If the title wasn’t warning enough, let me emphasize right now that this will not be a G-rated article. If the topic of self-harm upsets you, please stop reading now.
When I was 21 years old, I loathed myself. I thought I was utterly pathetic for being so socially awkward, for not having many friends, for still being a virgin, for having never had a girlfriend, for often offending people without meaning to, etc. I thought I was unlikeable, ugly, and worthless.
This resentment eventually boiled over into violence. Not towards others though; I directed it inwards, at myself. I wanted to punish myself, so I did so physically. Whenever I was angry at myself for making a social gaffe, I would steal away to my room, and cut myself.
The thing about self-harm is that it can be highly addictive; not just emotionally, but chemically, in the same way as cigarettes and other drugs. It can actually release endorphins in the brain that induce feelings of relief and even pleasure. This combined with the vicious satisfaction of hurting the person I saw as being to blame for my suffering was a potent rush, and before I knew it, I was an addict.
This went on for about a year, unbeknownst to all but a handful of my closest friends and family.
Then, four years ago almost to the day, I came home drunk from a night of making a fool of myself at the University bar, and in my clumsiness and frustration, I cut too deeply.
I accidentally severed the tendon to my left thumb, and had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. They were able to reattach it, and I only lost the use of my thumb for a few months, instead of for the rest of my life.
But the worst consequences weren’t physical; I was nearly kicked out of my university accommodation, which would have meant dropping out, as my Mum and step-Dad lived 5 hours away. University was one of the things that kept me going and gave me purpose during my darkest times, and the thought of losing that was terrifying.
But even worse than that was how heartbroken my Mum was. Seeing how much I’d hurt her was one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced.
I decided then and there that I would never self-harm again, and I haven’t since.
My accident forced me to confront the consequences of my actions, which in turn spurred me to quit my destructive addiction. In hindsight, it shouldn’t have taken such a drastic wakeup call; the signs right in front of me the whole time, but I was too blinded by anger to see them. I wish I’d realized sooner that I wasn’t just hurting myself, but also the people who cared about me.
Up until this blog post, I kept this element of my past a secret, and very few people knew about it. I wasn’t ashamed, but I was afraid that people might be uncomfortable around me if they knew.
It’s this stigma that prevents many people who are struggling with self-harm from speaking out and seeking help, and if sharing my experience can help pierce this veil of silence, I figure that’s worth an awkward moment or two.
I’m 26 years old now. I no longer hate myself. I have scars, but over the years, they have faded. I still struggle with social etiquette, but I’ve learned to see the good in myself, instead of just the bad. I’m happy with my life, and I’m four years clean.
21-22 year old me didn’t think this was possible. That I was possible.
It just goes to show; you can’t see the sunrise at midnight, but that doesn’t mean it’s not coming.