Some stats to put things into perspective – self-harm is a HUGE issue, it is estimated that around 10% of young people do it and the numbers just increase from there. I can’t actually remember the first time I self-harmed, but I can’t remember not suffering from anxiety or depression. Someone recently asked me if I ever self-harmed when I was younger, and it got me thinking. I have always been so open about my mental health, but I really struggle talking about this side of it. Mainly due to the negative reaction I receive – I have been called an attention seeker, stupid and the first response is usually to ask if I am trying to kill myself.
The truth is, a lot of people who self-harm are not doing it to end their lives. They are doing it to cope with life. For me, it is a release. There are many forms of self-harm and it is something that is very easy to hide.
I was around 14 when I started, I would sit in my room crying all night, filled with anxiety and complete darkness and as soon as I would cut myself the pain would then be focused on the physical sensations of the injury. I remember being at a house party and my friend grabbed my wrist to go upstairs and I must have winced in pain, which made my friend notice, she pulled up my sleeve and froze. She begged me to stop and I promised I would and, for a short while, I did.
Then when I was at university and having one of my lowest episodes, I started again. This time was different though; it started when I was in the toilets, after running out of my third lecture in a week, I felt sick and dizzy, so I forced myself to vomit. This was the start of a new form of self-harm. It was strange because I always thought that when people made themselves sick it was to lose weight, but mine was purely to get the feeling of constant sickness out, to find that release. I have never told anyone about this until now, I kept it to myself, with the hope that if I didnt admit it, it wasn’t really happening. Sitting there like a predator, ready to attack it’s next victim, and that victim was becoming weaker and weaker with every iteration. Thankfully this episode didn’t last too long.
It is hard to explain why self-harm becomes so addictive, but when you are struggling so much from something so self-contained, the ‘invisible’ illness that drives the need to cause physical pain to distract you from your inner feelings, and the short-lived feeling of release and borderline euphoria that it brings. But, it is just that, a brief moment, a flash, a pause. A moment where your head is free from thousands of thoughts, running through your head on repeat, incoherently screaming with no respite.
Not too long ago, I started a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) (it is worth noting that I have had several rounds of CBT), however this one was by far the most helpful. I opened up about my self-harming tendencies and past, we discussed alternatives, which included, wearing a rubber band and pulling it slightly on your wrist, holding an ice cube in your mouth for as long as possible, standing in an ice-cold shower for as long as possible and so on, you get the gist. These are in theory mini-tortures that don’t leave any lasting damage. I wore an elastic band on my wrist for over 6 months and not a single person noticed. It was great!
I haven’t got the answer or even an answer, no big epiphany or words of wisdom, the only recommendation would be to talk to someone as soon as self-harm even crosses your mind. I know I didn’t, but I feel it wouldn’t have gone on as long for me and perhaps prevented it, if I had. Try the alternatives, I promise you they work. There is a huge list of them; you can find with a quick Google and there will be one that works for you.
I have found this by far the most difficult thing to write about and I feel absolutely sick with fear posting this. The thought of the onslaught of negative responses, almost self-fulfilling the regret and shame you get after self-harming, but I made a promise to be honest when starting this blog, and I want to stick to my word.