This piece is part of our Mental Health Month blog series, where we highlight and explore eight different mental health struggles. Here’s Mallory’s experience with and perspective on self-harm and vulnerability.
We all want, and we all need, a safe place to land. We all deserve to have a safe space to exist in. Finding and cultivating this safe space is incredibly difficult for some of us. Having a safe place means that you are fully known whilst still fully loved and accepted.
It is terrifying to be fully known. To be exposed. To be vulnerable. The chance of rejection is high. The risk does not seem to outweigh the reward. As I’ve gotten older I have tried to be more vulnerable, more open, but I am careful that I do so in safe places.
I need to know I will be okay. I need to know I will not be treated differently. I need to know I will still be loved.
I remember sharing at an FCA gathering my senior year of high school about my journey with self-harm and suicide when just a year before I almost ended my life. Even today I remember so vividly sitting in my favorite recliner refusing to move the night before an important test because I feared if I stood up I would find a way to hurt myself. My “I have it together” facade at school was becoming harder and harder to maintain as my struggle worsened and I began to plan my graduation from self-injury to suicide.
Overall my story was well received and I was celebrated for sharing something so painful. But I had one classmate that never treated me the same after that Friday morning.
That was the day I learned not everyone is a safe person to share with, not everyone will honor your story or honor you.
Since then I have tried to be outspoken about mental health and its many faces. And I have been navigating the waters of how to share, when to share, and who to share with. Because my story and my feelings belong to me. And in sharing, I show my deepest struggles.
Not everyone gets to bear witness to me. Not everyone gets to know my pain. And that’s okay.
I know who the safe people are in my life. I know who will not run and hide on my darkest days. I know who will hold me and hold me tight when I start to spiral. I know who knows me and loves me.
Yes, there are people who have seen my scars and walked away. Yes, I take a risk when I write or post to social media. And I am constantly mindful of this. I make sure I am capable of handling the risk—no matter how it turns out. It took me a number of years to get to here and that is okay. Because now I have a number of people in my life who don’t bolt when I tell them the desire to self-harm is coming back. They don’t yell. They don’t freak out. They wrap me in their arms or spend time talking with me on the phone to make sure I know I am safe.
Especially now, I think this is incredibly important. I recognize that it is a gift that I am able to work from home. But this transition to life online has been difficult. Having to social distance and shelter in place when I really want, and honestly need, a hug has been hard.
And I know the problems that could come up with my mental health.
I know that this stress and lack of control could lead me to want to self-harm again. It was one of the first things I considered as changes began happening. So I had to make decisions quickly about how to take care of myself. There were moments during those first couple of weeks that were incredibly overwhelming and I was not sure how to cope.
But I have safe people.
People, who even though we may not be in the same place, I can reach out to. People who know to check-in and make sure that I am doing well, both physically and mentally. People who give me permission to do what is best for me because they know the alternative. I have taken great comfort in being assured that I am known and well-loved. I have found rest even in just the conversations I have had with these individuals in my life.
So find your safe places and find your safe people, and rest in their embrace.