Self-Harm: Is It Eating At You?

Lately, I’ve been noticing the return of one of my most distressing depression symptoms: thoughts about self-harm. When I first started harming myself, I was so ashamed that I couldn’t talk about it at all. When asked, I’d shut down and say nothing for fear of crying uncontrollably. I have the same struggle when it comes to suicidal ideation; I feel such overwhelming shame that just saying the words out loud has been a gradual process. I was recently talking to my (very patient) nurse practitioner, who reminded me that the first time we talked about my suicidal thoughts it took me about ten minutes to get the words out, and I was shaking like a leaf the whole time.

It’s only recently that I’ve really been working on seeing these things – self-harm and suicidal thoughts – for what they are: symptoms of a larger issue. They’re indicators that my depression has worsened. There should be no judgments about willpower or self-control. They’re symptoms that should be taken seriously, but they’re nothing more or less – just symptoms.

While I know this intellectually, when those old thoughts come rushing back, so do the remnants of guilt and shame that I’ve worked to eliminate. It eats at me – the thoughts themselves and the judgments I hold against them. That’s how it always is; whether it’s a trickle or a flood, the thoughts eventually erode my determination not to give in to self-harm. It’s a battle to hold out until the thoughts pass, and sometimes I make it, but sometimes I don’t. The good news is, it does get easier with time and practice. If you relapse it can feel like you’re back at square one, but you’re not. If you need a little encouragement today, keep going. Keep working to treat yourself with kindness. You’ve got this.

A Lumpdate

What is a lumpdate? I’m glad you asked. “The Lump” is the name I use to refer to the imaginary goblin in my brain that rides a tiny, rusty unicycle in circles, day and night.

watercolor artwork of a cartoon goblin giving bad advice about mental health

The Lump was quiet for a while, but it’s back again, so this is a lumpdate- an update about the Lump. It won’t be a long lumpdate; the Lump is rather unoriginal and doesn’t have many new points to make. Really, they’re all repeats of the same damaging doubts from before.

In sum, the Lump is back, setting up shop in my mind.

A cartoon goblin riding a unicycle and damaging mental health by refusing to leave

I’m trying to evict it.


Your brain

Relapse: A Poem about Self-Harm

black and white painting of woman with furrowed bow and eyes closedThe remnants

were there all along-

wrapped inside my skull,

twined around every neuron.


In spring,

it awoke from its dormancy,

stretched its vines

to suffocate me further.


I’ll prune it back

and pull

what roots I can.

Maybe this time


I’ll get them before

late summer,

when the poison berries

are full,


bursting with

rotten propagation.

Waiting to sow the blight-



Next year,

I’ll be clean



Your brain



















Recovery From Depression

TW: suicide & self-harm

I Used To

I used to look at the time when I heard a train go by at night, the heavy silence of 2 AM broken by the siren call of escape. I used to notice unlocked windows on the fourth floor of West Hall as I went up and down the stairs, each trip to and from class becoming harder. I used to see ways to die everywhere; in the passing bus, in the cold, dark current of the Huron River, in the pastel-blue sewing scissors tucked under my pillow. I used to wonder how long it would take for these morbid opportunities to escape my notice. How long before I can go a full day without putting some new, self-destructive idea on a mental shelf? How long before any phrase including the word “cut” doesn’t make me yearn to be alone so that I can do just that? I used to wonder about these things until I realized,



I used to.


Your brain

Some Thoughts on Running

CW: mentions of self-harm

Sometimes I run because it’s when I feel strongest. I run because I love the feeling of my muscles working beneath my skin, my breath matched to my stride. Breathe in for three steps, breathe out for three steps. I love the sense of accomplishment, knowing that my body can carry me further than I think it can. Sometimes I run because it gives me joy. The simple pleasure of the wind in my hair and the sun on my face, moving with a body I’m thankful for. My body is a canvas for my mental state; when I’m well, I run for the joy of it. When I’m unwell, I run because it’s just another way to hurt myself. I run because at mile three I’m still thinking about cutting, but by mile five my brain is numb. Breathe in for three steps. Breathe out for three steps. I run because maybe if I can push my body to obey me, my brain might follow suit. I run because to be exhausted is to be empty, and where could my depression have gone except to have been left behind on the path? Expelled by my lungs, my racing heart, my wrung-out muscles. I run because it makes me feel good, and because sometimes, it makes me feel nothing at all.


Your Brain


What I’ve Learned About Self-Harm

“I need a new bathing suit”, I told my mother before heading out the door. A list of criteria floated through my mind. It needed to have shorts, or maybe a skirt, which had to go down to my mid-thigh. Of course, it should be cute so as not to arouse suspicion or too many questions.

Buying a bathing suit with a skirt was just one of many ways I hid my self-harm from those around me. In my third year of college I became depressed, and the following summer I started self-harming. I did it in secret and hid the evidence. I knew that altering my clothing choices would spark concern, so I continued to wear shorts that barely covered the still-healing wounds. Looking at photos from this time is painful. I remember desperately trying to appear well; smiling while anxiously pulling my shorts down to cover my secret. It consumed me entirely until cutting was all I thought about. Fighting the urge to do it was like trying not to sneeze. I would think about it constantly for days or weeks until I could take no more, and give in just to make the thoughts stop.

At age 4, I was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, a neurological condition that affects the brain’s ability to make sense of a world filled with sensory stimuli. I screamed getting my hair washed, I refused to go outside until my mittens were tucked into my sleeves, and anytime I fell down, I held my breath until I passed out. As a child, the world was a scary place, and although I learned to cope with my differences, the pressure of college and my looming adult life plunged me into numbness and depression. I began to feel outside of myself when in busy areas, and when I closed my eyes, I felt a gentle rocking as if I were on a boat. Cutting was a way for me to ground myself when things felt out of control.

All of this has taken me months to discover, though, and it was terrifying to not understand my own actions. Reaching out to my loved ones helped immensely. After months of hiding my self-harm from my mother, I told her about it the night before I moved back to school. When I showed her, she looked at the rows of raised, red scars and softly said: “that’s what I thought was happening.” All of the effort I had put into protecting her from the truth, for nothing. She had known for weeks, and I probably caused her more worry by staying silent. The next day, I left to begin my final year of college, four states away. I began seeing a therapist who encouraged me to create art that expressed my emotions, and when I found myself in a hazy stupor, I would open my sketchbook instead of turning to self-harm. But removing self-harm from my list of coping mechanisms made me feel wildly out of control, and I spiraled into a state of suicidal ideation. By the time I reached one month without engaging in self-harm, my therapist was gently suggesting hospitalization. Thankfully, I switched medications, and although it wasn’t the right one for me, it helped enough to keep me safe.

What I’ve learned about self-harm and other damaging coping behaviors is that they give you the illusion of control. Over time, however, it grows into a slippery beast of its own. You may eventually wonder how this action that you perceived as giving you control has come to hold you so tightly, until it doesn’t feel like a choice at all. Months of therapy, various medications, and the unwavering support of my friends and family have slowly allowed me to come out of the darkness. Today, I have gone over 10 months without self-harm, and I’ve come to understand that saying “no” to that self-harm voice gives me true control that is much more effective than self-harm ever was.