TUCSON, Ariz. - Marleyna Illig says sometimes the numbness people feel inside makes them want to feel sharp, intense pain outside so they turn to cutting or other ways to hurt themselves.
“So I did it to punish myself because I felt like I wasn't living up to my own ridiculously high standards. So if something happened, and maybe I felt left out or felt like, I'm not good enough. I would cut myself to be like, hey, you need to be punished because you're not. You're not a good person.
She says she began cutting herself at age 14, right after her brother took his own life. She says she continued on and off for seven years---until the day she was in a hospital after trying to kill herself.
"I met someone in there, and he caught me self harming. He told me he said promise you'll never self harm again, I kind of half heartedly was like, “Oh yeah I promise I won't do it.’ He ended up dying, two weeks later, of a drug overdose. And I really cared about him. I've kept that promise it's probably the first promise I ever kept."
Now she works with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Through NAMI's Ending the Silence program, she works to teach young people to reach outside themselves before the stress inside drives them to hurt themselves.
"You can't have a good relationship without communication, you need to communicate how you're feeling to everyone if you're feeling like, hey, I want to hurt myself need to tell somebody. I'm a trusted adult, a trusted friend. Anyone that you just feel like, could that you could talk to."
While she works to keep others from the path she once walked, Marleyna Illig found a better way to look at the scars of the life she learned to leave behind.
“When I got my first tattoo, I got the star, over, where I had self harmed. And it was just the star tattoo right here at the age of 16, and how I looked at it is that from the scars from the stars. So no matter how dark it is, I will always have a star to wish on."