Jelena Jojic

The Scars I Got From Self-Harming Remind Me Of My Strength Every Day

I've never been open about this. I've never come clean through my writing. I've never been honest about the self-destructive acts I started engaging in when I was a mere teenager.

When I was 13, I discovered self-harm. I used it on a daily basis to cope with the teenage drama I was experiencing and the insecurities I had about myself.

At first, I was just scratching at my skin. But as the years passed, I turned to horrible acts of mutilation. My legs, arms, chest and stomach started getting covered in horrible scars and burns.

I turned to wearing long sleeves in the summer. I tied a bandana around my arm whenever I wore a short-sleeved shirt. I tried wearing multiple hair elastics on my wrist, and I wore knee-high socks with my shorts.

Self-harming was a thrill for me. It felt amazing, and it gave me a rush of adrenaline in the moment. But when I was done, I felt my raw skin burning, begging me to stop abusing myself.

I will never forget the questions I got asked about the Band-Aids on my wrist, the excuses I made about my dog scratching my leg and my embarrassment at track meets, where I wore a sleeveless top and short spandex, but crossed my arms in an attempt to hide the purple gashes all over my body.

I was a great runner as an underclassman, but as the years went by, I felt too ashamed of my body to continue competing. I was filled with too much remorse to place myself in situations where my body would be on display to multiple teammates and their parents.

I quit indoor track during my senior year in an attempt to conceal my body from my community. I opted to go to the gym during the slowest hours in order to work out.

Whenever I look down at my body, I see the white scars that cover the entirety of my arms and legs, and the long pink scar that goes down the center of my chest. I remember the situations that caused me to engage in these self-harming behaviors, such as hearing rumors about me, feeling left out, getting a bad grade or overall just feeling insecure about myself.

I think my self-harming fueled my depression for years. I was sad as a teenager, yes. But by self-harming, I opened up a whole new situation that would haunt me for the next six years of my life.

I remember having to go to a doctor and answer questions about how many times I have self-harmed in my life, and how many scars adorn my body. "So, you'd say you did it, on average, every other day for five years straight? That's around 900 times."

That's 900 times I took a sharp object to my skin in order to deal with my struggles. That's 900 times the emotional pain became physical pain, and I experienced that adrenaline rush surge inside of me as the blood dripped down my body.

The last time I self-harmed was October 28, 2015. That's about eight months ago.

This is the longest I've gone in six years without harming myself. It may not sound like a huge accomplishment to some people, but after you've self-destructed on a daily basis for half a decade, it becomes a habit. Breaking that habit and going eight months without acting on any urges is one of my biggest accomplishments.

My friends are still worried I'll relapse and start self-harming again. After I go through a tough situation, I always get asked, "Are you safe?" and "Did you hurt yourself?"

The truth is, hurting myself isn't my reality anymore. It's not an option for me because I've decided I'm more than that. I deserve to treat my body kindly, as it has been so good to me over the years, even as I've destroyed it.

Not many people are open about their self-harming. I don't think I've ever witnessed people admit openly to self-harm.

But it's a coping skill that exists among many people. Off the top of my head, I can think of more than 10 people I know who have self-harmed in the past.

I'm constantly being told, "Your body is a temple." But I saw an amazing quote last year that made me reconsider that:

Listen to me: Your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest: thick canopies of maple trees and sweet, scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated.

My body has been hurt so many times, but it has recovered and stood tall. It's stronger than ever.

I'm not ashamed of my scars because they remind me how strong I am. The tattoo I have on my arm (and the one I plan on getting next week) will be there to remind me of my past. They remind me why I should treat my body with sincerity.

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.

― Cheryl Rainfield