March 1st is self-injury awareness day. Hopefully more and more people will start caring about this issue, and realizing that it is a form of a mental illness and addiction. Judge less. Understand more. I think the best thing to get towards a recovery is sharing stories with others. My two most popular posts have been where my two friends shared their hardships and their road to recovery. Reading stories of people going through the same things that you are helps you realize that you’re not alone in this scary situation. As a part of this awareness day, I thought I might share my story in dealing with depression, self-harm–and since this is a recovery blog–my road to recovery. I’m going to skim over a lot of things, because this is an issue I’ve been dealing with since 2006 and obviously there are a lot of details to fish out since then.
I became depressed in 8th grade when my parents were getting divorced. Their divorce was so bad that I looked for excuses to not be home. They would scream at each other at night, and I would hear it through the vents as I was trying to sleep. I would be put in the middle of that war, since both of them would tell me what they hated about the other, and would expose secrets to make me think the other parent was horrible. As a 13 year old, it was really hard to hear such bad things about my parents.
They finally got divorced and moved into different locations. I was better, since I didn’t have to live in that hate-house anymore, but I was still depressed. The two years before my mother re-married were the best years of my life, and the one time I felt truly happy and content with life.
Although everything was great, there was still something “wrong” with me. I still felt depressed most of the time. I know people will ask “how could you feel truly happy with your life at that point and be depressed?” If you keep reading, I’m going to explain what it feels like to live with depression. It’s not just a one mood type of thing. You are allowed to have good days, and you have bad days. They’re just really intense. There’s never an in-between.
I started cutting in 10th grade, and that was the same year I was officially diagnosed with depression. I’m trying to think back to where I got the idea from, since part of the reason I started this blog was to figure out where people get the urge to pick up something sharp and hurt themselves. I don’t really remember where I got the idea from, I think it just sort of happened. My mom and I would argue a lot, and at that time I was sexually assaulted by a friend’s cousin. Everything seemed to be too much at once, and I started cutting to find some relief for that. In a sense, feeling the physical pain was a temporary distraction fro the emotional pain, and I remember thinking back then (not anymore now) that somehow I deserved to be hurt, that I was worthless and deserved the pain I was bringing upon myself.
I was still depressed even into high school, when I switched schools in 11th grade. The move/transition wasn’t so hard for me, since I really hated my old school (that was actually a big factor in my depression and reasons for cutting. The people there were HORRIBLE!). West Genesee was actually a really nice relief for me. It was a much bigger school, and no one knew anything about me so I could start fresh. I made friends easily there and became involved in many extracurricular activities. Despite the fact that I was happy at school and in an environment that I enjoyed, I still self-harmed more in those years. That mostly had to do with my home life, and the fact that my step-dad and I don’t really get along.
I know most of this seems like it’s not a big deal, but as I said earlier, I’m being very brief with the details. Those were years I don’t really want to think back on too much, and instances I don’t feel comfortable going into detail about.
Living with Depression
People often will tell me that depression is just sadness, and that I’ll get over it. Depression comes in waves. As I said earlier, I was happy, but at the same time I started cutting. You’re either really up, or really down. Most of the time, my neutral state is a passive sadness. You lose interest in virtually everything– friends, family, hobbies that once made you happy. Everything. For me, getting out of bed was actually a huge feat. I had absolutely nothing to look forward to. Anything that once gave me pleasure didn’t mean anything to me, and was just another thing I had to deal with. Everything seemed hopeless, and life felt like it had no purpose. I was existing, not living. I felt removed from almost every situation I was in; like playing volleyball and eating out with friends. I felt like I was a ghost watching everyone, even if I was involved in the conversation as everyone else was. I would either sleep all the time, or go days without. Everything ever said to me be it in a conversation or classroom went in one ear and out the other. All I could think about was getting through today, and figuring out how to deal with tomorrow. I had a feeling of impending doom – I thought something bad was going to happen, even if I wasn’t sure what it was. It was always hard to breathe (people would always tell me that I used to breathe out of my mouth instead of my noise), because everything felt suffocating, as if my problems were manifesting into an invisible physical being sitting on my chest. My brain would always think of every failure, every bad experience, every horrible thing someone has ever said to me, blocking out any room for positivity and constantly tormenting me with negativity. The one word I can think of that describes depression is empty. You just feel empty inside.
