*Trigger Warning: Contains descriptions of self harm*
Self harm is a difficult topic to talk about. Yet now more than ever, we need to have the conversation. According to Time magazine, anxiety and depression are on the rise among young people. In 2006 the estimated number of teens in the United States who had at least one major depressive episode was 7.9%; in 2015, that number had reached 12.5%. And experts believe nonsuicidal self harm is also on the rise, though it’s “hard to quantify” because the behavior is “deliberately secretive.”
I myself have never self harmed, though I know people who have. I remember two girls in high school who had razor-thin scars up and down their arms. One I went to Sunday school with as a child, and yet in high school, I had no idea how to reach out to her. On WordPress, I see many bloggers who describe their urges to self harm. On Instagram, the #mentalhealth feed occasionally contains an image of someone’s self harm that they’ve chosen to post. My heart goes out to people who experience this, and so in that frame of mind, I’d like to introduce my guest blogger, Kate Branciforte.
My guest blogger today, Kate Branciforte, has experienced self-harming behavior; however, she is now celebrating one year harm free. Kate’s story upholds my commitment at The Wishing Well–it is honest, and at the end, shares her message of hope.
Her story does contain graphic descriptions of self harm–so for those that are sensitive to it, please be mindful. However, her message is ultimately uplifting. With the spirit of facing the truth and sharing hope, I now turn it over to Kate. -Jenna
In Kate’s Words…
To My College Roommates that Shunned Me for My Self-Harm: Thank You
I’ll never forget how I spent my 21st birthday. Unlike most, it wasn’t spent hung over in bed reliving the epic tales of the night before. Instead, it was spent hung over in the psych ward of Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, in a room with cinderblock walls and plexiglass windows. I shared this small space with a severely mentally ill young woman and her bored caretaker. This troubled woman was constantly banging her head against the wall, moaning, and throwing things while her caretaker sat there on her phone ignoring her. I sat in the corner, watching this. I have never felt more alone.
Rewind to the night before, a night that was supposed to be full of booze and celebrating, ended up being full of tears, shame and self-harm. After a long night at the bar and too many gin and tonics, I ended up in my apartment and crashed on my couch. Not long after, my roommate and our mutual friend came home and sat in the kitchen talking. I was in that half awake, half asleep drunken state, but I will never forget the conversation I ended up over hearing; the conversation that triggered this entire debacle.
The friend that was over was a guy that I had previously hooked up with, a guy that I had a huge crush on. While they were talking, my name came up when my roommate asked our friend what had happened between us. His response? “That was a huge, huge mistake”. When I heard this my heart stopped. And not because it was confirmed that this guy didn’t like me or want to date me or anything like that. I get it, I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and I’m fine with that. But the thing that got me was his words confirmed the thoughts I had constantly been battling: that I didn’t matter. I was a mistake. I was unimportant. I didn’t belong here.
After hearing this, I snuck to my room, found the razor I had hidden and went to town. This wasn’t my first encounter with harming myself. I had started that summer and it had been consuming me ever since. After I had enough, I tried crying myself to sleep but my roommate returned and asked what was wrong. In a cry for help, I turned on the light and revealed my bloody arms and legs. My roommate was confused and left, and proceeded to call her mom, who in return called the school.
The next morning I woke up to a whirlwind of RAs, EMTs, and police officers in my apartment. They were going through my things, questioning me and telling me I had to go to the hospital. I refused. A police officer then told me that if I didn’t cooperate, he would “put [me] in handcuffs and wheel me out of here on a stretcher so everyone can see.” Just what a suicidal girl in crisis wants to hear, right? Needless to say, I obliged. I was put in an ambulance and driven off to the hospital alone.
I was in the hospital for six hours. My parents eventually picked me up and to my shock and surprise, my roommates had come to the hospital and sat there all day waiting for me. When I got back to campus, I was told to pack a bag because I wasn’t allowed to live on campus until I was “stable” enough. That meant no class, no rowing, no going out on the weekends. Nothing. My life was seemingly just getting worse and worse. Long story short, eventually everything was figured out. Things shortly got back to somewhat normal with my friends and I finished out my junior year. Over the summer I battled depression and self-harm, but I made sure no one knew about it this time, except my therapist.
