May 12

On April 25th, 2014 I decided to turn my life around. I decided I didn’t want to be sad anymore, and if I was going to live, I was going to live happily. Two weeks later, on May 12th, 2014 I stopped self-harming and started on the road to recovery.

The road to recovery can be very long, it can last anywhere from a week to your whole life. It isn’t a road that is easily travelled; it isn’t paved and it is all up hill. You’ll need to stop and take a rest sometimes and you might even slip backwards, however push forward because the feeling at the end is worth the struggle.

Everyone travelling on the road to recovery has a different path; Mine started with the purchase of a notebook. When I decided I was ready to stop cutting, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, I wanted to stop but I wasn’t exactly ready to let go of my blade. My therapist at the time told me to do something else to release, so I bought a notebook and sliced the pages instead of my skin. Seeing the cuts of paper fall out of the book was surprisingly satisfying. I’m not saying it “cured” me, or magically stopped my cravings, but it definitely helped because since that day I have not self-harmed once.

Along my journey I’ve found other things that have helped in my recovery. Reading, writing, yoga, strength training, and especially meditation. Meditation has been the one thing that I can always go to when I need a mental break, when I need a little push further up Recovery Road, when I needed to be reminded of the beauty in the world.

Through meditation I learned the story of the lotus. I learned that the lotus has to grow through thick mud and water before it is able to open to the sun and bloom. It was this story, as well as two quotes, that inspired me to get my latest tattoo. A lotus on my right leg, the leg I used to self-harm for the quote, “I am blooming from the wound where I once bled” by the poet, Rune Lazuli. The other being the quote featured above. It was Van Gogh who said “Normality is a paved road; It’s comfortable to walk but no flowers grow on it”. Recovery Road is not necessarily a “normal” route to take in life, but it is one that will change you. It will take you off the paved road and let you bloom.

Now I am two years clean of self-harm, with a lotus tattoo to remind me of all the mud that I have travelled through, and to remind me everyday to bloom.

My Poetry Debut.

I’ve been working on loving my self, for some time now, and seeing I’m someone who struggles with depression and negative self-talk, it’s not easy. I guess re-wiring your mind isn’t supposed to be easy, is it.

From what I’ve learned, one of the major steps in learning how to love yourself, is taking care of yourself, physically and emotionally. Physically is the easy part. Exercise, eat well, drink lots of water, take your vitamins, and listen to your doctor. Taking care of your emotional self if the difficult part. You need to be able to recognize your emotions before you can understand them, and you need to understand them before you can heal them.

Years of therapy have helped me recognize my emotions, and now I’m learning on the understanding and healing, which tend to go hand-in-hand. Often times, so I’ve realized, is once you finally understand something you’ve been feeling for such a long time, healing comes naturally. Almost as if what was holding you back from healing was not understanding why you were feeling a certain way.

Most of my healing has come from the help of poetry. Poetry has always been something I’ve loved, but not something I ever truly connected with, until recently. Reading the work of Lovelace, Sin, and Kaur have helped me more than any “self-help” book ever could. For I learned that other people have felt what I’ve felt, due to reasons similar to my own, and have come out on the other side. That just because something happened to you, doesn’t mean it defines you, and doesn’t mean you can’t be you again.

I’ve been inspired by these fantastic writers and have started writing my own poems. Now, by no means am I a poet or an author, but the simple act of writing has always proven to be therapeutic for me, especially poetry. I think this is so, because of the beauty behind poetry. It’s hard to feel sad when you’re writing such beautiful words.

I’ve always said that I would never share my poetry, because 1) it’s a little dark, and 2) I don’t think I’m very good. That might sound a little superficial, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist sometimes, which makes it hard to try new things, and writing poetry is definitely something new to me. However everyone starts somewhere, and if you don’t share your work, no one can learn from it.

They say you’re supposed to do one thing each day that scares you, so this is my big scary debut into the world of poetry.

May 13th

I say i stopped cutting on May 13th, but i didn't 
that was the day i passed the knife to you.
Each kiss, touch, and look was a lie
the knife dancing across my skin.
Every time you whispered 'i love you'
you dug the knife a little deeper.
I say i stopped cutting on May 13th, but i didn't
I stopped the day i left you. 

