We are ALL survivors

I was twelve years old when it all started.  I did not know what it was. I did not know what it meant. All I knew was that it felt strangely good.
I grew up in a country where mental health was not recognized. There was no information on depression, eating Disorders, and of course, self-injury. All I felt was this overwhelming sense of shame that was eating me alive. I felt “abnormal”. I felt like a failure. As a result, I tried to cover up my emotions and made up stories to explain the scar on my arm. Even to this day, I still make an effort to cover up some of the more visible scars just to avoid questions.

Things spiraled downwards in middle school. I was living in a school dormitory with 5 other girls. It was a very competitive school and everyone strove to be the best- not only academically but also physically. In particular, every girl I knew was dieting and was comparing who could be the thinnest. It was like a plague and I could not escape it. I started to starve myself and would only eat an apple a day. But it didn’t go as well as I planned. I started to binge as well on the weekend and I was not losing weight. I felt even more shameful and hopeless. I started to feel like that I had no self-control and I was letting myself go. Whenever I felt this way, I would pinch myself so hard that I couldn’t feel anything anymore.

When my parents realized that I wasn’t eating enough, they became extremely upset. So upset that my dad punched me in the face when I refused to eat. All I remember was tears mixed with blood streaming down my face. However, I was told to keep quiet and make up stories when people asked. Curiously, no one ever asked. It was as if everyone knew not to mention it. Instead, they alienated me and I fell into an even darker abyss. I contemplated suicide almost every day. I cried myself to sleep almost every night.

Fast forward to 15 years of age, my parents decided to send me to Canada, alone. I did not know anyone and did not know a single word of English. I felt “inferior” to everyone else and was even more frustrated with myself. My eating behavior became more erratic and my mood more depressive. I did not know how to regulate my emotions and as a result, whenever my partner at the time and I argued, and whenever I could not take it anymore, I would go and cut myself. Of course he did not know what was going on and thought that I was completely insane. I would always feel ashamed after what was done and blame myself for not controlling it better.

Luckily, as time went on, I learned more about Mental Health. I still remember my first lecture in Psychology 101 in my first year of university. It was a lecture that changed my whole life. Over time, I took a more serious interest in Psychology and decided to specialize in it. I volunteered at many research laboratories and read many interesting articles in the field of Psychology. Nothing felt better than knowing what I felt was not wrong. Nothing felt better than knowing what it was. Nothing felt better than feeling empowered that this all can be better. I started to accept myself for who I was. I started to see that all this hardship gave me strength and make me more resilient. I started to see, after so many years of struggling, that I was getting better. I can’t say I’m completely “cured”. I still have moments to this day when I want to injure myself. But what I learned that was the most helpful to me was self-acceptance. I am okay with who I am. Self-injuring does not mean that I am defected. It only adds to my story and experience, which make me stronger. This is why, after graduation, I decided to pursue a career in Psychology. I want to share my experience and knowledge to help those who also have struggled. I want to advocate for mental health. I want to make those who suffered like me to know that we are not weak, but we are all survivors.

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