Community: Real Life

How I stopped self-harming

Ellie's troubled upbringing of abuse, homelessness and bullying made her start self-harming as a coping mechanism. She describes how cutting became like a drug, and how she finally beat her addiction.

My Mum left my biological father when I was five years-old. I had a very close relationship with my Dad; he was everything to me. Even though he was abusive I felt close to him - it was all I knew. I hated leaving and until I was eleven I told my Mum every night that I wanted him back. She never knew how to answer me.

Living in a shelter was stressful and when we finally got our own place and I went to school I was bullied and teased. I had no friends. Everyone was the enemy; sometimes that even included my own family. We moved a couple more times and my Mum decided to home school me and my brothers. I started to get lonely and pull back from my brothers. My Mum was supporting us, so I hardly saw her because she was always at work. Then she met another man - I despised him from the moment I heard his voice.

Starting to cut

It was around this time that I started to cut myself. It's hard to believe but I was only 11 years-old. Everything that was happening in my life was stressing me out and it just kind of came out. I remember the first time I cut myself I took a light bulb and broke it on the windowsill. My hand gushed blood and this unexplainable rush filled my body. I was instantly calm. I cleaned myself up and didn't tell anyone. If they asked what happened to my hand I'd tell them it was an accident. No one questioned me - I think they thought I was too young to feel stress.

I didn't know that what I was doing had a name, but I was aware of why I was doing it. It was a powerful release and a convenient way of punishing myself. I had a really bad case of low self-esteem; I'd cry if someone called me stupid.

I don't think anyone knew what I was doing at this stage. I knew my Mum would freak out if she knew the random cuts were on purpose, but cutting was my personal drug - it made me feel high. Keeping it a secret was the most thrilling thing.

"Even though there are a lot of people out there who self-harm, it's still a subject that people shy away from discussing."

I was cutting on and off for about four years. I would tell myself I was going to quit but within months I was doing it again. It got to a point where I was thinking about it all the time. A person would be talking to me and I wouldn't be listening because I was thinking about the next opportunity to cut. It seemed like no one could reach me.

Getting help

I ended up getting help by accident. My Mum scheduled me and my brother for a check-up and while they were in the other room the doctor asked me some questions. He said that anything I told him was in confidence. I don't know why, but at that moment I felt like I had to tell someone. I told him I'd been depressed for a long time and I cut myself. He made me promise to tell someone. There was only one person I could tell; my mentor. We started counselling and little by little I'm letting everything out. 

It's been so hard to recover. I had access to knives, glass and wire - it was a nightmare. My mentor advised me to find something to replace cutting, otherwise it was useless to put effort into it. I started writing poetry, spending time with my brothers, singing and reading books. It helped a lot. The hard work is definitely worth it - I'm learning how to deal with stress in a healthy way that doesn't harm me.

Even though there are a lot of people out there who self-harm, it's still a subject that people shy away from discussing. I just found out that one of my favorite celebrities and a friend's brother used to cut. I wish that someone would open up and tell me they're a recovering cutter and offer me some advice.

Advice to other people

It is hard to stop self-harming, but it is possible. My first advice is to tell someone you trust, like a friend, teacher or parent. Someone older is better as they're more experienced and able to deal with it. You could also get help online. The LCET website helped me a lot - it has poems, stories and tips on how to stop cutting. I also kept a journal of how I felt - it really helps to have a vent. Just write down everything you can think of, and if you feel comfortable, share it with the person you confide in - it will help them understand you better.

Finally, if you're feeling depressed, say good things about yourself, even if you don't think what you're saying is true. The words will eventually begin to sink in and you'll begin to believe them. It's worked wonders for me. 

Updated: 12/04/2010


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