“What are the scars on your arms from?”
They’re from exactly what you think they are from.
I have often been asked this question and my answers have often ranged among in the years from, “I got a attacked by a polar bear” (deflecting my shame with humor), to “Honestly, I tried to kill myself.”
But people still continue to ask, and I continue to not know what to say.
Looking at me from an outside perspective today you will see this; a 23 year old girl, a college student, a waitress, someone who has good friends, a healthy loving relationship and caring parents. But there’s more than that. There is always more than that to person. Look closer.
When you look a little closer you will see a lot more than that. Look at me like I am a tree stump, lines circling it to show it’s life and it’s story, and even if it makes you uncomfortable or you can’t understand, my scars around my arms, wrists, and legs will tell you a part of my story, my story of survival and finally coming around to my own “pursuit of happiness”.
Depression never runs the same course twice. You cannot feel it coming on or catch it like a cold, and relive yourself with some medicine from the store and feel better in a week. Everyone’s experience with depression is different and so is the way they cope, but we can all agree that the pain felt, that feeling of loss of hope and the light in our lives might just be the most painful thing of all.
My lifelong battle with depression started around the age of 15 and was a fast downhill from there. Depression can happen to anyone, despite having a wonderful childhood and a loving support system, I started to lose myself in a deep depression that soon overtook my whole life. To this day, I do not have the answers for why I had to go through all the pain and sadness I did, but I do know I have become a better and stronger person because of it.
I did not just wake up one day severely depressed, but rather day-by-day started losing that hope and drive I use to have instilled in me for life. I could no longer find the joy in the things I use to love and I woke up feeling more and more sad everyday. I felt like this darkness was growing inside of me, filling my every limb and my bloodstream with pain and despair, taking over me entirely and I had to try and get it out.
The first time I cut myself I was 16 years old. It started out as simple as this, one day I saw a blade and decided to drag it across my skin just to see if I could even feel anything anymore. When I saw my own blood and saw my body was still alive, even though I felt dead inside, for a brief moment, I felt better. I could both psychically and mentally feel this pain leaving my body, but also giving myself the pain I felt I deserved. And just like that, self-harm became my coping mechanism to my depression.
I continued this harmful release for the next five years, and the depression came and went in waves. I had good days and I had bad days. I have good months and I have bad months, but I always went back to cutting in the end and I was never able to fully stop for more than a couple months at most. Friends and family ranged from trying to understand and trying to help, to getting frustrated and telling me to “just stop” and that they did not understand that it is not that easy.
Rock bottom came after a personal loss sent me back down to the deepest depression I have ever been in. After years of entertaining the idea of killing myself and ending it all once and for all, I no longer had that small hope that someday it would get better and that urge to keep trying to get better through years of therapy and medication.
I decided it was never going to get better and I had decided to leave. Maybe it would be better somewhere else that I could go after I died.
And that night I attempted to end my life.
I will not share the details of that night and the following week because I choose to keep that personal, however I will say it was one of the worst times or my life but it finally lead to one of the happiest times. After my attempt I finally found a program I felt was suited to my depression and could help me, and that’s when I started my outpatient program at a local hospital, and that is where my life was changed forever.
I was finally amongst people who understood me, had been through or felt the same things I felt, and finally would never judge me for my own actions. Through that program I met some of the most amazing people in the world and made lifelong friends. We understood each other and we helped each other. We all wanted to get better and we helped each other do that through the means of therapy, our doctors, writing, art, sharing our stories and growing as people. And for the first time in what felt like an eternity, I started to feel like myself again and I started to feel happy.
The things I learned and the people I met in my program changed my life. I now have new coping mechanisms and ways to deal with my pain and depression and can release my inner sadness through healthy coping mechanisms. I am proud to say that it has been a year since I last cut myself and I can honestly say I am happier than I have ever been. I am in no means perfect and I think to urge to self-harm will always be there, but now I can help myself before I get to that point, and most of all, now I have hope. I hold my hope so close to my heart and it gets me through everyday, and I think about the people who changed my life and the wonderful people in my life who love me, and I stay strong.
And I am glad to say I am finally where I want to be, and I am hopeful for the future ahead of me.
My scars are still there, and they will always be a part of me. I am no longer ashamed of them or upset about them. Without them I would not be who I am today and I would not be as strong as I am as a person. My scars tell my story that I made it through hell and back and came out the other side and for that I am eternally grateful.