Frank of PostSecret shared a link on Twitter this week that was hugely inspiring: a young guy with Asperger's named Elijah posted his mailing address about five months ago, and invited anyone who struggles with self-harm to send him their blades, "so they can take a step forward towards getting better."
Putting aside how inspiring it is that this guy is using his "different-ness" to change the world for the better, I have to say I never imagined seeing pictures of blades, paper clips, and lighters taped to little notecards with names on them could make me cry - but this one got me right in the gut:
And then I got choked up again at the card next to it, which was from a 13-year old named Grace.
When I was a teen I used to dig my fingernails into the back of my hand any time I felt like crying. In college that became a regular habit, and my left hand was constantly covered in puffy cuts, scratches, and bruises. I remember customers where I worked asking if I had a cat, and then looking intensely uncomfortable when they learned I didn't. I never took it further, thank God, but I still remember that feeling of desperation, of a need for control, and of the not-so-silent cry for help I was making by making myself bleed.
My scars have faded away almost completely now, but I've since learned that anyone can find themselves in a place of pain and chaos, and more importantly, that there is no shame in that.
I was going to end there, but then Sara S. sent me a video that, while not being about self-harm per se, is still extremely relevant. It's a beautifully illustrated spoken-word poem about childhood bullying, and I hope you'll find a few moments when you're alone to watch it:
(If you ever question the need for videos and campaigns like this, just read a few of the hate-filled comments over on Youtube. UG.)
I know there are a lot of young girls and guys reading this who are facing the hardest struggles of their lives right now, and I know there are older girls and guys who feel more lost than they think they can handle. If that's you, then I just wanted to say that you are loved, you are valued, and there are better ways to regain control of your life than through self-destruction. In short, we are better than that.
And those people? The ones whose voices and condemnation we carry with us?
They were wrong.
I wasn't going to post this until next week, but then a few hours ago Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess - and who I know many of you love as I do - tweeted the following:
Since I already had this draft written, I took that as a sign to go ahead and post it now. We all need to be reminded we're not alone, and I've long admired Jenny for being willing to show that even the most successful and talented among us can have struggles. She's breaking down the walls of silence and stigma, and I hope making it that much easier for the rest of us to talk freely and without shame about the times when we're hurting.
Please feel free to share your own stories in the comments, even if it's just anonymously. You never know whose life you could change with a few words of advice and encouragement.