With her backpack slung carelessly over her shoulder and her heart full of new possibilities, she walked along the hallway that was lined with familiar faces.  It was the first day of school and the uncertainty of what the new school year would bring started to instantly heighten her senses.  She tried to keep control of the panic that slowly burned deep in her stomach – until she saw them out of the corner of her eye.


The bullies she had to deal with last year were at the end of the hallway and didn’t notice her at first.  She thought she could get by without being noticed but, of course, they saw her, laughed and walked away.   Their usual rejection hit her hard.  She tried to mask the pain by taking a deep breath to settle herself, “It’s going to be ok. I’m going to be ok,” she thought to herself.


The bell rang and she took her assigned seat. In a room full of morning chaos, she felt incredibly alone.  Her hands were sweaty and her heartbeat raced.  Her legs started to shake and the panic she felt earlier swept over her.  The need to hurt herself took over again.   She looked at the teacher to see if she noticed her, but she was busy with other students.  She slid her hand over to her friends’ desk and quickly grabbed the pencil sharpener.  With a sigh of relief, she put it in her pocket.   The day was already too much to handle.


Later that day, she was found in the bathroom stall, cutting herself.   One step forward, two steps back.


She was doing so well.  She really was. She hadn’t harmed herself in almost 3 months.  She was so proud of the gains she was making, but she is a girl who lived through pain and suffering and right now, this is her way of coping.   She feels she deserves the pain of what happened to her and her little sister.  The guilt she carries is a heavy burden and she cuts to punish herself and ease her thoughts.  She can’t understand it’s not her fault and instead of taking out her anger on the people who have hurt her, she blames herself.


Recently diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, she spent 4 months in a program hosted by CASA house in Sherwood Park.  While there, she learned new coping strategies that relate to dialectical behavior techniques. She is bright and bubbly.  She’s so very smart and comes from a loving and supportive family.  She does know whatever she does, they are there with her every step of the way.


She’s also working on other ways to relieve her pain.  Playing sports is a great distraction for her.  Her teachers encourage her to take to the gym when she feels overwhelmed. She shoots hoops, plays volleyball, and runs stairs to the point where her body and mind are exhausted.  Only then can she begin to think logically again.


This is her story.  She isn’t going to be defined by words or labels. Her mental illness isn’t something she is ashamed of because it’s also her greatest strength.  Today, she’s challenging the stigma placed on her.   She may be misunderstood a lot of the time, but she will never apologize for feeling things differently than anyone else…