The scariest parts for me were the blackouts. I was so thoroughly depressed that I would sometimes cut myself, and not realize that I had done anything until I saw the bleeding. I was completely unaware that I had made a conscious decision to hurt myself, and that was what made me realize that I needed to get help somehow.
Although my doctor’s said that the things that have happened to me have made me depressed (as they would for anyone), they also said it was also an imbalance of hormones that caused A LOT of it. I had hyperthyroidism, or an over-active thyroid gland. My levels were off the charts (literally), and my neck looked like I swallowed an apple whole because of how big my thyroid had gotten. (For more information, click here). Basically, my thyroid sent too many hormones to my brain, causing extreme depression. The hormone imbalance made my brain over-sensitive to everything. Some people just don’t understand why people who are depressed can’t be positive. “If you put positivity out in the world, you will get positivity back.” It’s not that simple. Happiness and positivity are different things. I was happy at some points, but never positive. I never thought anything would get better.
Road to Recovery
When I got my thyroid removed, things were looking up. I cut a lot less, and wasn’t as depressed as I had been (it didn’t go away completely, but it lessened.) I’ve been to seven different counselors since the 6th grade, and not one of them has helped me. I don’t know if my expectations were too high, or if I just didn’t find the right person, or both. Just because it didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean that it won’t work out for you. Getting professional help is a huge step for anyone dealing with depression or self-harm, and it’s a step I definitely recommend you take! What many of my friends, family and counselors didn’t realize what that I didn’t cut more than I did. Meaning the amount of times I wanted to cut and didn’t, was actually higher than the amount of times I actually did. Usually, I argued with myself out loud (as stupid as that sounds, it helps!) and would just yell at myself to stop. When I would pick up something sharp (you don’t need to know what that was), I would tell myself how wrong it is, how it won’t solve anything, and how I’ll feel even worse afterwards. Then, I usually think of my mom and my sister and how my cutting impacts them. I can see that it hurts them to see me hurting myself, and they can’t do anything about it. Once I start thinking of enough things, it’s easier to stop. Once I was in a semi-clear state-of-mind, I could get rid of the weapons. Going for walks or cranking up my music once I had a clear head helped me a lot. I could focus on those, and once I focused on those long enough, the urge to cut would be (somewhat) gone, and I could think rationally and realize that I shouldn’t be doing it. That’s pretty much what helped me stop cutting; thoughts of what my family would think, and my own rationale. I always have to think things through very thoroughly before I act upon them (even going to get groceries, or something mundane as that.) I always have to have a plan and think about every possible scenario that can happen (it’s a fault as much as it is useful).
If you have someone, or something that makes you happy and that you love (like my mom and sister), hold on to that. Let them be your anchor. Let them be the thing that pulls you away from hurting yourself. Sometimes taking the time to write down the little things in life that make you happy (seeing tulips blossom in spring, eating cheesecake, going for a hike) can help you realize that not everything is as hopeless as it seems. There is not one simple way to “fix” or “cure” depression. It’s not as easy as “just get over it” or “just smile more”. Everyone has there own way with dealing with things. For me, my road to recovery was just realizing that my family was hurting because of me, and that I helped me realize that hurting myself won’t solve anything. Obviously, I’m not 100% happy (nor am I 100% depressed anymore) because I’m human, and things are going to suck. Life throws you things you don’t expect, and it’s all about the journey and how you deal with life’s issues. The one quote that has gotten me through most of my hardships (and I’m mad at myself for not including it in the Inspiring Quotes post) is: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”-Albus Dumbledore
My road to recovery is simply that– my road. My methods might not help you, and they might. I wrote an article about how to deal with relapse, but it also helps for self-harm in general. If my methods don’t help, check out this article and see if that might work for you. https://discoverarecovery.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/dealing-with-relapse-my-experience-2/
**I’m sorry if there are any misspellings or grammar issues, or if this doesn’t make any sense at all. I felt that if I re-read this, I would lose my nerve and delete the whole post.