#MentalHealthAwarenessDay

A little belated of Mental Health Awareness Day, I have been motivated to write a post (also to avoid studying for my many midterms). Though I am very open now about my struggles, people still get awkward when asking me about my past with self-injury. I think the awkwardness is due to the misunderstanding, or just to not knowing about self-injury in general.

**warning, this may be triggering for people who have or still do suffer from self-harm.

Self-injury, self-harm, self-abuse or cutting, is surprisingly extremely relevant in our society, and very under talked about and under taught in schools.  I think it’s a very important topic, that needs to have light shown on it.  I still remember the first time I learnt about it before I started doing it.  I saw it on one of my favourite TV shows.  I remember thinking about it as something only ’emos’ do, aka people who wore all black, with dyed black hair and lots of piercings. To give a little background, in elementary and high school, I was probably known as the stereotypical, blond, popular girl.  In saying this, I am not bragging because I always hated being known as: ‘being part of the popular, mean girl group’, and I know I was.  But the point of this background information is I was not a stereotypical ‘cutter’.  In fact, most days I didn’t even hide my cuts, almost as a cry out for help, but no one ever came to my aid.

I started out scratching my skin with a nail file, just surface wounds, that brought no blood.  As I got more depressed, as the pressure in my life built up and as surrounding circumstances got worse, my mental health decreased, and I started cutting with razor blades that I would steal from my Dad’s toolbox. The cuts started off small and shallow, but as I got more comfortable and as the cutting worked to numb my emotions, the cuts got longer and deeper to the stage that I would have to steri-strip my skin together like makeshift stitches. I still have minimal feeling on the top of my arm (where I did the majority of my cutting) due to nerve damage.  Once the cutting got increasingly noticeable on my arm, I moved to my legs and hips.

Cutting is not a suicide attempt. Cutting is not something only ’emos’ do. Cutting is also not the only form of self-harm. There is also: burning, punching something to cause self-injury, picking at  the skin, hitting yourself to cause injury etc.  After my cutting scars started to draw unwanted attention to myself, I starting picking my skin and scabs.  Though self-injury itself is not a mental illness, it can definitely be a sign of a mental health problem.  For me, self-harm was a way of expressing all the hurt and pain I was feeling on the inside and putting it on the outside. I wasn’t able to express in words how I was feeling, so I expressed my negative pain and emotions on my skin. I emotionally felt numb, and cutting made me ‘feel’ something again.

Self-injury can be a way for people to help cope with depression, anxiety, loss, trauma, violence or other difficult situations.

I no longer suffer from or feel the need to self-harm.  I find that blogging and writing help me get my emotions out. I also have an amazing support system of friends who help me get through bad days.

Cutting is something that people should not be embarrassed about or have to hide.  I wear my scars with pride to show the hell I survived through. Do I wish I didn’t have the scars? Sure, but that doesn’t mean that I’m embarrassed by what I went through because I’m proud of the battle I fought and the strength I’ve built!

Please know that if you are suffering, you are not alone. There are so many options out there to help you. Many anonymous help sites and help lines you can call.
You are loved and your presence makes a difference in the world whether you notice it or not.

Please feel free to ask me any questions or message me if you need to talk. I am a great listener!

Love always,

-Ash

For further information or more clarity on this topic go to:
http://www.cmha.ca/mental-health/understanding-mental-illness/self-injury/

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