Content note: discussion of self harm including methods.
My lovely friend has brought to my attention that today is National Self Harm Awareness Day so I thought, what an excellent idea for a blog post. Self Harm is something that desperately needs to be brought to the nation’s attention because, in most cases, it is not “a cry for attention” or an attempted suicide, it is a way to deal with intensely difficult situations and it is the cause that must be addressed, not the symptom.
I used to self harm. My early teen years were not easy, I was bullied at my first high school, lost my Gran, who lived with us, had to deal with a girl at my 3rd high school having a vendetta against me and then lost my Dad, all between the ages of 11 and 15. I am not telling you this to ask for your sympathy but to put into context the first time I picked up a pair of scissors and cut into my arm. I was 14, it was the day before my Dad’s funeral and I had no idea how to deal with it. I don’t know what made me think of it but it seemed like the only way out and after I felt so at ease, like I’d been meditating for hours. That was where it began and it continued, almost every day, for about 2 years. I always ended up wearing jumpers or long sleeved tops all year round to hide my arms until it came out and I went back into counselling (for the second time). It took a lot of hard work to stop, I tried having rubber bands round my wrist to ping when I got the urge, squeezing ice cubes, squeezing dyed red ice cubes, a star chart and various other methods and eventually I got there.
However, in the same way that an alcoholic is never truly cured, I will never be cured either. In times of great stress or overwhelming emotion I still find myself desperately searching for a pencil sharpener blade, a knife, a pair of scissors, anything with a sharp blade that will release the unbearable build up of pain that I have no other way to deal with. I will sit alone, in the quiet, in floods of tears and and watch the blood flow until the crying stops and the pressure has dissipated.
The difference now is that I am not ashamed of it, I refuse to be. It has made me who I am and I am grateful for that.
This is just my story, and every one who self harms has different reasons for doing so and different ways. It will feel different for each person and they will be in different situations when they do it but they will all have one thing in common; they have reasons for doing what they do.
If you, or someone you know, is self harming or you suspect that they are there are things you can do. I am not a professional but I would say that confronting them is not the way to go, but being there as a shoulder to cry on, to talk to about their problems and to try and bring them out of their depression is the best way to deal with it. There are also lots of websites and resources out there to support the sufferer and their friends and family and they were invaluable to me.