Self-Harm and Returning to School

August 23, 2013 Jennifer Aline Graham

It’s the time of the year when everywhere you go you run into a “Back-To-School Sale” sign or catch yourself singing a catchy, yet annoying, commercial jingle. This time of the summer can be tough because even though I’m not going back to school in any way, shape or form, I find myself being drawn towards new clothes and bedroom décor.

However, it’s also tough being surrounded by the not-so-terrific memories of high school – memories linked to self-harm.

During my recent trips to Target or Marshalls or Wegmans, I’ve noticed how excited kids and teenagers are about going back to school or college. It really is a terrific time in their lives and the excitement is natural. It’s a time to reinvent yourself and stand out from the crowd - in a good way of course.

For some people, returning to school means socialization and the growth of friendships. For those who self-harm, returning to school may bring forward many familiar fears and emotions.

Revisiting Memories and Moving Forward

The last few times I went back to my high school to speak to health classes about my novel, Noon, I got the chills. I’d walk past certain placed and remember that that was where I’d go to cut myself or that was where I once cried for hours, contemplating suicide. I visited the school psychologist, when I’d gone to talk to the classes, and just passing her office, I saw the bathroom I used to hide in before sneaking inside her door.

Little things like these can really get to someone who has struggled with any kind of difficulty.

However, these memories can be looked at in different ways. For those returning to school that fear their ability to hold back the urge to grab scissors or a pen cap or paper clip, picture yourself a year from that moment. Imagine how upset you’d be returning to school, the following year, with those negative memories flooding the school. Do you really want to have those negative memories haunting you?

Or do you want to push forward and look back at the positive choices you made and be proud?

Make this School Year Better

Walking into school on that first day, many people say they want to make that year different than the one before. Instead of thinking about making the year different, think about making it better – making you better. Make every choice worth it and put all your positive energy into your work and friendships and activities. During my outings, I noticed many back-to-school items that may help get that positive energy flowing. Maybe some of the ideas I came up with will help push away those negative urges during the school day:

- Put magnets or signs with positive quotes in your locker or in your dorm room. By just having positive energy present, it may help move you in the right direction.
- Make a playlist to listen to in between classes. Make sure those songs are upbeat. Get that energy going!
- Personalize your dorm room or locker with bright colors and photographs of those who support you. Photographs can be reminders that there are people who love and believe in you.
- Use those darn organizers and planners! Keeping your work straight will keep your mind more at ease.
- Leave yourself sticky notes. In college, my mom used to hide post-it notes around my room with positive messages. It always felt good to find them.
- Of course, take advantage of those sales! Sometimes, shopping can be therapeutic.

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APA Reference
Aline, J. (2013, August 23). Self-Harm and Returning to School, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 20 from

Author: Jennifer Aline Graham

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