Mental Illness Awareness Week: What it Means to Me

This week is mental illness awareness week. For the last several days, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on what was happening with me a year ago during this week.

It was around this time last year when I finally spoke up about the cutting and depression. However, I know that I was still turning to my razor every time things got to be too much for me. It wasn’t until December that I finally stopped cutting.

A year ago, only a small handful of people, maybe seven or eight, knew about what I was dealing with. Besides my family, only one friend and two or three staff members knew about it. I did everything I could to hide it but the signs were there. The signs were there. They were on my thighs, wrists, stomach, and hips.

The first time I used a razor to cut, it was on my thigh. It was hot outside then so I didn’t bother trying to cover it up with long pants. I went to the school the next day and it wasn’t until the end of the day that someone finally asked me about it. I lied and said that I had slipped while shaving and accidentally cut myself. That was the first lie I told to hide my mental illness.

The majority of the cutting took place at the beginning of the school year during cross country season. I ran everyday in my sports bra and on swimming days I was in spandex and a sports bra. Yet, no one ever noticed that numerous band-aids on my stomach. No one asked because unless you’ve gone through it yourself or have had a personal experience with self-harming, you wouldn’t know what to look for, but you can learn what to look for.

What you can look for though is unexplained cuts or frequent band-aids covering something up.  If they give you some weird, crappy explanation, they’re hiding something.

Mental Illness Awareness Week is not just about learning about mental illnesses, but how to recognize them. As a former cutter, I can spot another cutter from a mile away. I know the signs, I know what to look fork, where to look, and I know the thought process. If other people know the signs as well, we can help more people.

Depression is a silencer. It’s not easy to speak up when everyday is a dark one.  If they need a voice, be their voice. Advocate for them. It’s not a battle anyone can win on their own.

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