I thought I had ended my relationship with self-harm one night in 2008 or 2009 (I think).
I had cut myself so bad I couldn’t control the bleeding and was terrified I was going to have to go to the hospital. Luckily, it eventually stopped but I was scared enough that it never happened again. Until I had an anxiety attack last week and it was all I could think about in my attempt to control the overwhelming anxiety I was feeling. I didn’t cut myself but I dug my nails into both arms repeatedly, leaving behind cuts and red marks. And I’ve struggled to stop thinking about it since.
To be honest, the first time I cut myself wasn’t intentional – I don’t think. And there was no reason behind it I am aware of. It involved a weird plant on my mum’s estate, outside my crushes house…. long, thin leaves which are kind of covered in what feels like a sticky layer but turns out to be some type of spikes.
Anywho, I ran the leaf of one of those plants up and down across my arm. I don’t think it hurt and I was in a normal mood but in hindsight, I was probably feeling nervous, unwanted or something equally negative. I didn’t think anything of it until about 10-20minutes later when I looked down and realised I had red, raised lines all down my arm. This isn’t when the problem started – this just provided a solution for the future.
The First Time
Fast forward a few years possibly, it could have been less time but so much happened for a few years that it’s all one big messy jumble of shit. Life at home was terrible – my mum was in a terrible relationship that consisted of drug abuse, alcoholism and weekly domestic situations arising. My younger sister and I had been through the foster care because of alcoholic parents chapter and come out on the other side.
This was something else – my big sister wasn’t living at home anymore so I was the eldest in the house. One night, a particularly rowdy argument kicked off – one of many more to ensue – and I wanted to cry. But I had to be strong for my little sister – how could I cry and be weak when she needed me now? I was overwhelmed with emotions: fear, anger, confusion, stress and I don’t know why or where the idea came from, but I locked myself in the bathroom, took apart a razor (I promise you this was no easy task and proved how determined I was as it took a little while), took a razor blade and cut up and down my left arm in lines.
The Control I Needed To Be Okay
It hurt. I am not the type who feels nothing in that moment. It wasn’t an instant relief until I stopped cutting and then the pain kicked in – the sting of the fresh lines filling with blood. It hurt. And that hurt was a distraction – it distracted me from my emotions and allowed me to concentrate on a physical pain – a pain I could handle and control. And that is how it really started. I numbed and controlled my overwhelming emotional pain by focusing on physical pain. I forgot how to feel anything. I stopped trying to feel.
Angry? Cut myself. Upset? Cut myself. Stressed? Cut myself. Need help? Cut myself.
The first time I self-harmed was swiftly followed by more self-harm and left me wearing long sleeves for about 2 years, and then long sleeved t-shirts after that. I only cut the lower half of my left arm once; I touched my right arm only once. The top of my left arm was covered in scars and old cuts mixed with fresh cuts for years. My mother saw once when she was still at a bad place in her life and asked me what it was to which I replied “nothing”… she said we would talk about it and never did. I don’t blame her. Shit happens. I didn’t want to talk about it at the time anyways.
The last time I cut myself before last week as I said was when my younger sister was causing problems at home – running away, upsetting my mum and just generally upsetting the peace at home now that my mum’s ex had finally gone. I don’t know if the skin was weaker or I cut deeper or what but I bled. I bled long and hard and I scared the crap out of myself. I didn’t know whether I needed to go to hospital, I considered waking my mum and I wrapped my arm in a towel. It took over 30 minutes to stop the bleeding and I never did it again.
Have I considered it since then? Yes. But I thought I had also learnt – slowly over these last 8 or so years – how to accept, work through and deal with my emotions instead of fighting to control them.
This lack of accepting any emotion caused me to be diagnosed with depression for 3 years leading up to 2010. I couldn’t feel so I couldn’t want. I didn’t need. I existed purely because I was alive with no idea of what I was doing or why I was here. I saw therapists, counsellors, psychologists to no avail. It took an impulsive move 200 miles away from where my problem started to begin the healing process.
8 Years of Progress Lost Within Minutes
Today, I am no longer self-harm free. My old scars are only visible if you know what you are looking for or my skin is hot. My razors are only for shaving. Although I can now cry, shout, laugh and aspire; although I love – my anxiety has taken me back to a place I thought I had escaped from.
Self harm is not the way forward.
It never is. It doesn’t help or change the problem. It is just my way – a wrong way – of dealing with a situation I can’t control. If you google “Help With Self Harm” there are so many websites, support networks and options available to help anyone find a better way to deal with their problems and to learn how to mentally break the habit. I am trying again. I will get past this like I did the last time. This doesn’t have to be a part of my forever story.
This time I realise that my urge to control is managed by something that happens when I lose control – I lose control of my strength, of being able to say no, of my progress, of my anxiety.
I am not ashamed. I just hope that a post like this can help someone, somewhere even if it’s just once.