I Wish I'd Known
Trigger Warning: this post contains descriptions of self-harm and descriptions of the feelings that may lead to self-harm.
I was barely seventeen the first time I cut myself. I can remember the day vividly. I know what I was wearing, where I was sitting, the time, the images on the band-aids I used to cover my mistakes. It’s burned into my memory.
I’m not going to talk about that day, because I already have and don’t want to again. It’s published, you can read it here.
Today, I am going to try to explain what self-harm is like, as I know it doesn’t always make sense to others. I want to preface this by saying that it does not work, it only makes things worse, and if you’re thinking about it, please reach out to someone.
It’s common to assume that people who self-harm are suicidal, but that usually isn’t the case. In general, people self-harm not because they want to die, but because they want to feel alive.
Depression hits a point when you feel nothing at all. You aren’t sad or angry, you don’t feel “depressed.” You don’t feel anything. Just numb. For me, this usually happens when my anxiety is at a high and even though I can't feel anything, the world is spinning and I can't make it stop.
It hurts, just not physically. The first time I cut, I was desperate. I wanted to feel anything and I wanted the pain of panicking to end. I figured I had nothing to lose.
The moment I saw blood, I felt like I could breathe.
It’s contradictory for something that hurts to feel good, but it’s true. Pain releases endorphins, and your brain doesn’t release those for emotional pain. However, they help. By causing physical pain, I released the endorphins I needed.
Those endorphins made me feel better, calmed me down, and the feeling was addicting. I kept going and going until I felt alive again. Until I no longer felt numb. Then, I cleaned myself up and went to bed.
But the moment the blade touched my skin, I was stuck in a cycle. The realization of what I’d done hit me, and I was ashamed. I felt guilty. I felt worse than I had before.
The guilt and shame ate away at me, fed into my depression until I was numb again. I became desperate to feel better, to feel anything, and suddenly that half hour of relief looked good. About a week after my first time, I cut myself again.
And I felt better. I felt great.
For half an hour.
Then shame. Then guilt. Then depression. Then numbness. Then desperation. Then great for half an hour. Shame. Guilt. Depression. Numbness. Desperation. Great for half an hour.
Over and over and over and over.
Even as I did it, I knew it would only make things worse. I knew the more times I cut into my skin, the more likely it was someone would find out. I knew I was leaving permanent scars I’d have to look at the rest of my life.
I knew all of that, and I didn’t care. I wanted that half hour.
As of today, I haven’t hurt myself in 2 years, 6 months, and 20 days, but that doesn’t mean I forgot what I did. Luckily for me, my scars are not noticeable if you don’t know what you’re looking for. However, they are noticeable to me. I see them every day. Every day, I feel a little pang of shame over those choices.
Every time I feel numb, every time my anxiety starts spinning, every time I get desperate, a little voice in the back of my mind reminds me of that half hour.
I never hurt myself because I wanted to die. I didn’t even want to hurt myself. I wanted to keep myself alive and to do that, I needed relief. Even for just half an hour. I didn’t know how much worse it would make everything when I first started.
I wish I’d known, because I’d never had done it.
I wish I’d known, because I wouldn’t have scars to show for it.
I wish I’d known, because the little voice wouldn’t exist.
I wish I’d known.