To the beautiful men and women alike who have made it through a stage of self-harm in their teenage years,
Congratulations, you are on the other side. You made it, you are alive, you are beautiful, and you are free.
You are free from the ties that you had to your outlet. You used self-harm as your survival mechanism, but now, you can use your beautiful life as your testimony from the chains that used to hold you down. Congratulations for surviving whatever made you do this. You turned self-harm into self-love, and you, my friend, are a survivor!
Some of us just flirt with the behaviors, and others of us get entrenched in it, whether it be self-harm such as cutting, burning, hair-pulling, or hitting, or more serious types of self-destruction such as risky behavior, drugs and alcohol use, and even suicide. Going through my own stage of self-harm as a teenager was one of the most terrifying times of my life. I can vividly remember hoping that I would not wake up in the morning. I can descriptively tell you about the ways I would work to find and inflict physical and emotional pain on myself. I can also tell you about the times that I wished it all would end; a feeling that I had grown used to which became a part of the way I lived my everyday life.
This behavior and disease can cause you to feel completely eclipsed by your own mind, your own feelings, and your own thoughts when you are a self-harming teenager. Life has a tendency to cave in on you, making you feel like there is no escape from the horrible and terrible feelings that you are swallowed in every single day.
I will not write to you today and tell you that my life is perfect, but I can promise you that life does get better. Standing on the other side of the 14 to 16-year-old me, writing to you today, I can tell you this with full confidence and love:
Life is beautiful, and I am glad you are here to experience it with me.
I didn’t get to this point alone. I got here with the help of a family that never gave up on me, no matter how horrible things got, no matter how strained relationships became, and no matter how down I was about what was happening inside of my head. I got here with the help of a very strong mother, who gave me the grace of God and worked so patiently to understand and have empathy for the behaviors and the situations, as well as being strict on me to be better, do better, and feel better. I got here with the help of strong, powerful, courageous, and inspiring friends. I got here through counseling and talking to professionals about my problems and mental illness.
Most importantly, I got here by making a choice to live. I had to learn how to wake up in the morning, excited to see the sun rise, and ready to embrace the day.
I chose to see my siblings grow up, and blossom into the most beautiful three young girls and handsome young boy that I have ever seen in my life, full of wonder and awe, courage for the world, and the ability to make even the darkest days have light.
I chose to watch my best friend become a cop like my daddy, because without her and her relentless love and patience with me for the past eight years, living my life to the fullest is something I owe to her, so I chose to be here for her and not let her go through this life alone.
I chose see to see my grandpa take his last breath, and to experience the love of a family coming together that happens after a close death in my family. The last words that my grandpa spoke to me are words I will always remember, and words that I had to live to hear.
I chose to live and to have spontaneous road trips with my boyfriend, to go to the college that I dreamed of going to since I was a child, to continue to experience the things that make me happy, and to be someone who can help others through the same struggles.
I got here by relying on God, and letting His plan for my life outweigh any silly plan I could think up for myself. It was not my job to inflict pain on myself. It was not my duty to be so sad all of the time. It was not my calling to waste away precious moments of life by being stuck inside of an illness that my mind caused. The journey that is life is what God has intricately designed for us as His children on Earth, and it is full of wonderful sights. It would be devastating to not see what would be next, and unfair to my divine plan for me to make the decision on when to call it quits.
The good that is my life today is so beautiful and fulfilling to me.
The good that I experience today is the laughter of my baby sister and brother in the house when they are watching a silly movie, and the way their happiness fills my heart with complete joy.
The good today is watching my sister compete in the third-best-ranked competitive soccer team in the nation.
The good today is the sound of my three best friends living under the same roof as me, hearing constant laughter, devotional testimonies of faith, endless Netflix, and always having someone to drink a glass of wine with.
The good is looking into the eyes of my 12-year-old sister and seeing a beautiful set of blue eyes looking up to me, watching my every move, and praying that my example will help mold her life in some way.
The good today is that the man I am going to marry has already entered my life, and we are already planning our next steps into our lifelong commitment to each other.
The good today is that pending graduation, after four years and four degrees, I am alive to make it to a career that I will grow to love.
The good today is that the sun rises each day, and I am alive to see it.
The good today is something that even just a few years ago, I never would have thought could exist for me.
I cannot write to you today and tell you that everything is perfect. Bad days still happen, it is inevitable as we live a human life. But the good is so much better than the bad. The good life that I now experience has blessed me beyond measure and given me hope in myself and in the world. Even the good itself is more good than the old good could ever have been.
At 14, 15, 16, and even sometimes 17 and on, I was a depressed teenager who self-harmed and wondered about just how painful it could possibly be to end my own life. Today, I wear my internal and external scars with pride that I made it, I am changed, I survived, and I am living. My heart is full of the love of those around me as well as the love of Christ, both of which remind me that I never have to live this life alone.
To anyone who is suffering or has suffered with a mental illness of any kind, you are amazing and beautiful and strong, because nothing is more terrifying than battling with your own mind every single day. You can make it through this, and come out even stronger on the other side.
So survive out loud with me. Let’s live this beautiful life together, and show others how much we have been through. Life gets better, make sure you’re there to see it.
“Other times, I look at my scars and see something else: a girl who was trying to cope with something horrible that she should never have had to live through at all. My scars show pain and suffering, but they also show my will to survive. They’re part of my history that’ll always be there.”