Depression, Self-Harm, & Anxiety: My Story

This was the very first blog post I’ve ever written on my original blog site on tumblr. I feel like it’s an extremely important story for me to tell, not only because it’s a significant part of my life, but also because I want to help others who are struggling like I once was.

My life was NOT easy, and yours may not be either. I want this blog post (and my blog in general) to be a testament of my strength and a pillar of hope for any of my readers who are hurting, struggling to live, or feel as if there is no hope left.

I have revised a few parts of my blog post to make it relevant to my current life. I hope you all live your best lives, and that you prioritize your mental health this holiday season and forevermore.

Trigger warning: A large majority of this post mentions cutting, suicide, and panic attacks.

(Side note: I am not glorifying depression, self-harm, nor anxiety during this blog post. I am merely sharing what I experienced as a young girl and how I felt in order to raise awareness and to provide comfort for those who have felt – or currently feel – the same way. I do NOT encourage anyone to hurt themselves the way I hurt myself.)

There wasn’t a definitive pinpoint as to when I can say my depression “started.” In other words, I can only talk about my earliest recollections experiencing depression.

I was in the third or fourth grade. Growing up I was always a very competitive person – in fact, I still am! But as a child, I didn’t know that the competitive side I instilled into myself at the time wasn’t healthy.

I would compare myself to my best friends. They were all beautiful and extremely bright, and I thought I was hideous and dim-witted. Whenever I looked at myself, I instinctually saw fat and I’d think to myself, “Why can’t I be as skinny as ________?” I was incredibly cruel on myself, but I didn’t realize the severity of it as a little eight-year-old child.

In the fifth grade, I started the habit of scratching and pinching my wrists until I saw blood. My friends would tell me not to do it, saying it was “bad for me.” At the time, I merely saw it as a way of “punishing” myself for not being as beautiful nor smart as they were. I didn’t feel like I was enough, and the way I showed that shame was by inflicting pain on my body.

Middle school came along, and one of my friends whom I looked up to very much told me that she cut herself. I didn’t know what that was at the time, so she explained to me that she’d take razor blades or a knife and slash her wrists. I brought it up with my parents when we ate at a restaurant one evening, and my parents (being the pious individuals that they are) told me that people who cut themselves were going to be punished by God. I was afraid by their response, so I never mentioned it again to them. But I couldn’t help but think to myself, “What if I could cut myself, too?”

Fast forward several weeks: I cut myself for the first time when I was eleven. I don’t remember exactly how I did it – I only remember the feeling I received afterwards. Pain. Satisfaction. Exhilaration. Fear. Bliss. Freedom.

After that first cut, I vowed to myself never to do it again. Soon enough, I broke that promise.

I became addicted to cutting myself. I wouldn’t be able to go weeks – even days – without doing it. Some of my friends knew, but they never did anything about it, except discourage me from doing it again. But I couldn’t stop, no matter how hard I tried. It gave me a rush, almost like a “high,” and I kept coming back to that feeling of satisfaction over and over and over again.

At the time, I was on a dance team. One of my coaches noticed my scars one day, and told the other coaches. According to a friend of mine, the coaches had been contemplating kicking me out of the team after seeing that I had scars.

I was ashamed, hurt, upset… but most of all, I felt angry. I would ask myself every day, “Why does the fact that I have scars on my wrist mean that I can’t dance anymore? Is it because I’m weak? Is it because I don’t belong here?”

That experience only made me harder on myself. I quit the dance team the following year. I cut myself more frequently, as if a couple times a week wasn’t enough. I started carrying scissors with me to school to cut myself with. I’d wear bracelets and long-sleeves, even if it was 80 degrees outside. And if there were no sharp objects around, I’d even use rubber bands to inflict pain on myself. The feeling of pain was my source of happiness. I was hopelessly addicted.

The worst part was, I was always smiling at school. I’d be that one girl whose laugh filled the entire room, who actively participated in class discussions, who got straight As, who was friendly with everybody, who was goal-oriented and academically driven. The success and pride I was exuding externally did not match the feeling of depression I felt inside of me.

I went to the school counselor almost every day of seventh grade. I would try to stop cutting myself, but nothing seemed to work. I was journaling, reading, finding new hobbies, talking out my feelings with my friends, researching self-mutilation, placing ice cubes on my wrists whenever I received the urge to cut, listening to upbeat music, drawing slashes on my wrists with a red marker as a substitute for the “cuts,” sleeping more, scouting libraries for self-help books… but nothing seemed to work.