Senior year comes along, and again, I had another very memorable birthday. I don’t remember at all what happened or what triggered this bout of cutting, but all I remember is coming home crying and drunk, going to my shower, taking my razor and repeatedly cutting my arms and legs. I just hacked away until I felt better. I then lay down on the bathroom floor, crying and guilty when one of my roommates walked in. I’ll never forget the look of horror on her face. But instead of coming to me and comforting me, she turned and shut the door. I then proceeded to hear her talking to my other roommates and then heard their bedroom door shut.
Not soon after, an RA came into our apartment, talked to me and called my parents in the middle of the night. Before I left, I went to my roommates’ door and knocked, profusely crying and apologizing, begging them to open the door. I just wanted to see them, to tell them I was sorry, to make sure everything would be okay. Well, all I got was nothing. Silence. My parents dragged me away from the door, sobbing. From that day on, those girls, ones who I considered to be some of my best friends, never spoke to me or contacted me ever again. I moved out shortly after and commuted for the rest of my college career.
Now, the point of this story isn’t to bash these girls, or to look for pity from people. It’s actually to thank them because if it wasn’t for what they did to me and how they treated me, I would never, ever be where I am right now.
If I never went through this storm, I surely wouldn’t be the person I am today. I would have never gotten my first job, which truly shaped who I have become. I would have never started Crossfit, where I met some of the most amazing people I know and who have become incredibly close friends. I would have never had the opportunity to meet coaches and athletes who have pushed me to my limits, helping to define my character. I wouldn’t have strengthened my relationships with my five best friends, who continually and constantly love me no matter what; the ones who were there for me even though they didn’t understand why I do what I do. I wouldn’t have discovered the sport of weightlifting, which has given me a new sense of purpose, and again, introduced me to some really incredible people. I would have never found the strength I have found to keep living.
If it weren’t for those roommates who slammed the door in my face when I needed them most, then the doors that have opened to me over the past four years would have remained closed. If it wasn’t for their rejection, I may have stayed at school, fostering toxic “friendships” and stuck in a cycle of depression and self-harm. Who knows if I would even still be here?
Today, I am still suffering from depression and anxiety and recovering from my self-harming ways, but I am the happiest I have ever been. I haven’t taken a razor to my body in just over a year. I rarely, if ever, have suicidal thoughts anymore. I am able to cope with my stress and anxiety most of the time without spiraling out of control.
So, to those girls who locked their door and their hearts to me: thank you. Thank you for shunning me when I needed you most. Thank you for cutting me out of your life so easily. Thank you for not being there for me. You unknowingly changed, and perhaps saved, my life. You showed me who my true friends are; the ones who have helped me rebuild myself from the ground up. You’ve made me realize that I am not a mistake. I am important. I matter. I have a purpose on this earth, although that still remains uncertain and unknown. But now, instead of being worried and scared of that fact, I now revel in it.
Life is so uncertain, but the one thing that has remained constant for me is that everything happens for a reason. And that closed door was the best thing that ever happened to me.
And for anyone suffering, anyone thinking of harming themselves, or taking their life, listen to me: YOU matter. YOU are important. YOU have a purpose. YOU belong here. YOU are NOT a mistake. You may not see it now, you may truly believe you never will, but I promise you, you will. Keep going. Weather the storm and when you make it out, you will be stronger. And there will always be another storm…that I know all too well. But you will always make it through. Find your support system, cut out the toxic people, do something you love. And know, one closed door may be exactly what you need to open the next. I love you so much.
Kate Branciforte is a 27-year-old from the United States celebrating one year harm free. She enjoys olympic weighlifting, writing, eating and naps. Feel free to reach out to her in the comments.
If you are interested in guest posting on The Wishing Well, send me an email or leave me a comment and we’ll touch base. I can’t promise I’ll take every submission, but I am dedicated to sharing stories of recovering from mental illness with honesty and an uplifting message. 🌟
Source: Schrobsdorff, Susanna. “Anxiety, Depression and the American Adolescent.” Time. 7 Nov 2016: 44-51. Print.
Image Credits: Images picked out by Kate.