‘How can you hurt yourself when you’re pregnant?’ I wasn’t the mother I dreamed of being. I was scared, not excited.’: Woman recovers from self-harm addiction for son, ‘We’re not alone’

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Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of self-harm that may be triggering to some.

“Throughout my life, my parents and the people closest to me have always made statements about how they wish they knew how to help me be happier. They did not understand why I was so ‘angry’ all of the time. I still do not know where it all actually began but the most important aspect was learning to gain control.

I had a really good life, loving parents, adventures, non-stop experiences to be cherished. I was an only child who spent a lot of time alone, living the Air Force brat lifestyle. I went to thirty different schools by the time I graduated high school. I also transferred three times during college, so adapting and making new friends have always been a steady must in my deck of cards.

My dad sent me away as punishment for the first time when I was 14. I was forced to adapt to a new place without him for the first time in my life, which caused a lot of resentment inside of me for a long time. When I was 17, my father re-entered my life full time after sending me away. My parents asked if I wanted a plane ticket for my 18th birthday so I didn’t have to live with them anymore if I didn’t want to. I guess that was just easier for them because I was too much sometimes.

Courtesy of Alyssa Fowler

When I was 21, I found out my father is not my biological dad and I have two half-sisters in the state I was born in. I found out my biological father was not a good person and did some very sinful and sickening things to the people I now call family. My parents love me and would do anything for me, which they have proven time and time again throughout my life, although my sadness ultimately comes from myself and no one else.

My cutting addiction started in seventh grade. I do not like to pin the blame onto others for things I find relief in doing to myself. I do and always will remember the feelings of agony, rejection, loneliness, confusion, betrayal, utter darkness, and sadness I used to feel when it all began. I sometimes still experience it now when I feel triggered.

I used to sit by myself at lunch and during all other activities due to moving to a new school, I was the weird emo loser until a girl named Evonne asked me to sit with her and her friends. These girls are still my friends to this day.

Courtesy of Alyssa Fowler

The boys I took interest in toyed with my emotions at that age and for some reason, I allowed it. My main triggers used to be people who pretended to hate me in public but would talk to me every single day in private because they ‘wanted to date me’ or ‘wanted to be my friend. Why wasn’t I good enough to be treated with respect in front of other people?

My cutting addiction started when my parents stopped coming to my sports games or made me feel as though time wasn’t able to be made for poor me. I was Miss Needy, always wanted to be entertained. I was an only child. What did they expect? This addiction took off when my mother went to rehab the summer between seventh and eighth grade. I was blindsided. Rehab? I felt so naive, so childish. As I grew up, I began to suppress my emotions. I stopped expecting anyone to care about my feelings because if they did, I wouldn’t be crying myself to sleep every night wondering why I wasn’t good enough. Why couldn’t I simply be enough?

My cutting addiction plateaued when it was the only thing bringing me peace. For each mean, thoughtless, degrading, hurtful, or judgemental lash thrown at me each day… I could bottle it all up until a moment when it all had to come out. For each careless comment made by people who only wanted to criticize, rather than understand, it was my outlet. I controlled the pain I felt and when I felt it, how I felt it, where I felt it. I was ashamed, but I felt like I had to be strong and put on a brave face, adapt like my father always told me to, so I did. No one ever knew. Not unless I let them in, not unless I allowed them to see my scars.

Courtesy of Alyssa Fowler

I wore long sleeves, even on the hottest days, with long spandex under my basketball shorts at practices so no one could see my thigh. I pulled the scabs off because it was another form of relief. There are many layers to this addiction and many people do not understand it. Keeping it a secret made me feel stronger in some sort of sick, twisted way. The scars formed and I began to see them as a symbol of my bravery. Every scar was a memory, a reminder to never trust that situation a second time so I didn’t have to relive the same agony twice.

In a way, I was always relieving the same agony, the same pain, it just came in different forms through different types of people and I continued to deal with it. The exact same way. For 12 long years, I suppressed, I depressed, I was anxious, I hid. I made myself smaller and smaller so everyone around me would feel like they were doing enough for me, so they didn’t have to hold onto the same guilt of not feeling good enough like I did.

Throughout this addiction, there have been an incredible amount of lows but there have been an even greater amount of highs I chose to overlook for the longest time because I was so drowned by my own sorrow. Cutting is not something I want to do. It is not something anyone enjoys seeing on their body, although in those moments of pure weakness and anguish, the mind can’t help but retreat to its safe place. That is the hardest part of my recovery process every single day.

Courtesy of Alyssa Fowler

My decision to try and stop cutting began when I was blessed with a miracle baby 3 years ago. I was told when I was 18 I would not be able to have kids due to my severe endometriosis, which shattered parts of me I never knew existed at that time, adding another trigger to my list. It was not easy to commit to loving myself, which may sound surprising to some people, because how could you want to hurt yourself when you are growing another human inside of you?

The fear I battled with for 9 long months destroyed relationships with a lot of people in my life. Most importantly, it destroyed my relationship with myself. When I found out I was pregnant, I immediately made an appointment at Planned Parenthood. When I went in, they were unable to operate on me for financial reasons. I hadn’t even told my father I was pregnant. My mother did it for me. That night, I sat in the living room with the most important people in my life telling me I should reconsider having my baby, because it may be the only one I ever get the opportunity to have.

It took a lot of courage and strength. I knew I was nowhere near a good mental state of mind to be the mother I had always dreamed of becoming. I became extremely detached from myself. My self-esteem was lower than it had ever been before. I felt like I was going to let my son down before I even had him. I felt scared, not excited, and it was a sad time for me.

Courtesy of Alyssa Fowler

Between then and the time I gave birth to my baby boy, I have had several relapses, but I have also had greater lengths of recovery and sobriety time. My sober streak increases every single day! I thought I couldn’t even make my child happy, which still sounds ridiculous to me. Throughout recovery, I’ve realized my problem is invalidating my own feelings. I don’t allow myself to feel justified in how I feel and why I feel the ways I do. I allow others to invalidate me and it triggers me so much because that’s been my experience with the people closest to me in my life.

I am here to tell you it does get easier, and the desire to act on these impulses will eventually cease to exist. I will not lie to you. The thoughts, the feelings, the memories, the triggers, the feeling of loneliness; none of it ever goes away completely. Therapy helps, your kiddos should help, but most importantly, YOU are the only one who can help yourself. In order to come out of that, you truly have to find something bringing you light, even on your darkest days.

Courtesy of Alyssa Fowler

I have dark hours, not dark days. My depression and my sadness are forever engraved into my soul, but how I deal with it, handle it, embrace it, and redirect it is entirely up to me. I choose to be strong every day. Not because I have to, but because I genuinely want to.

When I’m going through some hard thoughts, I remember while I may be alone physically, I am not alone mentally. There is always someone out there, somewhere, who directly identifies with who I am, what I am doing, what I am feeling, and where I am aiming to go. We’re not alone.”

Courtesy of Alyssa Fowler

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alyssa Fowler. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Twitter. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories about mental health here:

‘I used meth right before I went into labor. The first time I saw my son was the last day I chose drugs.’: Mom overcomes addiction, regains custody of all her children with help from foster mom who ‘never gave up’ on her

‘My anxiety and depression can make me a sh*tty friend, but I’m not sorry.’: Woman thankful for friends who stick around despite mental health struggles

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