Erin's story

It's hard to write all this down, let alone share it! But I want to be okay. I don't want my past to bother me anymore; I want to be at peace with all of it. To one day show my daughter that it's okay to feel pain, that it's an experience that can change us in a good way, if we allow it.

My crippling anxiety began at such a young age- I don't remember a time without some degree of fear. Fear of the world, the people in it, the things that could happen to me, my siblings, or my parents.

I developed this perfectionism/control complex- I have vivid memories of the First Grade, throwing away my handwritten papers and starting over and over again; the penmanship wasn't nice enough. My parents already had enough to worry about with my disabled brother, so in my little mind, if I could do everything perfectly, it would minimize the stress we all felt at home.

My anxiety got worse as I realized I was incapable of being perfect, could simply not be the best at everything, and that things were going to happen that were out of my control. This terrified me. I began seeing a therapist and was prescribed Xanax at fourteen years old.

For the first time, I experienced what it felt like to be free of my incessant worries. Instead of every catastrophic "what if" running through my head, my mind felt like a blank white canvas. I was able to get my homework done. Take tests without panicking at the thought of failure. Have fun with my friends. Laugh. I remember thinking, "this must be what everyone else feels like", and it was amazing.

 Soon I began to take two, then three, then five Xanax at  time. You know the story: My self-medicating quickly skyrocketed into a full-blown addiction to prescription pills; anything I could get my hands on. I simply loved the silence they afforded me, the peace I felt while under their influence. I quickly built up a tolerance of course, and the same anxiety came back with a vengeance. The panic attacks started. This is when I started to self-harm.

Cutting myself is what I'm most reluctant to talk about, because it scares people. I quickly learned that people in general are more understanding and accepting when it comes to using alcohol or drugs, but cutting yourself? That's severe. Extreme. Scary. It's also, for me, a very effective way to cope when I'm angry with no one to blame, when I feel a panic attack coming on and I need something to distract myself, when I'm depressed because I'm  feeling like a failure. 

This behavior soon became just as addictive, if not more so, than the drugs.I never imagined I would continue to self harm for years; that I would still have urges to do it to this day.

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The physical scars on my legs and arms have caused me embarrassment, and I'm still working on not letting them bother me. Still working on finding the right words to answer someone truthfully when they ask how I got them. Instead of reminding me how sad I once was, I hope someday that they'll make me feel gratitude, because I no longer have to live in that place. 

This project has been very healing for me. Allowing someone to photograph me in a very raw, real, not necessarily "pretty" state was the most vulnerable I've felt in a long time. Surprisingly, it felt freeing to see my un-made-up, tear-streaked face and my less-than-pristine wrists and arms in a photo. It made me think, "that's not so bad, why am I SO ashamed of this?" 

I hope one day I can fully forgive myself for the ways I've abused my body. I hope I can help my daughter navigate through her life in a healthy way; to love herself, to respect her body, to handle any mental health issues that may come along with patience and compassion for herself.

Because of pain I am humble, teachable. Because of pain I am not afraid to reach out for and accept help. I am able to empathize with others. I think my pain has actually helped me become a better, more complete version of myself, and I hope I can be a better mom because of it, not in spite of it. 

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