Then in eighth grade, a situation occurred that pushed me to my breaking point. My depression worsened, my cutting seemed perpetual, and I lost all hope I had left. I decided that I was going to kill myself.

I told one of my friends that I was thinking about suicide that night. I fell asleep at around 9:00, hoping that sleep would cure the depression I felt inside, but my dad woke me up shortly an hour and a half later. He told me that the police were outside, and that my friend called 911 after I fell asleep.

I was deathly afraid. I’d never interacted with the police before (save for the canine shows that they held in elementary school alongside the fire department), so I didn’t know what to expect. Fast forward three hours: I was admitted into Vista Del Mar Hospital in May of 2014.

I was there for three days, and it was an experience filled with a rollercoaster of memories. For the sake of this post, I’ll save my experiences there for another day.

I won’t lie to you and say that I stopped cutting and thinking about suicide after I was discharged. In fact, I’d say it was the complete opposite. I still felt the urge to cut myself. I still thought about suicide from time to time – I just never made a plan again.

Back-track to a year prior to my hospitalization: my first panic attack occurred in the seventh grade. I was in a timed team building competition, and our team’s construction wasn’t going as successful as we hoped it would. Time was running out. Thirty seconds left was on the clock – my instincts kicked in, and my heart began to hammer against my chest. I started feeling light-headed and nauseous. My head was spinning with a multitude of thoughts all at once. My hands were trembling uncontrollably. It was all so overwhelming, but I didn’t think much of it at the time until I went home later that day and realized I’d endured my first panic attack. What I didn’t know was that it would’ve been the first of many.

During the late summer of 2015, another situation occurred that resulted in the exacerbation of my depression. I lost my appetite, all I wanted to do was sleep all day, I lost a lot of weight, and I cried for days on end. By this time, I’d stopped taking Prozac (antidepressants) and going to therapy for over a year. But at this time, I needed it more than ever.

At the beginning of sophomore year – when my recovery process was just beginning to peak – another life-changing event occurred that brought me back to square one. Every day at school, I’d have intense panic attacks. They’d range between five and twenty-five minutes, but the severity of those anxiety bursts were horrifying nonetheless.

My anxiety and depression only grew worse with the sudden outpour of assignments and club obligations I had at school. I would wake up at 6:00 every morning, afraid to go to school. In fact, there were days when I asked my parents if I couldn’t go to school for fear of having another panic attack in class. I would cry whenever I arrived home from school due to all the stress and anxiety I felt every day.

In October of my sophomore year, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was tired of feeling like my anxiety and depression were taking over my life. I’d cut myself a few times, but it didn’t provide the same relief that it once promisingly did. Instead of giving up on my life – which I so desperately wanted to do so many times – I decided to ask my parents if I could go back to therapy and take medication again.

Fast-forward to today, I’ve been going to the same therapist since November of my sophomore year, and I absolutely love it. I’ve grown so much as a person through my therapist sessions and I no longer feel the urge to hurt myself. I currently don’t take Prozac anymore, but if I ever need it in the future, then I won’t hesitate to bring it up with my parents.

Like before, I won’t lie to you and say that I don’t have any more panic attacks, my depression has been cured, and I no longer have scars on my wrist. Battling anxiety, depression and the urges to cut is still a struggle I have every now and then. I still have anxiety attacks as well, but not as often. I still have occasional bouts of depression. I still have the urge to cut every once in a while – I just don’t give in to the temptation. I have wonderfully supportive friends who help me cope and who were there for me every step of my recovery.

If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety and/or self-mutilation, I have one promise for you: it gets better. I know you don’t believe me right now, or you feel like your situation is so terrible that it can’t possibly get better, but it does. Believe me, I was there. I’ve felt that despondency before.

And living this way does NOT have to last forever – there are so many resources out there that are at your disposal! There is therapy, medication, hospitals, hotlines… you just have to find one or more that work best for you. For me, I’ve found that therapy, reading, blogging, and socializing have helped me manage. Remember that one coping mechanism that works for me, may not be the same for you. It’s your life – make it worth living, and find out what makes you truly happy.

I’m going to end this blog post on a significantly “brighter” note: a few years ago, I read an extremely influential book titled It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, who unfortunately took his own life in 2013. In Vizzini’s novel, the main character Craig Gilner goes to a therapist for his crippling anxiety and depression.

There was a part in the book that still resonates deeply in my brain, in which Craig’s therapist tells him, “Life is not cured, Mr. Gilner. Life is managed.” And I think that statement cannot be any truer.

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