Written by Megan Saunders, Blogger & Advocate
For Valentine’s Day this year, a dear friend of mine made paper with wildflower seeds in it, then cut it into hearts. This friend encouraged the recipients of these paper hearts to plant them. Waiting for the weather to warm, I planted my heart a week ago. Today, I went to water it. In all honesty, I was not expecting any growth. I have been afraid that nothing would ever grow from that heart. I had already begun to picture the little pot full of soil in mid-summer, devoid of life. My expectations, fears, and imaginings were all wrong. Erupting from the soil were several sprouts, greeting the sun with eager little leaves. It was beautiful– this new life.
I envy my paper heart giving way to this new life. Lately, I have experienced a deep, aching desire for renewal.
When I look at my self-harm scars, I feel this ache.
I reflect on what was occurring in my life throughout different seasons of using self-harm to cope. At first, I lacked the coping skills. Once I had the skills, I lacked the willingness. Now, I have reached that place of willingness.
Even though I am willing to use the skills when the urges arise, the pain is not buried. On the contrary, the pain surfaces like a buoy that you just cannot push beneath the waves.
Every time I fight an urge, I come face-to-face with this pain that words fail to accurately express. And this hurts more than the self-inflicted, physical injury.
For so long, self-harm was a means for me to convey to the world that I was not okay and that I was in pain– things I lacked the vocabulary to describe.
In my experience, the pain gets worse before the new life erupts. There is a breaking or dismantling that must occur for healing to take place and give way to the strength in growth.
It is hard for me to look at my scars and not feel shame. Some of the toughest thoughts that incite this destructive feeling include:
“I am such a failure”
“No one could ever love me with these scars”
“I am stupid for starting to do this to myself”
to name a few. I am learning to fight these thoughts that drag me into the mire of self-hate with the DBT mindfulness skill of describing without judgement. For me, this sounds something like, When I cut myself and made these scars, I was feeling a lot of emotional pain. While I may be having the thought that I am a failure, the facts are that I have not failed at everything in my life and my worth is not contingent on my behaviors. Just because I used a maladaptive behavior to cope does not mean that I am a bad, defective person. I may feel like no one could ever love me with these scars, but I know that I have people (and my dog Phoebe) in my life that care for me. I am not stupid for making that first cut. The fact is that I was coping in the only way I knew how at the time.
So on the days when I feel shame over my scars, I am working on repeating phrases like those above to myself. It is not magic, but it is helping create a sense of peace in my spirit.
My spirit feels fragile like a paper heart because of all the pain that has pressed it. It is marred with scars that attempt to conceal it in shame, but the seeds of hope remain resolute. Just as wildflowers are growing from the paper heart my friend gave me, I feel a transcendent peace growing in me every time I face my pain without judgement. I have begun to experience renewal.
My name is Megan and this is Where I Stand.