According to Mental Health America, approximately two million Americans harm themselves sometimes to express pain or to establish some sense of control. Regardless of the reason, people are hurting. People are struggling. People are dealing with very real pain each and everyday. So to honor Mental Health Week, Kermit Says… is sharing an incredibly honest and deeply personal story of hurt and healing, of self-harm and self-love. This is not everyone’s story…it’s mine.
I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel…
When I was in high school, I used to cut myself. Sad. Angry. Bored. Blasting Brand New, The Used, My Chemical Romance, or another popular screamo band, I’d take the blade I kept hidden in a little tin box and press it firmly against my left wrist or thigh until streams of blood appeared. This was more than a call for attention or a bonding activity between me and my friends. This was an outward expression of some serious internal pain—a pain I could not quite understand, but certainly recognized. I didn’t know where this pain originated or why, but I knew what I felt was real, and I hated anyone who invalidated those feelings. No one understood: not my parents, not my sisters, and not even some of my best friends at the time. I felt lost. I felt alone. And that pain became more and more unbearable.
It wasn’t until one of my friends ended up in the hospital from an unsuccessful suicide attempt that things started to take a turn. I didn’t want to end up in a hospital bed, and I certainly didn’t want to be in a grave. I wasn’t cutting to die. I was cutting to live–or so I thought. Little did I know at the time that there were better ways to cope and healthier ways to live. In a very fortunate turn of events, one of my best friends and recovering cutter bought me a journal so I could express my pain creatively. For me, self harming was the only sense of control I thought I had. I was wrong, and this journal, in some ways, saved me. Trite, I know, but it’s true. I needed a healthy way to process this pain, and I was able to do that through writing and through music. Heck, I even wrote my college essay about how writing and music collectively have the power to positively change lives.
Why am I sharing this terribly intimate story of a lost, hurt teenage Kirstin? Because even though I’m no longer her, she exists in so many others—whether or not we recognize it. Sometimes we wear masks and hide who we are because we think no one will understand. Sometimes we hurt ourselves because we think it feels good, because it gives us power when we feel powerless. There’s a stigma around mental health, but the truth is, you’re human. You’re a complex individual who has ups and downs, good days and bad days (and some have more bad than good). That doesn’t make you a terrible or weird person. That doesn’t make you inferior or unworthy of love and happiness. Just like any other person, we all need help. We all need a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen. We all need a sense of hope and purpose, and trust me, you will find it. It takes time, it takes practice, it takes intentional work. I still work at it every.single.day.
Please don’t hesitate to tear off that mask, speak up, and share how you’re feeling to someone you trust or—like me—to a sheet of scrap paper and a guitar. Discover healthy options that will help you step out of the darkness and into the light. How? Be honest with yourself. That’s the scariest part of all, but trust me when I say you won’t go through this alone. I’m here for you to provide support, encouragement, alternatives. It’s not too late to heal. It’s not too late to love yourself. It’s never too late.
This post was originally published on http://www.kermitsays.com on April 15, 2015, but has since been revised. For the remainder of the week, please check out the Kermit Says… Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (all @kermitsays1) for resources on mental health.