Welcome back, everyone. This is the sixth interview in the Self Harm Series and I really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read the personal stories of current and previous self-harmers. I know these blogs aren’t the easiest to read; but, often it’s the hardest things that count the most.
Today my interviewee is a young lady who is the granddaughter of a good friend. I’d asked my friend to read my book prior to publication for feedback and I had no idea her granddaughter self-harmed. It was quite a surprise, but it was my first opportunity to see how my book could really help someone else.
Meet my friend’s granddaughter, Isabella. She and I emailed back and forth quite a bit. There are very few things that aren’t included, hence a longer interview than normal. I just thought that by providing everything that it may give you some insight into something you or someone you know may be experiencing. My friend gifted Isabella a copy of my book so when you hear her refer to Krystal, she is speaking of the main character in my book.
CL: Welcome, Isabella. Thanks so much for being willing to speak with me. Could you start by telling me what type of self-harm you were or are afflicted by?
Isabella: Like Krystal, I mostly suffered with cutting. I tried burning once and scratching a few times, but cutting was the main issue along with suicide attempts and drinking alcohol occasionally. But along with cutting and thoughts of cutting, I would also sometimes go through phases of not eating, restricting, and purging food.
When did this behavior begin?
I started in late August of 2012. I was only in the seventh grade at the time.
Man, you were so young! Well… still are, which is great because you still have your entire life ahead of you. Do you know what triggered your behaviors?
Home wasn’t that great for me. My sister and father always seemed to fight and argue over everything. My sister was fourteen at the time and a freshman at Topeka High and I went to Eisenhower Middle School. I remember the exact night I first cut. I was doing the dishes and I was thinking about these things on Instagram about self-harm and cutting. Me, being a hormonal, emotional, dumb twelve-year-old… I decided to try it. I wasn’t even sad. I just wanted to. And when the time came where I would be upset (not seeing my best friend because we didn’t have any classes together or my father and sister fighting), I decided to do it again.
Since I suffer from depression, I would cut to try and cope with it. I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older that whenever I have a strong emotion of sadness or anger, it turns to anxiety which leads me to cut. Along with social media, I’d see triggering photos that would make my skin ask for it. Fights with friends never helped the situation either.
So what does cutting do for you? What are the effects afterward?
It would mostly be relief. It was like instead of blood, my feelings and issues were going away. Right before, I’d be crying my heart out, and once I dragged that blade across my skin, I’d smile. I got a sick rush and enjoyment from it. I would post photos to the Internet. I enjoyed having random strangers tell me to stop and be worried about me. It gave me a false sense of being important. Being famous is the same whether it’s for good or bad, right?
In many ways these days… yes. I probably would be one of those people had I encountered you that way. But that is what self-harm is… a cry for help. At some stage of it at least.
So now you’re fifteen, and it’s three years later. Are you still struggling with cutting?
Yes. I was actually over a month clean and in late March of this year I decided to relapse. I regret it whenever I think about it since I just did it because I was bored. And I’ve been struggling with it off and on, even though it isn’t to such a harsh degree as before.
The way you say it, ‘you decided.’ But we all do that on some level, don’t we, whether it’s overeating or smoking or any other form of self-harm? Sometimes we decide to not do well for the exact same reason. We’re bored. Have you received any help?
I’ve been in therapy since my first suicide attempt, which was October 1st, 2012. It’s really helpful especially since I’m now on medication. But I get in these ruts, even more so since I started high school. It’s weird not being the smartest person in the room and actually being one of the dumbest. Along with that, I’ve had drama with my ex-best friends. I try to see things by looking at the whole picture now. I understand that someone yelling at me, because they’re upset doesn’t mean they hate me. But with every addiction, it’s hard to stop. And there isn’t a day that goes by where the thought (of cutting) doesn’t come across my mind. I know I could always get help for this… but ever since my latest hospitalization (February 2013), I’ve been afraid to ask for help for fear I’d be sent back to that specific hospital in Kansas City.
What do you mean by your latest hospitalization? When/Where else were hospitalized?
Stormont-Veil West during my first suicide attempt. That was also on October 1st, 2012.
I know you’re still on your journey, but sometimes there are things that make it harder… What has been one of your biggest hindrances in your journey to recovery?
My ex-best friend. Toward the end of our friendship, she was pushing me away… saying I was doing these things for attention. She was dealing with a death in the family at the time. And after a few miscommunications, she was talking to another friend of ours. That friend spread rumors of me across Highland Park High School and turned our friends against me. Along with that, my grades weren’t the best and my self-esteem would drop because of it. Mostly I hold myself back. I would think my feelings didn’t matter and I should keep quiet. Plus my dad isn’t too keen on family therapy. He feels that we just attack him the entire time and there have been sessions where my dad leaves angry, I’m crying, and my mom and the therapist are just wondering what went wrong.
