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Our Stories

Self Harm

Through Tough Times: Laura, Age: 20

I was able to find self worth in an organization called Young Life. YL is great Christian based support group that helped me through many of my struggles through high school.

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

My friends always referred to me as the bubbly happy girl who always seems to be smiling and I felt the pressure to keep up with that image. Although on the outside it looked like my life was pretty good I felt like everything was falling apart inside. I was involved in a million activities including clubs, orchestra, youth groups and even sports teams. On the outside it was easy to play the part that I was this overly positive and happy girl. Although I was no longer being bullied my childhood followed me along with my self-esteem issues. The constant reminder that I wasn’t good enough from the people around me and myself fueled my negativity.

After my parents divorce I moved in with my mother because at the time it seemed like the best option. However throughout my high school years I struggled with taking care of her and myself. My mother was an alcoholic making her emotionally and verbally abusive. The things she would say to me and my own feelings about myself fueled my hatred towards myself, to the point where I began self-harming.

This is not something many people know or that I am proud of, but it had to take me to this point to realize where my life was going if I didn’t do something about it. I don’t know why I did it at first but it strangely made things better and that’s what scared me the most. No matter how small or big the problem was I was tempted to cut, just like how addicted tobacco users get. Although the time I spent self-harming was brief it was a huge event in my life. I did not want to hurt myself anymore, but I needed an outlet that was less harmful to my body in the moment. I hoped smoking would distract me and substitute for my self-harm. At first I still was tempted, but as time passed it became easier and I learned to be more positive about myself.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

One day I said enough is enough. I saw the path that I was going towards and I did not like it. I was able to step back and look at the whole picture and realize I needed to change or get help. I was able to find self worth in an organization called Young Life. YL is great Christian based support group that helped me through many of my struggles through high school. I began to open up to a select few friends about how I was feeling and through their support and my own life changes I was able to stop. Stop hurting myself and stop body bashing myself. I created goals to have better self-esteem and to be more positive. I stopped comparing myself to everyone around me and just accepting myself for me. I now focus my energy exercising instead of looking in the mirror listing the negative thoughts about myself.

Although I have stopped it doesn’t mean life is easier. There is a constant struggle, especially during the winter months for me to stay positive. I no longer self harm, but once in a while the thought crosses my mind, but I remind myself that I have come so far and that I don’t want to be in that place anymore. I only smoke once in a while now and have found healthier ways to cope. I started running, spending time outside in nature, creating art and just doing things for other people. I have made friends who are able to support me and love me for who I am. Joining a church group and strengthening my religion has also helped me stay on a positive path.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am now a junior in college studying Human Development and Family Studies, in hopes of becoming a high school social worker. I am also very involved on campus with mental health (Active Minds) and in several other clubs, but for once I am involved because I enjoy them not for anyone else or “my image”. I am even the Assistant Woman’s Week Chairwoman for my sorority’s positive body image week. Adolescent mental health is a subject that has become so important to me through my friends struggles and my own. I am excited to continue my education and learn more about mental health and how I can be an even better support for adolescents.

I am much happier now that I have learned to accept my flaws because they are who I am. Although some cloudy and rainy days I get more upset than most, I have learned to understand my thought process’ and understand exactly what makes me feel better. I have found activities that not only distract me from my stressors, but also just things I enjoy doing. I love spending time in nature, going for runs, painting, baking and just spending time with my friends. I try and look at everyday as another chance to improve and be a better person than I was the day before.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Change takes time. Recovery is not going to happen over night and if you are not patient with your progress it will feel impossible. If you are having these negative thoughts or going through a tough time reach out to your family, friends, and even therapists, they’re all here for you. Sometimes you are able to get better alone, but sometimes you need assistance and both are okay. One thing, which was difficult for me to understand, is that it does not have to be an extreme case for you to ask for help; no matter how big or small the issue is it is still a problem. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help! Don’t forget that you are beautiful and wonderfully made with a purpose. The most important thing I learned through all of this is you only have one life and one body and you need to learn to love yourself! ☺