It started with the snap of an elastic band around her wrist. Little did she know that, in that seemingly harmless action, she was replacing a hidden emotional pain with a physical pain that would leave scars and regrets for years to follow. She was a shy 14-year-old, trying her best to recover from a disorder that nobody knew about. All the emotions that had caused the starvation in the first place were dormant and only existed in bottled up tears. This act became a distorted release that she felt safe with; so that whenever the guilt, anxiety or fear opened up its eyes, she now had a way to escape from the pounding emotions.
It was addictive. Just like the starving and binging, it was control becoming out of control. Perfection and approval was all she was looking for and, in that search to become the good little girl she thought she had to be, she lost herself. Through the self-harm cutting, she could release herself from that perfection and see that she was flawed. Scarred. Permanently.
Do I regret the actions? Yes. I have the scars to remind myself of those years.
Do I know how I stopped? To be honest, not entirely. Many times I had tried stopping. I had told myself that was the last time. But one November night, when I was in the middle of another episode, a voice in my head told me to stop, so I did. I started sobbing uncontrollably and let the sharp object fall down.
That one defiant act gave me the courage to resist the next episode.
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As these episodes become less frequent, it became easier to turn around and do something else. I started running, knitting, drawing. Anything to keep my hands busy. I threw out all sharp objects nearby, I stayed away from the kitchen for months.
Each time I looked in the bathroom mirror, I was reminded by the scars of my actions. I remembered that I wanted a husband and kids who would not ask questions that I would be forced to give answers to.
There are days that I see the scars and wonder how I could have ever done that to myself. How I could think that that was the only way I could cope with all the buried emotions. But the scars also remind me of the courage it took to fight that impulse each day. They remind me that I am stronger than I believe and that those anxious days will pass.
They remind me that there is always hope in the distance.
This upcoming December will mark four years of sobriety from self-mutilation. Although I still suffer from the anxious thoughts and the dark depression, I know that there are so many healthier options available and that, without a doubt, the darkness will always turn to light.
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