I am an addict. Before you form your judgment about my addiction, hear me out, I have a story to tell. I’m not addicted to alcohol, something everyone must think when someone says that they are an addict. I am addicted to self-harm. Though now I have stopped and have been clean for the past two years, I have cut myself for a period of eight years, before I decided to stop. Self Harming or Non-Suicidal Self-Injury has recently come to the limelight due to the growing awareness around mental health issues, but when I started doing it, I did not even know what it meant or how much harm I would be causing to my mental and physical health. Much like the people not aware of mental health issues or constructive coping mechanisms, I did what I thought was best for me at the time, I indulged in self-harm.
Before taking up self-harm I did try finding refuge in alcohol but soon realized that alcohol wasn’t going to bring me any relief. Then I tried other ways of dealing with the problems but to no avail. As a 13-year-old queer girl with mental issues born into a homophobic Christian family where Bible quotes are the go-to therapy to deal with “all” the issues in life. When the religion you are born into condemns you, and the shame of being different from everyone in school sets in, and your early childhood experiences turn dreadful, like a cruel joke, what are you supposed to do? Who are you supposed to talk to? With no support system, I turned to harming myself. It started with punching the walls after getting really drunk. I could not write for days after that. I bled the first time I did it. The sight of blood felt therapeutic and watching my wounds heal made me feel relief, something I had never known in all my life.
After a while, it became my only coping mechanism. But I couldn’t continue punching the walls, I, after all, had to write my exams. So I tried to find different ways of hurting myself and one day I cut myself by mistake. It was like I had found my cocaine. It started with a single slit, and eventually, I was butchering my wrist. My parents noticed that something was different about me. I wore long sleeved shirts and didn’t come out of my room for the major part of the day. But they never said a word. The silence between us was the most difficult part to deal with. Here I was unable to ask for help and there they were unable to understand the awkwardness that had crept into the cracks of our relationships.
It was my best friend, and the many books I read on psychology that made me understand my condition. I owe them my life. For the first time, I had a support system and books telling me I was not weird and that there was nothing wrong with my sexuality. My mental health improved drastically and the cutting slowly started decreasing. I managed to control it and reached a point where it was limited only to certain issues.
I feel like my healed wrists and scars are like sobriety chips. I will always have them with me acting as reminders of all that I have been through. We all have our stories etched our scarred bodies, and we would tell you those if you’d listen.
This is for everyone who has noticed scars, semi-colon tattoos, anchor tattoos, butterflies on wrists, the word ‘fighter’ written on wrists, burn marks, and social withdrawal symptoms in people around them. Listen to them with a non-judgmental attitude, all they need is your time.
To all the cutters who think they aren’t worthy of love, are weird, lonely, and dealing with mental health issues, I want to say this, you are not alone. You are worthy of love. And there is someone who understands you. There is no shame in getting help and there is no shame in feeling the way you do. You are trying your best to make sense of the world. So stay strong. Your story is not over.