My first encounter with self harm was in primary school. Since then, cutting had been the only way for me to deal with stress. I tried drinking and smoking, but nothing was equivalent to the release of stress through the pain and trickling blood from the cuts on my ankle.
I always knew somehow that this was not a healthy form of stress relief, but I hid it all along because I always thought it was shameful to show others that I was not ‘tough’ enough to handle the simplest challenges in life. I was also seen by my peers as that bright girl who always was down to earth and had things under control, so I didn’t want to contradict that impression. It was also how the society portrayed depression, as if it is a state of failure.
In my final year of university, I finally decided to consult a professional about my problem. It was nothing forced, but more of an acceptance that this is nothing to be ashamed of, and by that time I started to see the problem more clearly because I was craving for the cutting; I could not live without the pain.
I think what is important is to tell the people whom you care about that there is nothing embarrassing about showing your vulnerabilities. Obviously that is not an easy thing to do, considering how Asian culture works. But that thought – the idea that it is okay to feel weak, and that there are times where emotions can take a downturn – was what saved me.
Some may think that is common sense, but to people like myself, it is hard to accept when no other person assures you that. Also, a piece of advice is that the management/treatment of mental illness is never a “one size fits all”. There are counselors who may work for you, and those that don’t.
Having a mental illness doesn’t mean you are crazy. It is just about learning how to approach your mind and body.It’s been almost a year since I stopped cutting, but seeing my old scars reminds me that I will be alright.
Now I know that I do not need to be perfect, just to be who I truly am.