so you noticed my tattoo

Last Thanksgiving I branded myself with two little words on the outside of my wrist. And it was one of the scariest things I have ever done.

Pedal fast. The two words that changed my life.

I honestly do not remember the first time I self-harmed. All of the days seem to blur together in a whirlwind of anxiety, depression, tears, anger, pain, and frustration. And I remember that in the midst of all of it – self-harm was my one constant, what held me together.

While I do not remember the first time I self-harmed, I can remember every second of the day my parents found out. I said before that getting my tattoo was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done – the day my parents found out was even scarier. What would they think of me? How would they look at me now? I felt extremely guilty. Like a disappointment. Because good daughters don’t cut. Right?

I am not going to document my entire recovery in this article for numerous reasons but I have two things to say about my recovery and recovery in general.

One, any expectation I had about how my parents would react was far surpassed. My parents are the most loving, accepting, amazing parents in the world and have been with me on my journey of recovery every day since then. They are my rock. Thank you mom and dad.

Two, when I began my recovery, I really thought that being in recovery meant that bad days were over. And I could not have been more wrong. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that recovery is having hard days and choosing to be here for another one.

So where does pedal fast come from?

6 months into my recovery, 6 months after I first told my parents about my self-harm, my dad wrote me a card. If anyone knows anything about my dad, it’s that he loves bikes. And he has this stationary, the front of which says “pedal fast”. Clearly a bike reference. Clearly nothing to do with self-harm. It was on this stationary that he wrote his card to me.

To this day that card moves me to tears. That little pink card got me through some of the hardest days of my recovery and “pedal fast” became my mantra.

Until recently, my recovery from self-harm was something only four people knew about. Which brings me to the one of the scariest things I’ve done: tattooing the two words that changed my life on my wrist – somewhere everyone can see, something lots of people would ask me about. 5 years after one of the scariest days of my life, I can finally talk about my self-harm. It is no longer something I am ashamed of.

There is a lot I could say about the stigma surrounding mental illness. It is the reason I waited 5 years to tell anyone about mine. Mental illness is a scary topic to talk about in general and when the discussion can be embellished with personal stories and struggles, it becomes even more daunting. I know though, that my struggle with self-harm has only made me stronger. And while talking about self-harm today is still a bit scary because you never know how someone is going to react, it is something I am ready to do.

So you noticed my tattoo…

Now you know what it means.

 

** This article was originally published on The Odyssey Online

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