Photo taken by a woman who has suffered from severe depression. She hopes that by telling her story that she will help fight stigma, and help people to understand things like self-harm that seem so hard to understand. She would also like to help other people suffering to feel less alone, and maybe even share the spark of hope.
About this photo: “It took me fifteen minutes of searching through every drawer in my house, but I finally found the one piece of orange clothing that I have. I’m wearing orange in honor of Self-Injury Awareness Day. I know every day is some other awareness day, but this one happens to mean a lot to me. As someone who has been down the path of self-harm, and had people I love dearly who have been there, I feel terribly and empathize for all who are suffering enough to self-harm and those who love someone who does. It’s a serious issue, and should be treated as such, this day and every day.
The first time I really hurt myself I was in college. I was sad and in pain emotionally and I took it out on myself physically. I don’t want to be too specific in fear of it triggering anyone else, but it wasn’t pretty. I still feel terribly that my best friend had to find me slurring and covered in blood on the floor – I think I had a few drinks and some pills in me too. I was in the hospital for a night or two and released as not being a threat to myself. Life moved forward but my wound would not heal, not just the emotional wound, but the physical one. I needed a skin graft. When I went to the hospital to get the graft, I asked if the two skin locations would be numbed. The doctor looked at the nurse and then at me with cold eyes, and she said that since I did it to myself I should be fine with the pain and deal with it… This was just plain ignorance.
I learned from that experience and evolved my self-harm so it would generally not involve wounds. I thought I was being smart, but nothing about self-harm is smart. I kept coming back to it though. For some reason it felt good. It felt like a release that I needed. It felt like it kept me from worse thoughts or actions. It felt like I was saving my life at times. I recognize that my thinking was twisted, but it had some truth to it. It did feel like a release. It did keep me from worse things. That is how I managed to justify these unthinkable actions.
It happened on and off for many years, but I can now say I am harm-free! I can’t say I am trigger-free. I can’t say I am impulse-free. But I am action-free, and that is what counts. When I feel the impulses rising, I have learned to divert my energies, to distract and try to do something else, especially something creative. For some people it is yoga, for me it is photography. Also, when I know I am going to be in a triggering situation, I will plan a reward or something nice for myself afterwards. I’ll admit that these tools don’t always work, but I’m trying my hardest. If one thing doesn’t work then I try another. I’m fighting. Fighting for my family, my friends. Fighting for myself, my life, my future.
So other people out there who are struggling with this, please keep fighting the impulses. It is not easy, I really understand that, it can be like an addiction, but there are ways to help fight. There are therapists, and therapeutic tools, like DBT. You can make a harm-free contract with your therapist or loved ones and promise to go to them when the impulses start. You can try distracting or doing ‘opposite action.’ If you want to isolate, and you know it will likely lead to injury, do the opposite of that – go be around people. Go somewhere, even outside for a little walk. Even if you are walking alone, you are not alone. You are never alone. I am there with you, and everyone struggling. We are walking together.
Stay strong. Keep fighting.”