating and encouraging. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
Get Email Updates

Sign up for our newsletter to hear updates from our team and how you can help share the message of hope and help.