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Self-Harm

Justine: What Happens When I Self-Harm

So I went to a DBT program and that was probably one of the best decisions of my life, as much as I didn’t want to do it at the time.

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

I drew a picture of myself on fire—that was a red flag for a third grader! It was little things too – I didn’t want to do soccer anymore, I’d throw a hissy fit in class. I was bullied quite a bit. Books were my friends. I had no other friends—I drove them away because I would stop talking to them, I’d get too nervous. I’m constantly thinking about what other people are thinking. I can’t get out of my own head.

Seventh grade I came to school one day sobbing. I was trying to be all cool and stuff, and then I just broke down. I’m in the office and I rubbed the bridge of my nose red raw. I just kept rubbing and it was red and ugly. And I kept rubbing my fingers together. I just had to touch things. That day I remember really clearly, because that was my first hospitalization.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

My mom recognized the signs because she is also diagnosed with a similar disorder. She really helped me out there. She started with the school—I started talking to the school psychologist. I had been meeting with a therapist after their divorce.

I’ve transferred schools twice, both to special ed schools. I went to the hospital in 7th grade, in 8th grade, 3 times freshman year, once or twice sophomore year. I started at my high school for a month, then my absences got out of control. Self-harm, suicide attempt, hospital entry number 3. By junior year I hadn’t self-harmed for like a couple of months and everything was getting better.

I didn’t know even my proper diagnosis, it had changed so frequently. The medications I was on were changing every three minutes. My psychiatrist prescribed this, that, that, this. The hospital prescribed this, that, that, that.

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

I went to the hospital and they were like “look, this is her third hospitalization. It’s not really working out well. We need to do something.” So I went to a DBT program and that was probably one of the best decisions of my life, as much as I didn’t want to do it at the time. DBT is fantastic. The radical acceptance was awesome. The fact that you can’t change other people is great.

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

I’m so happy I switched therapists. I’ve had the same psychologist for 6 years now, and she’s seen me through so much. I love her to bits. And senior year has been great.

I make all my teachers aware I have super bad Generalized Anxiety Disorder and bipolar. I actually tell my peers—I do not hide it. They’re like, “whoa, you don’t seem bipolar,” and I’m like, “what does that mean?” Try to poke at them a little, make them think about what they said.

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

Talking is the first step: don’t bottle. You should talk to friends after talking to someone who knows what to do, how to help you. Friends can help you on levels professionals can’t, but professionals can go way beyond the level friends can. A friend can’t prescribe an anti-depressant, you know?

You have to be really picky and choosy. I’m glad I tried everything or else I wouldn’t have found the right one.