Fighting Me: An 18-Year-Old’s Story of Overcoming Self-Harm

Self-harm has become increasingly common among youngsters. Here’s the story of Ambuj’s fight against harming himself

Mind It
4 min read

(Every year, October 10 is observed as World Mental Health Day. For us at FIT, it's a great opportunity to ignite the conversation about mental illnesses and remove the stigma around them. We are reposting stories from our archives to spread awareness)

I cut myself. But there’s nothing wrong with my life.

18-year-old Ambuj used to self-harm, he still does sometimes, and even attempted suicide twice. But his is a story of fighting himself and steadily paving a path to self-care and therapy.

Self-harm has become increasingly common among teenagers in the country. Although it’s difficult to gather concrete data, various studies have established this. And all these adolescents don’t necessarily have a tangible reason for harming themselves. Mental health issues are at the core of it.

Ambuj nonchalantly says, “Everyone expects a dramatic retelling of a traumatic experience, that my family died or I was abused or bullied. But it’s none of that, I don’t have a reason to self-harm.”

From his school days, he would inflict cuts on himself.

“I don’t have a reason to self-harm.”
“I don’t have a reason to self-harm.”
(Photo: Saumya Pankaj/FIT)
Depression is an affliction, not fiction as most would like to believe. I’m not sad, I’m sick. And I’m certainly sick of your condescension. So, please don’t say “it’s all in my head”. It’s due to my depression that I have self-harm tendencies.

His first episode of self-harm, though not as serious, was in Class 6. He went for rounds of therapy after that. But soon after, military school happened and because of the pressure and environment there, the instances of self-harm returned.

“When I punched through a window and slit my wrist (again) with a shard, the school authorities decided that I needed to be withdrawn from the institution,” recalls Ambuj.

“Depression is an affliction, not fiction.”
“Depression is an affliction, not fiction.”
(Photo: Saumya Pankaj/FIT)

He came back home and Class 10 and 11 passed by without any exceptional event.

But then came 12th grade. Because of the academic pressure, I felt my friends slipping away and my relationship with family became strained. Due to my constant low mood, my friends got sick of me. That’s when I stepped up my self-harm game to cope with the feelings I didn’t want.
“Because of the academic pressure, I felt my friends slipping away from me.”
“Because of the academic pressure, I felt my friends slipping away from me.”
(Photo: Saumya Pankaj/FIT)

But regular therapy and a will to overcome self-harm have paved his path to recovery.

“Depression and self-harm don’t define who I am,” says Ambuj. Poetry and music are two things that he loves and actively engages in. And he wants to start his own YouTube channel too.

How to Overcome Self-Harm

The thing about depression and self-harm is that they doesn’t have a standard go-to guide for treatment like any other physical illness does. But there are some basic things which should be kept in mind.

You are the one who takes the first step to getting better. This is your battle. The will to practice self-care, start therapy and form a support network for oneself has to come from you. Talk to people, there are people who actually care.
“Talk to people, there are people who actually care.”
“Talk to people, there are people who actually care.”
(Photo: Saumya Pankaj/FIT)

Child psychiatrist Dr Amit Sen, who is also Ambuj’s doctor, says that at the core of overcoming self-harm lies a combination of support, understanding and seeking professional help. However, the plan of action depends on the severity of the risk and the underlying cause.

For instance, the most severe cases may require urgent hospitalisation. Others can be treated with a combination of therapy and risk management at home and school.
Dr Amit Sen, Child Psychiatrist

Here are some points that will help those dealing with self-harm, according to Dr Amit Sen.

  • I would encourage them to reach out to people who will understand and support them. This could include family, friends, teachers/counsellors, therapists/psychiatrists and so on.
  • Parents should never take self-harm lightly and think that it is “attention-seeking behaviour”, which I have seen some parents do.
  • They shouldn’t scold, admonish, provoke or criticise the child either, for that can lead to tragic consequences.
  • What children need from parents at this time is empathy, love, support and looking for professional help.
  • Build awareness in our communities – including schools and among parents, teach life skills, address the culture in schools and colleges (where self-harm tendencies are common), and improve sensitivity to the emotional needs of children.
What I would say to young people is that I understand that they must be going through immense pain and distress to do something like this. However, I would urge them to find other ways to express their suffering.
Dr Amit Sen, Child Psychiatrist

Self-harm is a complex issue that requires prevention and intervention at various levels. But understanding what it is and the reasons behind it will go a long way in improving the lives of those afflicted.

Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia
Illustrations: Saumya Pankaj

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