Yikes! Life doesn’t slow down for us, that’s for sure. It makes it hard to catch your breath when it’s one thing after another. Do you mind telling me about your suicide attempts?
My suicide attempts have been the reasons for going to the hospital. The reason I remember October 1, 2012 so well is because I tried to overdose. That night I decided to post a photo to the Internet of pills in my hand. The photo is still up. My best friend at the time (and many other people) saw it. The photo had the caption:
~sleepy pills. It says not to take more than 2. There’s 11. I’m done. I want to go to the hospital. I’m going to die.~
I was done, so tired, and I just wanted to sleep. Avery threatened to kill herself if I did it and then told her mom. Her mother brought her over and she told my parents everything. My parents didn’t even know I was cutting, let alone a suicide attempt. So we went to the hospital and that’s when I was admitted the first time.
My second time at the hospital in February of 2013 was because I told my parents I had cut. My mother was worried so she took me to see if I needed to be hospitalized. Apparently, I did. So I was sent to this horrible hospital in Kansas City. It scarred me for life. I swore that I would never go back even I needed to be hospitalized, I couldn’t risk going back there.
I’ve had several suicide attempts that weren’t exactly severe. Like I’d cut down my wrists in hopes of bleeding out and dying even though I knew it wasn’t likely. I’d do things like that in hopes of dying despite the chances that it wouldn’t leave nothing but a scar and some bloody tissues.
My latest suicide attempt was far more serious. It was April 23, 2015 before we really started preparing for finals. It was a Thursday night and I didn’t have school on Friday. I think that’s what caused my sister (Alex) to start making comments on my weight and eating habits. A second earlier I’d been crying because I was so happy about my favorite band and how perfect they are. When she started making comments, I snapped and pushed her glass over. My mother yelled at me saying I shouldn’t have done that, apologize, and clean it up. So after an hour of me dwelling on this in my room, I thought about how I’d be better off dead. I mean the only way I was passing biology was if I’d pass the final and I didn’t have any hope in myself (I ended up getting an 83% and passed with a D). So I had to sweep and mop the kitchen. While I was waiting for it to dry, I grabbed a bunch of pills and took them to my room. I finished my chores because if I died, I didn’t want to leave anything undone. Later, my dad came home from a church meeting and I took the pills around 8:45 at night. I was texting a friend (Jason) since I needed some cheering up. I told him what I’d done. I said that it wouldn’t kill me even though my head was pounding and I’d never felt that way before. I told the same to Maddy and she was telling me to call 911 and saying if I died, she wouldn’t be able to go on. I shrugged it off and just talked to her until I fell asleep. I woke up and went to the bathroom twice to vomit. It was the aspirin (I think I took 43 pills of 325 milligrams ea). I remember it was red since I took each pill with a sip of fruit punch, counting them one after another. So I spent the weekend in agony trying to feel better. My parents still have no clue about it. and I wish I didn’t even take them. I mean I could’ve chosen not to. I just felt like it despite the fact I could’ve pulled out my phone and distracted myself.
Isabella, I’m glad that didn’t work. I hope you show your parents this blog. I know your grandma knows you’re doing this since she’s the one who approached you for me, but I really hope you let your parents completely in.
~About here Isabella asks me for advice on potty training a puppy, lol~
So this year, you’ll be a sophomore… How are you feeling now? Do you still have suicidal tendencies?
I’m currently feeling alright. I think having this new puppy is really helping me. I can’t just spend the day in my room anymore and sulk in depression. Last week I was having such bad anxiety that I couldn’t leave my room. Now I have to leave it every hour or so to take care of her. I don’t have time to be sad when I could be teaching her tricks or keeping an eye on her. If anything, I need to stick around. I’d feel so guilty about leaving her and my other dog.
I don’t really have suicidal tendencies. Sometimes suicidal thoughts will sneak up. Like some days, I wake up and I can just tell it’s going to be a bad day. I’ll spend the day depressed and upset, but no suicidal thoughts till I’m alone in my room at night. Being a teenager means my sleep is crazy. Sometimes I’ll be awake when my mom wakes up to get ready for work and I haven’t slept the whole night. It’s hard to ask for help during that time since I feel like I’m a bother for doing so. Since I know it’ll pass, I tend to just wait it out or go to sleep if I can. If it doesn’t seem like it’ll go away, I will call the suicide hotline or sit with the dogs since it’s therapeutic petting them.
