I hope you don’t mind me saying but I noticed the scars on your arm, from what looks like years of self-harm.
I could tell that you were trying to hide them, as I have always done with my scars.
But most people won’t notice, it is only because I have been there too.
You are not alone. And there’s no need to be ashamed.
It is similar to having a cannula scar on your hand, in that it was a necessary evil for you to cope, to stay alive.
A lot of people call us self-harmers, “attention-seekers” or “selfish.”
Yes sometimes it may have been a cry for help. But a lot of it was just a means to be able to deal with what was going on inside my head.
I’ve been self-harming since the age of 11. It started out in the form of an eating disorder but after a tumultuous start to my teens, I sought solace in cutting myself.
It was like a drug. I just had to do it, it helped me to keep going.
And for a moment it would ease my anxiety. I craved those moments.
Where problems would evaporate for a matter of seconds before they came crashing back, hurling me into reality.
Self-harm has always been a coping strategy for me as I didn’t want to burden anyone else with my problems.
Yes it’s not a positive coping strategy, but it was a crutch all the same.
And I couldn’t see a way out of those painful moments of “relief.”
It had become my friend and yet, it was my worst enemy.
I would think: “If anyone sees my cuts, or if I die, at least they’ll know how much I hate myself.”
I thought that harming myself would protect me from other people harming me.
And I also (wrongly) believed that it was better for me to suffer in silence than hurt people’s feelings by sharing my demons.
It got harder to hide my pain, as the older I got the more activity I was expected to be involved in.
From cross-country at school to doing yoga at home.
I would melt with sweat as I would have to keep my jacket and joggers on even when running in the heat.
Eventually my family picked up on what I was doing to myself.
I could see the pain, shock and hurt in their eyes.
How could a human being that they’d helped to create, want to harm themselves in such a way?
I can understand why people struggle to understand the rationale of self-inflicted harm. We are taught self defence, we are taught to protect ourselves.
So why would anyone purposely want to harm themselves?
Well that’s the problem with mental health – it is so complex that a mind without mentally ill health will probably struggle to understand.
For me, it was also about tarnishing my skin as I wanted to be cleansed of the world and the horrors within it as well as what I’ve said above. So there is no one reason for it.
It took a long while to dampen such strong feelings of hatred towards myself.
It wasn’t until I got a counsellor, with scars on her arms, that I finally felt understood.
Nothing I said shocked her. And she understood that she couldn’t just stop me self harming. It would’ve been dangerous to do so because it was my crutch, however irrational that may sound.
But over the weeks and months she helped to etch away my behaviours as she gently started to cushion me with art therapy.
I’ve never been that arty but it really helped me to create and, then destroy my thoughts, fears and problems.
And it was around the same time I discovered my love of dancing.
It’s been a good few years since I self-harmed and the urges have lessened but not disappeared.
I find my best therapy is exercise and moving around or dancing until the urges or panic softens.
I have a need to learn to love myself as I’ve two daughters following in my footsteps.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing. But it is a tricky subject and I feel I’m in a good place to try to explain the complexities of our scars.
“I can be changed by what happens to me.
But I refuse to be reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou
And sadly self-harm is on the rise, particularly for under-18s.