My self harm story started when I was just 11 years of age. I didn’t know that I had a Social Anxiety Disorder, I didn’t know that I was suffering with Depression. I was just 11 years old. To me, I was just a weird kid who pretended to be sick every day so I didn’t have to go to school, the kid who was bullied most out of the whole class, the kid who obviously didn’t fit in or know how to function as a real person.
The amount of loneliness I felt at that age was insane and I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know any better, I didn’t think life would get any better.
At the time my Grandad was my best friend, I spent every day that I didn’t go to school at his house and even when I did go to school, I’d go straight to his house afterwards. I remember the day I first cut myself like it was earlier today. I remember watching TV with my Grandad, needing the bathroom and while in there, seeing his razor. I’d never even heard of self harm before but for some reason all I wanted to do was cut myself with it. So I did. Two bleeding arms later and I’m wrapping them in toilet tissue and covering it with my sleeves. Back downstairs watching TV and no one ever knew.
It quickly became a drug to me. I hurt myself in the toilets at school. I hurt myself in my bedroom a few times a day. I hurt myself in the shower. I couldn’t stop. It was the only thing that I knew how to do to make myself feel better.
Of course it was only ever a temporary, fleeting relief. Sometimes it made me feel calm when I was angry or sad and sometimes it helped me to feel something when all I felt was numb.
I successfully hid my self harm addiction from everyone for 3 years. After a suicide attempt, my family saw my injuries and then everybody knew.
The Turning Point
Finding out that I had a Social Anxiety Disorder after my suicide attempt was probably the biggest turning point in my recovery. I finally had an answer to what I was feeling. I wasn’t “just a weird kid who would never fit in”, I had a mental illness that was treatable. Finally, a small flickering ember at the end of my long and sombre tunnel.
It took me until I was 18 to truly feel like I was over my addiction and when I say over it, I mean able to not give into impulses, to not be triggered every time I hurt myself accidentally, to not go back to how it was after every slip up – and trust me there were a few slip ups.
Self Harm Myths
It’s unusual that it’s taken me this long to talk about my self harm, even though my whole blog is based on a mental illness that I have and am not ashamed or embarrassed to talk about. I just think there are still so many misconceptions about it that make it harder to talk about.
Myths such as…
- It’s only for attention
- Only teenagers self harm
- People who self harm enjoy pain
- Self harm is an “emo thing”
- Self harm is a mental illness or only people with mental illnesses self harm
- Self harm is a suicide attempt
There are so many things that can be misconceived about self harm. It’s not so black and white. Some people self harm and don’t have a mental illness like I did. Some people can self harm only a few times, it’s not always an addiction.
I’ve known adults to self harm. I’ve self harmed as an adult myself. It’s not just a teenage thing.
I definitely don’t enjoy pain, I actually hate it but pain made me feel alive at a time when I couldn’t feel anything and sometimes it was just punishment to myself for just being me.
Self harm isn’t usually for attention, in fact a lot of people who self harm go to great lengths to cover it up. If someone is going to that extreme for attention though, they need just as much help!
Also “emo” wasn’t even a thing when I started self harming. Self harm has also been around a lot longer than that unfortunately. Lots of different people self injure, sometimes people you would never expect. People of any age, gender, race or religion. It doesn’t just happen in one specific group of people.
Lastly self harm isn’t a suicide attempt. Not everyone who self harms is suicidal. It’s a coping strategy.
There is help for self harm
I wish I’d have known about all the help when I was 11 years old but that was 16 years ago and I didn’t have a computer or the internet, so I wasn’t a Google whizz back then. I think it’s much easier to find help now that the internet and all these great organisations are far more accessible.
Here’s just a few of them:
Recovering from Self Harm
There are lots of different ways to recover from self harm but first is trying to recognise what it is that is actually causing you to self harm, recognising triggers and patterns. It’s difficult to recover from self harm if the reason you’re using it as a coping method in the first place is still occurring. Trying to find different, healthier ways of coping may be a good short term solution. Exercising releases the same kind of chemicals that cutting releases but in a healthier way. Trying to keep your hands busy.
Putting on my headphones and going for a long walk is my favourite way of overcoming a self harm urge. Or punching or screaming into a pillow if things get really bad. There’s always an alternative, I promise.
It’s been nearly 3 years since I got my first self harm tattoo. I had birds on my arms where I used to cut as a teenager, inspired by Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd (my favourite song) and I’m planning on having my legs tattooed as they are much more badly scarred and where I hurt myself as an adult. It helps to look down at them and know how far I have come but it also kills any urge to want to cut, as I wouldn’t want to ruin my beautiful tattoos!
Do you have a self harm story? What has helped you to stop self harming?