Do Not Hurt Yourself: A Letter to My Past Self

October 21, 2021 Kim Berkley

Recovery is never as easy as simply saying, "do not hurt yourself." But if I could send a letter into the past, this is what I would write to myself. And who knows, you or someone you know who self-harms or is thinking about it may need to hear these words, too.

Do Not Hurt Yourself to Feel Better

I know you hurt. You hurt in ways you can't explain, ways you don't even understand. I know that life is hard and can sometimes seem impossibly so. I know that when you're in the dark, it's hard to remember what light looks like or to believe that you will ever see it again.

But do not hurt yourself to feel better. The relief in this is only momentary. It will pass and leave you wanting. It will let you down, and, like an addiction, you will keep hurting yourself in pursuit of that relief, trying to make it last but never succeeding. It will scar you, mentally and physically, and those scars may take longer to heal from than the pain you are feeling now.

Hurting yourself is not the way out of the dark. It is a will-o'-the-wisp; it will only lead you deeper into the shadows until you begin to forget that there was ever anything but the darkness.

There are other ways, better ways, back into the light. Art, music, reading, and writing are all creative outlets perfect for nurturing your own inner light. Good food, and good company, creature comforts like a cozy bed, and fuzzy slippers—whatever helps you sleep better at night will help you live better during the day, too.

Do Not Hurt Yourself to Punish Yourself

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone is flawed. Nobody is who they thought they would be back when they were looking ahead to this moment; nobody can predict the future, especially their own.

Do not hurt yourself to punish yourself; you don't deserve it, even if you feel like you do. Even if you believe it with every ounce of your soul, it isn't true. And think of it this way: even if it was somehow true, would it matter?

Hurting yourself won't change the past. It won't magically erase your regrets, and it won't make amends for your transgressions. Hurting yourself won't make anyone feel better. It will only make you—and people who care about you—feel worse.

Self-harm is never the answer. Instead, make amends to yourself and (if applicable) to others as well. Do not forget, but learn to forgive what you can and accept what can't be changed. Take action in the present to prevent the past from repeating itself and forge for yourself a better future.

You have that power, even if you don't always believe it.

Do Not Hurt Yourself to Protect Others

I know you think that suffering in silence is brave. But no one should have to struggle alone; no one should have to hurt without hope of healing.

You are not alone in this journey. Loved ones are exactly that—people who love you, who would want you to feel better. Don't be afraid to ask them for help when you need it. They will not think less of you for it, and if they do, that is a failing on their part, not on yours. You deserve better than that.

But even if you believe you can't talk to friends or family—whether not now or not ever—there are other options, too. Going to therapy doesn't mean you are broken; it means you know when to ask for help when you need it. That is a strength, not a weakness.

If you hurt, the people who love you hurt, too. The best thing you can do for them and for yourself is to try and heal.

Do Not Hurt Yourself—Instead, Do This

Be your own best advocate. Fight for yourself; if not your present self, then your future self. Fight for me and all the versions of us that happened in between us. Fight for the person you want to be, the person you could be, the person you might just surprise yourself by becoming.

And when you are weary, rest. Take time to breathe, to sleep, and to dream. Let others help you; they want to help, believe it or not. Lean on them when you need to, knowing the strength you gain by doing so will let you repay that kindness one day should you need to.

Believe that you can get better. Believe that you are worthy of it. Believe that it is never too late to try, and try again.

I am living proof that self-harm recovery is possible. If nothing else, believe in that.

Recovery is possible. It was for me, and it is for you.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2021, October 21). Do Not Hurt Yourself: A Letter to My Past Self, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Kim Berkley

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