So as today is national Self Harm Awareness Day I thought I would share some of my self harm story. I will warn you, there is some graphic detail about an attempted suicide.
I started self harming at the age of 13. I was already adept at lying about things. I won’t go into all of the reasons I started but I was bullied a lot at school and that didn’t help matters. I started small. I would cut my finger tips because it was very easy to hide. I don’t really know what I was like as a kid, I’ve blocked a lot of it out but I know I was often climbing and stuff so a cut to my hands, if noticed, wouldn’t be too much to explain away.
I kept this up for quite some time, managing to keep it hidden. I believe I was about 15 or 16 when I stopped because my sister saw it and she freaked out. At the time, I didn’t really know anything about self harm. I would not have applied that label to myself as it was not something I’d ever heard of.
I had what you could call a relapse when I moved to London. This time I would punch things. It would destroy my knuckles and I liked how it felt. Still, I hadn’t really heard about self harm. That soon stopped after I left my abusive partner.
I immersed myself in work and moving away from my ex and I met and fell in love with someone else. After that relationship broke down, my mental health went off the charts. I was hell bent on self destruction. This time, my self harm took a much less obvious form that would not have been noticed by anyone. I stopped going to the toilet until I was doubled up in pain. By this point, I was in therapy. This didn’t help me at all.
I then began another relationship which lasted almost 4 years. By this time, I was well aware of my mental state, I had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder with Bipolar tendencies. I also suffer from suicidal ideation. This is not to say I want to kill myself, I don’t, it’s just the thought is never far from the front of my mind! This came after going back and forth between therapists and diagnoses. I had experienced one quite sever mental breakdown which landed me in hospital. Luckily, I managed to talk my way out of being detained. I am rather good at convincing people that everything is great. I believe it was around 12 months into the relationship that I started to self harm again. As ever, it was so easy for me to hide given that I always wore jeans.
Once again, that relationship broke down. It was at this point that I was my absolute lowest. The day that things ended I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to end my life. I took a bottle of pills with half a bottle of vodka and went to the park near where I lived. I took a razor blade with me as well as the rest of the vodka. The intention was to slit my wrists and walk into the lake after finishing the vodka. If the toxic cocktail didn’t kill me, I would either bleed to death or drown given that I can’t swim. If neither if these things worked, I was pretty certain the October cold would kill me! I had it all thought out but then one of my best friends called me. I tried to ignore it and. This point I was feeling rather sick. I threw up a lot. My friend called again and kept me in the phone long enough to convince me to go back “home”. By that point I was far too intoxicated to either argue or think clearly so I staggered back to the flat we shared where I promptly passed out.
After this, I realised I needed some serious help so I went back to my GP, accepted (against my better judgement) the medication offered and (despite feeble resistance) went back to therapy. I was cutting again and this time it was quite bad. However, my psychiatrist told me that I didn’t have to stop as I was a “safe cutter” given that I’ve never had an infected wound nor have I been hospitalised. Once again, therapy didn’t work out for me. I had been advised to attend group therapy despite telling my psychiatrist I would rather gouge my own eyes out with hot spoons and then pout lye into my eye sockets and plunge my face into water.
After leaving therapy yet again, I also decided to stop taking my medication. Actually, it was more of an accident. I hadn’t taken a spare pill with me when I went to a concert, got completely manic, didn’t sleep for almost 72 hours then crashed through the floor! That was the last time I saw a GP or a psychiatrist for my mental health. That was September 2012. This was when I decided to stop cutting. It was one of the most painful experiences I have ever been through. The mental and physical trauma caused to my body and mind was unbearable! However, I pushed through the pain and the overwhelming urges and made it just over 6 months. Then, I relapsed once again.
I have now decided that I am not going to “quit” self harm. It is something that I need. I don’t expect you to understand it but it is like a drug. When I cut myself, I feel in control. I have become less bothered by my scars although I can still be very conscious of them when people stare too much!
Self harm is not always a cry for help. Nor is it always an attention thing. It has been scientifically proven to ease mental suffering, almost like an analgesic for the brain. Self harm is an addiction just the same as drugs or alcohol. It is my way of coping when life becomes too stressful. I don’t expect people to accept this trait, nor do I expect people to understand. I just think that people ought to be more aware of self harm and stop judging those who do it.
Self harm can often be a “fashion” amongst teenagers. In the past, there have been several “cut for” trends in relation to celebrities. I don’t understand this sort of behaviour. To me, this is wrong on so many levels!
So there you have it. My self harm story recalled to the best of my knowledge. For better or worse, this is who I am. My scars are a reminder of my constant struggles but they are also proof that I am alive.
My main reason for writing this is to raise awareness. To let people know that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Self harm is an addiction. Currently, it only exists in the DSM ( diagnostic manual for mental disorders) as a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder but I am hoping that this will change soon and I am willing to stand up and be counted. Don’t offer me your sympathy for my story, it is what it is. Nothing will change the past and I believe when I am a stronger person I will be able to stop. Just know that there are other people out there just like me. Chances are a close friend or relative is going through the same thing. All I will say is don’t be angry with them for doing it, they feel enough shame as it is. Just offer a listening ear.
If you want to know more about self harm or you are worried about someone ho self harms, just give me a shout. I will happily recommend some books and send you some journal articles on the subject.