Meredith’s story / 19 years old / written by Megan Haynes
I have faded scars. Some on my shoulder and some on my wrists. They’re not prominent, but in a certain light you can see them. I used to look at them and think: here is what I’ve done. I can go back to this self-harm, and this is always a possible way out of my pain. But now I look at those scars as a reminder and I realize that I’ve come a long way. Now I think: Look at what I’ve DONE. Look how much these have faded and how long it’s been since I cut myself. I don’t have to do this anymore. I started to self-harm in 7th grade when I was hit with depression for the first time; I had never known that kind of sadness before. The pain of the cutting myself brought a temporary relief for me. It was a release and it was “I am hurting inside — I may as well hurt outside, too.” Eventually, I sought out some friends who watched over me and helped me stop self-harming for a while. I was clean from 8th grade until my junior year in high school when I relapsed.
Junior year was when I hit rock bottom. I had been holding in so many feelings, my sadness, and my anxiety. There were things I tried over those years to help with myn depression. I loved to write, so I tried to write everything down. But I couldn’t stick with it. I would write for a while, but felt like I was writing the same thing over and over. I love art, so for a period of time I drew, painted, did watercolor. I listened to music. I would put a song from my favorite band on repeat and listen to it five, ten, twenty times in a row. Sometimes it helped and I was able to lose myself in the music, but it still wasn’t that physical release from the pain like I would get when I self-harmed. And the cutting became… you get addicted to it. It’s a hard habit to break and you suffer from withdrawal. Afterwards, even when you are done, for a period of time, you feel bad; you physically feel tingling, like, in areas where you have scars. I know when I want to do it. It’s that craving.
One night in 11th grade I had a total breakdown. My parents were out and I just texted the word “HELP” to a friend. Several of my friends came to my house to help me and that night I finally started talking about how I felt. Talking about the years of pressure built up from being bullied as a kid, from feeling like I had to work harder than everyone else in school, the sadness at feeling left out socially, just everything. I let it all out.
I finally talked to my parents about it. They were confused and reluctant, but eventually they told me that I was their daughter, that they loved me, and they would do anything to help me feel better. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with minor depression, severe anxiety, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Things are much better for me now, but I still have good and bad days. I’ve had to be brave and make big changes and I’ve realized that I have to take care of myself. I chose to come to Ball State not only because it had a great program that I was interested in, but also because it was far away from home. I knew I needed a new start and to get away from that old history and atmosphere of my hometown. I have a few close and amazingly supportive friends to whom I can be accountable. I have a boyfriend who is always watchful and there for me if I start getting overwhelmed with sadness, and he’s teaching me how to change my mindset from pessimistic to optimistic and to see things from a more positive perspective.
I have found ways to cope without harming myself. The Butterfly Project helped me a lot. It’s a blog created to help people stop harming themselves. The rules are:
1. When you feel like you want to cut, take a marker or pen and draw butterfly wherever the self-harm occurs
2. Name the butterfly after a loved one, or someone who really wants you to get
3. NO scrubbing the butterfly off.
4. If you cut before the butterfly is gone, it dies. If you don’t cut, it lives.
I don’t want to kill my butterfly. I don’t want to hurt the person whose name I’ve written down. I don’t want to hurt myself. I realize now that when you self-harm, it stops the pain for a while, but the real pain is still there. You have to want to truly help yourself to find a way through your pain. I’m finding my way.
This story originally appeared in Facing Depression in Muncie, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by the Ingelhart Scholars at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.