Sometimes a dark poems leave you feeling light. That is what this poem does for me. When I wrote it I didn’t plan to say what I said, the words just flowed. This was one of my first poems, and is about something that has very much changed my perspective on life. I’ve talked about self harm before, and it has been something I’ve wanted to forget for such a long time, however not anymore. I understand those emotions better now, and now they are what keep me grounded in times of unease.

My tally marks are a reminder of what what I’m capable of surviving, and my poetry is a reminder of how I’m going to overcome anything that tries to hold me back from living.

Guilt.

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. – Steve Jobs

I was recently asked if I knew the difference between ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’. I was immediately offended, and answered with “obviously”, then when I was asked to define both I was stumped. I had been using the words interchangeably, I didn’t realize there was a difference between them. I was encouraged to look into the definitions, to fully understand the difference. Here are my findings;

Dictionary.com defines guilt as a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, while defining shame as a painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonourable. The way I see it, is guilt is a reaction, whereas shame is an emotion. Which means that what I have been classifying as “Bad Guilt” this whole time was actually shame.

In the past, I’ve spoke about how I like guilt, how it saved my life. I used to call this guilt, “Good Guilt”, however now I realize it was just regular, normal guilt. I’ll explain.. When I was at my lowest of lows, I was fantasizing about death, and mapping out the perfect plan. I was counting down the days, but at the same time I was starting to feel extremely guilty about the pain I was about to put onto my family and friends. I knew that once I went through with it, they would be left with aftermath, and “what if’s”. This guilt kept me up at night, made me second guess my decision, and ultimately forced me to not do it.

What followed this guilt was a whole lot of shame. So much shame that I couldn’t speak about my decision of what not to do, for almost a year, and even then not openly. I had this secret that I kept thinking back to and was causing me “Bad Guilt”, or what I now know as shame. I was ashamed of what I had planned to do, and how it would have hurt the people around me.

Learning there is a difference between guilt and shame, and that I don’t exactly need to be calling them good guilt and bad guilt anymore doesn’t really change anything. I just thought it was interesting, and it brought up some old memories. However, what I did learn is guilt is not an emotion, but something caused by yourself. Which made me realize I can be mindful of it. So if I notice I’m feeling guilty, I can validate the thought then squash it. Knowing it’s a reaction to something, I can push the guilt aside and figure out what the main issue really is. I don’t need to ever feel guilty again.

Acceptance.

I’m painfully optimistic. I’ll always root for the underdog. I’m stubborn. I’ll always take chances. I’m headstrong. I’ll always see something broken as something whole.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll agree with either one of the traits above, or you like to fix things. I’ve always liked picking at things, finding out how to break them and then patching them back up. I’ve been known to “break everything I touch”, which sounds a little like Midas. I mean, I do tend to break quite a lot of things, but not everything. Unlike Midas I have the ability to return things back to it’s natural state, or at least try and for me, there is no better feeling than seeing something broken put back together. Now this doesn’t always go as planned and often times I’m just left with something broken, which infuriates me. I hate not being able to fix something, even more so when I was the one who broke it.

When I was at my lowest of lows I saw myself as this broken shell of a human. I was breaking down almost on the daily, and I had started cutting slits in my skin to let anything left inside me out. It felt like I was a ghost, lost between worlds, stuck in purgatory. It was obvious I needed to be fixed; My doctors were giving me medication, my therapist was giving me her time multiple times a week, everyone around me was trying to fix me. This went on for months and then I realized that I couldn’t wait for someone else to fix me, I needed to fix myself.

My way of fixing my mind, was accepting it. I had to accept the fact that I would have days when I feel like I’m stuck in quicksand, and that from time to time I’m going to have impulsive thoughts and think I see something thats not really there. Some things are going to make me anxious, some things are going to make me paranoid, and I’m going to need to take medication every day. I needed to accept that these things are okay. These things are “normal”. I couldn’t expect anyone to accept me when I didn’t agree, and now that I do, I don’t care what you think.