Besides your doggies, whom I’m sure are wonderful, what has been something that has helped you in this journey?
Therapy and medication. I’m personally against medication since it’s so annoying to take it every day. But I’m on a good one (medication) this year where I’m not having bad side effects and it helps my mood tremendously. But really, therapy is the best help ever. The first therapist I met after being discharged from the hospital in October of 2012 was nice. I kept on seeing her and she taught me so much about relationships and how to talk about my feelings without blaming people. But recently, she left therapy and I was moved to a new therapist. So far I’ve only had one session and I think she’s going to be an alright match.
I’ve told my friends that if I die, they need to fly Maddy up for my funeral.My best friend, Maddy, is the biggest help. I even named my dog after her. I should clarify, ‘Internet friend.’ I met her on Instagram through a mutual love for the band ‘All Time Low,’ and we started talking. She lives in Dallas, but I’m stuck here. She’s a year older than me and my family loves her like she’s their own child. Whenever I’m upset, she’s there for me and tries to talk me out of anything stupid I may have done. But if I have done anything stupid, she doesn’t get pissed off at me like my other friends… mostly since she’s struggled with self-harm too. But she has been clean for a while. We plan to meet someday; but honestly, I worry it’s never going to happen.
Something else that’s helped me is music. Like Krystal has art, I have music. When I first got discharged (from the hospital), I wasn’t into the music I’m into now. In fact, I hated everything about it. But… I gave it a chance and the lyrics are what brought me around.
♫ I kissed the scars on her skin and said, I never want to lose my best friend. ♫ Song ~ A Match Into Water ~ by Pierce the Veil
When I learned more about the band members, it was an eye-opening experience. Vic Fuentes (lead singer of Pierce the Veil) struggled with self-harm growing up, but he beat it. Alex Gaskarth (lead singer of All Time Low) had such bad anxiety that he would run off stage during concerts because of panic attacks. They’re such big inspirations to not let dumb things like chemicals in your brain stop you from doing what you want to. And I want to thank them for spreading hope across the world with their stories and music.
That’s lovely, Isabella. I truly believe energy moves through music and I’m glad you found such positivity in what you choose to listen to, seriously. And I love that when I asked you about ‘things that’s helped you,’ that you have multiple things. I know you’re still struggling, but that says so much.
Much earlier you said ‘along with social media…’ were you seeing things online that actually promoted cutting?
Yes. You can simply go on Tumblr or Instagram and look up hashtags on cutting, self-harm, self-injury, mia, ana, depression, anxiety, etc. The people claim to not support their decisions on self-harming, but instead support them on doing it safely. They give support and praise for accomplishments (a.k.a. your own self-injury). Whether it’s going days without eating or not getting caught another day.
You mentioned a couple of things that I’m not even familiar with. So these sites appear to be for support until you look really close…?
Yes. I used to be one of those people. Everyone claimed they weren’t supporting it, but their action contradicted them. There would be photos that say ‘comment a food and I won’t eat it all month’ or ‘400 likes and I’ll throw my blades away.’ What the Internet likes to call being an attention whore. I used to do that and it makes me sick just thinking about it now. You should want to get better for yourself, not because you got likes on Instagram and new followers on Tumblr… The people who run those pages say they want an outlet to express their pain and help them, but subconsciously I think they want someone to care and to tell them to stop. At least that’s how it seemed. But someone telling you to stop won’t make you stop. It’s annoying to see these things. People, kids, and teenagers are all trying to be psychologists. Try googling ‘depression test’ or ‘anxiety test’ and people will self-diagnose. It’s a trigger for other people to see these things. Honestly, it’s harmful to young people who see his and think it’s okay. They start to go through the process and think it’s okay. They think they’re starting a process of recovery but could die before they get that far.
What wisdom can you share with others who are going through something similar?
It all passes. Honestly, if you just wait it out and not give into it, you’ll forget why you wanted to in the first place. I saw a stranger on Instagram who wanted to cut. I told her not to and gave her my number. She called and I talked with her for over an hour. Before she hung up, she said she forgot why she even wanted to cut in the first place. Everything passes. Your problems, feelings, and urges… and if you do slip up, don’t beat yourself up over it. Make a list of coping skills you can do instead of cutting when you have the urge. Personally, I love makeup, since I can make something beautiful. Using my hands and brain really helps the feeling (desire to cut) to subside.
It’s amazing that you’re helping others while you’re still struggling. That’s really commendable, Isabella. Thank you for going so deep into personal details. I wish you the best with the rest of your journey as you work toward recovery.
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