My self-harm story
21-year-old Laura has been self-harming for two years. She shares her story with TheSite.org
I started self-harming about two years ago. I had an argument with my flatmate and this set it off. It wasn't a serious row; it was quite a silly one to be honest. However, I think this triggered off a lot of my self-esteem issues. I had a really hard time at school and was bullied a lot and I ended up finding it hard to get close to people. My feelings of self worth vanished again after the argument and in order to combat this I started to cut myself. Not seriously at first; surface marks more than anything else. The only person I told was my boyfriend at the time and the only reason I told him was because I didn't want him to actually see the cuts and then worry. However, he did worry. Immensely.
My main method of self-harm was cutting, although, I'm quite a clumsy person and I knew how easily I bruised so I used to hit my hand against the wall too. This was nowhere near as effective as cutting. At one stage it got so serious that during the uni holidays when I was working I would cut before going to work, at lunchtime and then before going to bed. Sometimes I would do it more than three times a day. I was also quite obsessed with how deep the cuts were. The worse I felt, the deeper they had to be. Sometimes if they weren't deep enough then I would go over them again. I cut my legs because they were the easiest places to hide them. If things got bad and I couldn't wait until I actually took my trousers off then I would cut my arm but wear long sleeves until they healed.
The act of self-harm:
My preferred weapon was a razor blade. I would buy cheap razors and break them up so that I would get the blade out. I also had a wee Stanley knife that I carried with me at all times so that I would feel secure and safe. I knew that if I had it then nothing could hurt me.
Immediately before I self-harmed I would feel numb, completely numb. The whole point of cutting was to actually try and be aware of something again because it often seemed like I didn't actually feel anything. It was quite a weird sensation. Sometimes I also felt quite detached. At times it was as if I was actually watching myself live my life, as if I was watching a film, I didn't actually feel real and nothing around me did either.
When I was cutting I never cared about how much damage I inflicted on myself. The more the better. However, I was always careful to avoid veins and arteries. Self-harm, in my opinion, was not about dying or trying to kill yourself, it was about feeling alive; if I felt a bit of pain then I knew that I existed. During my dark times the cutting never inflicted any pain. I was numb to it all but I wanted to feel - that was the whole point. Whenever I cut, all I could think about was the anguish inside me.
Straight afterwards I always felt relieved. I felt as if I could face living again, I could cope with any silly little problem like not knowing what I could have for dinner or that I had missed the bus. It made me feel 'real' again.
Later I always felt embarrassed about it. I used to do my utmost to try and hide it from others; if this meant wearing jumpers in the summer then that's what I did. I never wore a skirt that would reveal anything. It is only now, two years after I first cut myself that I actually feel comfortable wearing anything that may show some of my scars. The embarrassment was horrible as I felt completely alone and isolated. I never realised how common it actually was.
I pushed so many people away from me. I used to hide in my room and wait for the flat to empty before I would even consider making food or even go to the bathroom. I avoided phone calls. I always pretended I wasn't in. If I saw someone I knew on the street then I would cross the road so that I wouldn't have to speak to them. I became lost in my own world of destruction.
My ex-boyfriend was the only person who knew about it all and he helped me immensely. He encouraged me to seek help. I ended up at the doctors and I had the most fantastic GP ever. She was really nice but she could see right through the front I would put on for her. I very rarely showed any sign of weakness in front of other people. If I met anyone in the street I was always 'bouncy, happy go lucky Laura without a care in the world'. She diagnosed me as depressed and put me on Fluoxetine (i.e. Prozac).
My doctor referred me to a counsellor who, in my opinion, didn't really help. I only went to two sessions. I found it really difficult to talk to people about this. After that I convinced myself I was better and stopped going to see the doctor and I stopped taking my antidepressants. Then things went bad again and I attempted to kill myself. I ended up in A&E and I ran away from the hospital and was nearly sectioned. I was then sent to a psychiatrist who helped me a lot. He was a lovely man and made me feel really comfortable and he was easy to talk to, unlike the counsellor.
Talking about it:
I became more open about it all and now people do know about my self-harm. It was a hard step to take because it forced me to accept I had a problem. All my friends have been fantastic and they have all offered to help me. The best form of support that they can give me is the knowledge that they are there for me. The friends that have tried to push their active support onto me are no longer my friends, because I pushed their support away so much that they took offence. I found it extremely difficult when people were forcing their help onto me and were forcing me to try and accept their opinions and suggestions. Deep down I know that they were just looking out for me but I resented that.
The best distraction that has helped me is diversion. If I feel the need to cut now then I leave my flat. I will go and sit in the park or go to a church and sit there or even go to the cinema. This way I am not likely to cut because I will only do it in the privacy of my own flat, whether it is in the bathroom or my bedroom.
I do not harm as much anymore. I can go three months without cutting but every so often I feel the need and I cannot get rid of the urge. Recently I did cut because I didn't know what else to do. I get angry with the media cover of self-harm. There are a lot of people who cut because it is seen as cool because celebrities like Marilyn Manson do it. However, there are a lot of people who actually do it because they need to feel a release. They are angry or hurting and don't know how else to release the tension that is building up inside.
There are so many people who do it because it is cool and there is not enough support for the rest of the people who do it for real reasons. People look down on self-harm a lot and just fob it off as attention seeking. However, a lot of self-harmers cut/burn/whatever in private. They don't do it for attention. They don't tell the world that they do it; they self-harm because there is no other way out for them. That was how it was for me.