Wanting to fix things isn’t a bad trait, you do however need to know when to stop changing things and start accepting things. This is the case when it comes to people, no matter how hard you try, you cannot change someone who doesn’t want to change, but you can accept them for who they are. Acceptance can be difficult, especially when you’re as stubborn as I am. You may always want to help, always want to do what you can to make someone’s life a little easier for them, save them from any pain. But some people don’t need saving, some people need to save themselves, and you have to accept that.

You’ll never be able to change someone into who you want them to be, but you can change the way you think and accept them for who they are. 

Trigger Warning

You can’t start a new chapter if you keep rereading the last.

As a child, I was horrible at spelling. My parents told me that I would be better at spelling if I read more, because reading would increase my vocabulary. We were encouraged to read everyday, and for the most part we did. I would read Junie B Jones, The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes… My love of reading grew with each book and is still growing today. Unfortunately I’m still horrible at spelling, but at least I have a killer book collection.

If you looked at my bookshelf, you’d see a wide selection. There are school books, books I purchased, books I’ve borrowed, and books I was given. There are books I’ve read for pleasure, books I’ve read for enlightenment and books I’ve read to gain knowledge. I have classics, awarding-winning novels, biographies, journals, mysteries, essays, short-stories, locally published, self-help, the list goes on.. I don’t only read books of one genre or subject, I read anything and everything. Reading different types of books allows you to explore different parts of the world and different parts of yourself. I think that’s why I love reading so much, you can travel the world and travel through time, you can escape.

One of my most difficult years with depression also happened to be the year I read 50 books. I read to escape my reality. I hated myself, so putting myself in someone else’s shoes, was a relief. I got to forget about who I was for a little while and be someone different. Looking back, I am so thankful I was able to find this escape in reading, and didn’t have to resort to alcohol, or drugs, which would have been so easy. That being said, reading wasn’t my only form of relief.

In 2013, whether it was due to depression or the medication, I don’t know, but I started to feel completely numb. No, I didn’t “feel” numb, I wasn’t feeling anything, I was numb. My emotions were muted, I didn’t know what was happening. All this anxiety and depression was crashing down on me, but I didn’t feel sad, or angry, or frustrated. I wasn’t living, I didn’t even know if I was actually even alive somedays.I needed something to make me feel something, anything. I needed something to help me realize I was still here. I turned to self-harm.

I started cutting myself. I could see the blade in my hand, running across my leg, slicing my skin, but I still couldn’t feel it. The blood was what brought me back to life. Seeing the blood pooling and running down my body making little red trails is what reminded me I was alive. If I could still bleed, I was still here.

It started out innocent, one cut was enough. But thats the thing with addiction, eventually you need more, you keep needing more. I needed to see more blood, I needed to see it spill out over the cut, I needed to see my leg covered in red. I moved to different parts of my body, started trying different techniques. I was obsessed. I won’t get too far into things, but what happened was I ended up not just battling depression but always addiction.

This continued for almost 2 for years. I’d try and stop, I’d go days, sometimes months, without even thinking about cutting, but then I’d slip back into my old ways. However, on May 12th, 2015, I stopped and haven’t looked back. I was finally finished with that part of my life. That’s not to say I don’t think about cutting these days, it’s just now those thoughts are fewer and less frequent. Even when I do think of cutting now, I can redirect my thoughts to something else, like reading, or writing.

For the past few years of my life I’ve been embarrassed of the scars on my body. I was terrified that someone would see them and think less of me, or judge me. I wore long sleeves and would never wear shorts, regardless of the heat. Now however, things are a little different. I’m not embarrassed of my scars, I’m proud of them. They show that I fought through the sadness. They’re battle scars, they show that I survived.

So here we are today, exactly one year later. One whole year and zero self-harm. I never knew if I would ever get here, somedays I didn’t even want to live another full year, but I did. I did it.

They say life is a story, but if you keep re-reading the same chapter you’ll never start the next. I’ve turned the page, finished the book and now I’m writing my own.