This is a topic near and dear to me. I guess I’ve never written about this in this particular blog, so here’s a rundown of my history with self-injury and depression.
I probably started experiencing mild depression post-puberty, during freshman year of high school, as is common for a lot of young women. It progressed and got a lot worse in my sophomore year. I became even more introverted and while I wrote a lot in my online journals about how frustrated, sad, or anxious I was, I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I think as much as people related to my negative thoughts, it seemed all too common to them and nobody thought I’d do anything worse. I started cutting in the Fall of 2003 as a way to take out my frustration. Sometimes it was for myself, for not being able to handle my emotions, sometimes just for the world around me that I could not control.
My parents found out in February of 2004 and I started on an SSRI and in therapy. I don’t think things really changed after that, and June 1st of 2004, I took at least 18 Tylenol PM in an attempt to escape for a little while. I still have trouble considering this a suicide attempt because I didn’t think about dying, I just wanted to get away for a while, fall asleep, and wake up to find something improved. I panicked over my racing heart and called an ambulance. Waking up my parents to tell them what I’d done was the worst moment of my life, and I hope to not experience anything else like that. I don’t feel guilt anymore about this, and I hope that they do not feel guilty and feel like they had anything to do with my actions then.
It has taken a long time for me to consider my depression and anxiety “manageable”. It took me a couple more years to “quit” cutting myself because the first few times I tried, it was for someone else. It wasn’t until I felt like I was worse preserving in any way that I decided I could not continue harming myself, no matter how much others or I tried to convince me. It took a long time after that for me to realize I was harming myself in ways other than physical, with so much negative self-talk and bad habits in relationships with others. 2011 was a year of change for me and I took my physical and mental health into my own hands completely for the first time and have made, I think, huge progress. I am okay with being a work in progress because I never want to stop learning, even if it’s just about myself.
There is no easy answer for how to help someone who is self-injuring. The reasons behind the behavior are the most telling and can be varied, from a history of abuse, to “chemical imbalances”, to any kind of traumatic episode. I think talking to people is the best thing you can do. Depression limits you, makes you feel like you are alone even when your life is filled with loving and supportive people, all you can do is make sure the self-injurer knows you are there for when they are able to speak. Being open about it now is the only way I can think to reach out to other people who are suffering at their own hands, in the hopes that they might feel encouraged to speak to someone and get help for whatever ails them, mentally or physically.
Please take a moment to educate yourself about depression and self-injury today. For yourself, if for no one else. You never know who you might help someday.