Editor’s note – This was written by a Collegian staff member whose name has been changed due to the sensitive nature of the topic.

⚠️tw – self harm, suicidal ideation

I want to say something before I start. Self harm is a serious issue. If this is something that you find yourself struggling with, please reach out to someone, be it a friend, family member, or crisis center. You are not struggling alone. 

That being said, let me tell you my story. My name is AJ. I’m 18-years old. I was born and raised, loved, provided for, and cared about. I know that’s not the case for everyone, which is one reason that I was hesitant to talk about my struggle – I didn’t feel like it was reasonable. 

I was raised as the oldest daughter, and so I was expected to be perfect, and I did everything I could to meet that expectation. My parents weren’t afraid to make their disappointment known, loudly, and I couldn’t handle them being disappointed in me. Thus a perfectionist people-pleaser was created. 

All throughout grade school and into my freshman year of high school, I was bullied by the kids around me, who I thought were my best friends. They would talk bad about me behind my back and make fun of me for every little thing that I did. Which absolutely messed with my perfectionist mindset, and sent me spiraling deep into this angry, self-loathing depression. 

Here’s another thing about me: I come from a very conservative Christian background, one in which depression/self-harm/suicide is a massively taboo topic. As in, you do not bring it up at all ever. You’re sad? Pray more.

At first, cutting was a physical way to relieve my anger. Something about seeing the neatly lined up cuts justified the way that I was feeling, and provided temporary relief. Part of me even thought I deserved it. Every mistake that I made, carved into my skin. 

How fucked up is that? That I, as a 14-year old kid, thought that I deserved to bleed because I couldn’t be perfect. 

A common myth about self-harm is that people only do it for attention, but that wasn’t the case for me. I needed it to get through the day. It became an addiction that went on for over three years. It seemed like I could never do anything right, and everyone was constantly disappointed in me. I felt like I was drowning.

I reached the point where I was ready to end my life. I had enough of feeling worthless, feeling like I wasn’t doing enough, being enough for anyone. I was ready to not be such a burden anymore. At 16, it was time to put a razor blade to my wrist and just be done. 

I failed, obviously. I didn’t have the guts to cut deep enough. It infuriated me that I was too weak to just do it. 

Thank God I wasn’t able to. 

The journey through recovery and eventually to sobriety is hard, and it hurts, but it is so, so rewarding. Through a series of events, I realized that I didn’t want to live my life in this well of depression and self-loathing. I came to the honest realization that religion didn’t have to be as oppressive and legalistic as I thought it was, and I was able to turn faith into something real for me. 

I slowly transitioned from cutting into snapping a rubber band, and then eventually I was able to get rid of the rubber band, and considered myself finally clean. July 27, 2023 was my one-year milestone. 

There is so much hope on the other side of these feelings. If my attempt had worked when I was 16, I would’ve missed out on so many things. I wouldn’t have met my best friends. I wouldn’t have gotten to meet my niece, trip across the stage at graduation, or throw cookie dough around the kitchen with my siblings. 

I am not offering to tell my story so that I could be pitied, but so that hurting people can see that there is hope. There is joy, there is life, and there is peace out there. There are reasons to keep going, if only to hear a favorite song again, or see the leaves change colors, or see a best friend come home from college.

The world is full of beautiful things, and I am so thankful that I can see those things now.

AJ is a Hutchinson Community College student and a member of The Hutchinson Collegian.

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