My personal experience of self-harm
This SpunOut.ie volunteer talks about her experience with self-harm and what has helped her in her recovery
The first time I self harmed, I was only thirteen years old. At the time I was being bullied badly. I loved the weekends because for those two days there was no bullying and no fear. One Saturday night I was at a party and was really enjoying myself. For most of the night I almost felt as if I had escaped the bullying. But then I remember that this was just a party. It was going to end and I would have to go back to school on Monday. Even though I was surrounded by people, I felt so isolated. I could feel the anxiety building up inside me and felt like I was about to explode. I rushed upstairs to the bathroom and I just completely broke down. I cannot describe the emotions I was experiencing - I was having a very bad panic attack, my eyesight was blurry and I was shaking. I could barely think straight. I couldn’t calm down or stop crying. I needed something, anything, that could comfort me. I was in such a bad way at the time, that I thought hurting myself physically would solve my problems. I harmed myself that night for the first time.
The next night I sat on the couch at home on Facebook. A message popped up from a ‘friend’. I told her in confidence what had happened. She told me how I was stupid and she couldn’t be my friend anymore. I felt so alone. All I could think about was how I was put down. All I could think was “well done! You made a fool of yourself! No one cares about you or your stupid cut.” It didn’t take long till I found myself back in that exact predicament where I felt alone, upset and like there was no way out. I genuinely felt like no one wanted to help me and that was all based on one person. Things could have been completely different if someone empathised with me or if I had a friend to lean on. Even if it was someone who smiled at me in the hallway, something that small could really go a long way for someone.
The next morning I went into class. That ‘friend’ had told my entire class. I felt so embarrassed. Of course a group of thirteen year old girls weren’t going to understand my situation. This just meant the bullying became worse. At lunch times I walked around alone sometimes.
The self harm continued in secrecy and as the time went on I felt that the urge to hurt myself grew stronger day by day. I would become triggered very easily. When I look back, I was in such an unhealthy situation. It didn't take long until I began self harming instead of turning to someone. I would think that harming myself was the only thing that I could do to escape my pain. As the saying goes desperate times call for desperate measures.
At the time I felt like self harming was my answer to everything. It was my therapy. It was a friend. It was my cry for help. It was something that other people would never have understood. It was a vicious circle I got trapped in that all started with a meltdown. It was my drug and an addiction. Self harm was my light at the end of the tunnel. Looking back now, when I am in a very good place mentally, that was never the way I should have dealt with a bad situation. It did not make things easier. I just complicated things more and more for myself day by day.
The first time I ever self harmed I told myself ” just this once." I told myself this the second time, the third time, the fourth time, the hundredth time. It was never just ‘’once.’’
I quickly found myself in a situation that I couldn’t escape. It was something that began to control me. I saw it as a way to deal with my pain, but it was actually inflicting my pain on other people. I really did put my father through hell when I look back, but today I cannot praise the man enough for never giving up on me.
As time passed, this obsession began to ruin my life. It was something that was painful and something I was trapped in. I was so obsessed that no one could stop me.
This is the reality for many teenagers and adults today, particularly young people who feel they have no other way out of their torment or bad situation. Warning signs of self harm may include unexplained scars, fresh cuts, scratches, bruises or broken bones, if someone spends a lot of time alone or wears long sleeves or pants in hot weather. There is a lack of understanding in Ireland when it comes to self harm. If someone you know is self harming be a support to them, and get support for yourself. Caring for yourself or for someone who self harms can be a long process. You are not alone! If you self harm, you should know you are worth more than that. You are loved and wanted in our society. There are supports out there for you and people who want to help.
Eventually, I ended up moving counties. My self harm continued until one day I confided in a teacher, who contacted my father. My father booked me an appointment with my GP. At the time my GP was so worried that she wanted to send me to a hospital but neither me nor my father agreed. I was booked for regular counselling. There came a time where no one could control me or my actions. I was sent to an inpatient unit for two months where I was admitted for suicide, anorexia, and self harm. However, when I was released from hospital, I attended regular counselling sessions, which really did save me.
I cannot stress enough how thankful I am to still be here and for all the nurses, doctors and of course my amazing counsellor, who helped me. I was taught different methods such as the rubber band method or the ice method, which were absolute life savers! I am a different person today, and have not harmed in over three years. It is something that is extremely hard to talk about, and sometimes I do cry talking about, because it was by far one of the most difficult moments in my life aside from losing my mother to cancer. I was diagnosed with depression, and through intense therapy, I learned how to talk about how I felt. I did visit my counsellor every week, and this was my saving grace, I would advise anyone who is going through a rough patch to attend counselling because this really was what saved me!