It started when I was 12 years old. Little isolated episodes, which I told myself weren’t a big deal. Everyone did it, right?
And then when I turned 16, it spiralled out of control. I would find new ways to hurt myself, go to extreme lengths to hide the wounds I’d created on my body. I’d pre-plan my excuses in case anybody asked about the episodes that I couldn’t hide. And then the panic attacks started. Feeling like my chest was being crushed; I could feel every heart beat, I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs. Permanently feeling like something was tightening around my chest.
Then it started to get better. The panic attacks got fewer and farther between. I lost the urge to hurt myself.
Just when I thought I was in the clear, it started again. Little thoughts that I could brush off. I distracted myself, exhausted myself. And then I became too exhausted to fight and gave in again. But the blood and the pain didn’t scare me. And that’s what scared me the most.
It took seven years for me to accept that I had a problem. Seven years, countless cuts, scratches, needle stabbings. The overwhelming feeling that I was drowning, that I was failing. The constant fear that my friends hated me. Feeling that I was faking being good at my job, that I didn’t deserve to be doing so well in my degree, convincing myself that every compliment was a lie.
But now I’m finally getting help. I’m not fighting this by myself any more, but I wish I’d sought help sooner. I wish I’d had the courage to speak up, to ask for help, to admit that I wasn’t as strong or as happy as I was making out. I want to get better and I think I can.
People need to know that no mental health problem is too small. I wish I did.
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