From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

A Struggle to Be Me

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.


I’m sitting in the dark on my bedroom floor. The musky scent of incense is lingering in the air and Fiona Apple is droning softly in the background. I’m crying without knowing it, and my wrist is bleeding from the razor I’ve just dragged across it.

I’m a cutter.

That was no particular day. That was four years of my life.

Freshman year was the beginning of a very long struggle with depression for me. I’d never been good at vocalizing my emotions or expressing pain verbally. Instead, I’d act out by doing things that generally made the situation worse. When I got nervous or anxious, or scared and angry, I’d overreact to the situation because I just didn’t know what to do with my feelings.

When I entered high school my freshman year I was thrilled because I could make a new start and leave behind my glasses and braces from middle school. I could start anew without my former label of “geek.”

But old habits die hard. I was painfully shy and intimidated by the thin blonds who played sports and got drunk on weekends. I wanted to be those girls, but I didn’t know how.

Instead, I found a new role as an outcast who rebelled against everything those thin blonds stood for. I spoke out against Catholicism in a Catholic school. I joined the literary magazine while they played field hockey. I dyed my hair purple while they bleached their roots.

And I hung out with other outcasts who rebelled with me.

My mom calls them “that bad crowd” that I used to hang out with. We smoked pot and skipped school functions. My best friend and I often hid in the parking lot smoking cigarettes instead of going to mass with the rest of the school. And it made my embarrassment and shame so much easier when hiding behind rebellion, purple hair, and pot.

But at night, lying alone in my bed, the pain washed over me until it was unbearable. All the insults I’d ever received, every rejection, every stupid thing I’d ever done came flooding back. A voice in the back of my head called me stupid and worthless. But I had no idea how to vocalize the pain I’d been hiding.

And that’s when the cutting began.

The first time, it was just an experiment. To see if it made me feel better. And it did.

I can’t explain the feeling of relief it was to pour out my misery and punish myself. But it wasn’t just about punishment. I needed people to understand that I was silently screaming for help.

I never purposely showed my scars to anyone in order to receive attention, but something like that is bound to get noticed. And it did.

My mom took me to psychiatrists to get me on medication, but for someone who was so used to rebelling, I couldn’t stand to be told what to do. Cutting was like an addiction that I was terrified to get rid of and if medication would make me stop, I didn’t want it.

I went through many different therapists and antidepressants. I wanted to be happy, but I wasn’t willing to give up my pain. Being depressed and shameful was the only way I knew how to be. What I really wanted was just to be like those thin, beautiful blonds, but it seemed like an unattainable goal.

By the end of my sophomore year, things were the worst they’d ever been. And to top it off, my parents told me they were separating. That summer was the turning point of my depression.

I spent the whole summer stoned with my friends. My parents would try to control me, and I’d run away. And then my boyfriend broke up with me because I cut myself after I’d fought with my mom on the Fourth of July. And a month later, my parents caught me smoking weed, and I had no choice but to deal with everything.

I spent the next nine months in drug treatment and group therapy. I was finally forced to work through issues without hiding behind my scars or drugs. And anytime I cut myself I had to talk about it in therapy. It made me work on verbalizing my pain and figuring out why I did what I did.

I made a vow that I would be who I wanted to be. I vowed to figure out who I was. And it was really the start of a new life. I can’t say I am confident with who I am 100 percent of the time, but I have realized that I can’t do everything on my own.

I still get depressed, but I have stopped the cutting. For the first time in a long time, things are better than I could ever have hoped.

Lizzy Mason

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