Writing and Photographs by Dejah Greene
Sometimes people are exceptionally hard on themselves. The frustration that arises from their imperfections and insecurity becomes so toxic; a darkness consumes them and turns their mind against their soul.
Sometimes I feel like my mind is my enemy; she spews such vile things over and over, my soul is saturated with sadness and feelings of worthlessness. Sometimes it is like two angels—one of them good and one of them evil—constantly fighting on my shoulders.
The darkness makes me blame myself for the external things that go on around me. The darkness makes me punish myself in ways I don’t deserve.
There are so many of us who suffer from mental illness and self-harm. There are so many of us who feel like we do not deserve the good in life. There are so many of us who blame ourselves, not our depression or illness, for how we react to certain things.
As a psychology student, I didn’t think I would suffer from mental illness or self-harm. I naively thought I could “cure” myself from any symptoms of depression or anxiety. Many times I thought, “I should know better. I shouldn’t hurt myself. I shouldn’t starve myself. This is not okay.”
But my mind didn’t care. The darkness was not swayed and depression did not back down. Cutting became an escape and a punishment for allowing myself to be sucked into a dark place. I remember watching Ellie Nash, a character from Degrassi: The Next Generation cope with cutting. I remember watching that as a young girl and not understanding the urge to mutilate yourself. I thought it was stupid. I thought it was gross. At the time I didn’t feel sympathy.
At the time I also ignorantly thought mental illness and self-harm were a “white people” thing. I’m here to tell you, as a young black woman, that this it is not true. Depression and mental illness can affect everyone and anyone regardless of their age, gender, or race. In fact, the number of depressed and mentally ill people of color may actually be higher than we think. In my own experience, I have felt depressed due to the secondary trauma of seeing my black brothers and sisters be unjustly incarcerated or killed by the police, and by the constant micoraggressions and racist acts I’ve experienced. At the time when I started cutting, there was not much discussion in my family about mental illness or depression despite the different occurrences in my family. So at the time, I was not only dealing with depression, but trying to hide my symptoms as well as my scars..
The thing with self-harm is that some of us don’t believe we have any other options and some of us think we genuinely deserve to be punished. Some of us long for the brief moment of relief we feel once we start to see the blood ooze out from underneath our skin. In those few seconds the darkness is gone and you feel complete for punishing yourself like you thought you deserved.
But then the shame washes over you. The guilt. The disgust. The darkness returns full force and you’re left with an even higher feeling of inadequacy than before. You realize those mere seconds weren’t worth it and all you’re left with is a mess and another scar to hide. Depending on where you hurt yourself, you have to consider what type of clothing to wear to cover up your scars so people don’t ask. It becomes a cruel game of hiding in plain sight.
I’m still learning to not punish myself for the darkness that often overcomes me. I’m still learning to be kinder to my body, my mind, and my soul. I realize that this is the only vessel I have to house this soul and I must treat it with respect and kindness. I have to protect myself from the bad thoughts and learn to fight instead of succumbing to depression. Sometimes it’s scary to unlearn destructive behaviors because we are so used to them. It’s difficult finding healthier ways to cope with the dark emotions inside of us because we assume we deserve the worse.
We are more than our bad thoughts and the darkness that consumes us. We don’t deserve to hurt ourselves by cutting and starving ourselves of food, love, and support. To those with fresh cuts, rough scars, and smooth bumps, I know you can overcome this; I’m rooting for you.