January 10, 2013

Suzie blogs about her experiences of self-harm for Time to ChangeWarning, some readers may find this post triggering.

Hi, my name is Suzi and I am a self harmer but I am 7 and a half years cut free. That’s how I think of self harming. I don’t self harm now but I am always in recovery, just like being in AA.

I started self harming from a young age but it was at university that things unravelled for me. I found more and more that I was on a self destructive path and the self harming got worse. I seemed to start suffering from depression, I stopped going to lectures, I was smoking cannabis a lot, I was drinking a lot, I wasn’t sleeping and my hair started to fall out.

My sister, who went to the same university, knew something wasn’t right and did show concern but she didn’t know the true extent of what was going on. I was in my second year of a law degree and there was no way I was going to pass the second year. My housemates noticed I was self harming more and one of them tried to reach out to me. She sent me a beautiful card listing 10 reasons why she loved me - it was hard to read. She finished the card by asking me not to hurt myself and added because it hurts her, to see me hurting. She never said it to my face or asked me, no one did.

The first time I said the words "I self harm"

I was encouraged to go and see my mentor- who was a university lecturer – and although I didn’t explain everything, he suggested I talk to the doctor at uni. So I did. She said to put my second year on hold, I had to tell her exactly what was going on and why I was self medicating with cannabis and alcohol. I didn’t want to tell her but knew that she wouldn’t be able to sign me off without giving her something. So the first time I said the words ‘I self harm’ was to a random doctor. I wasn’t enjoying my course and I wonder if I was ever destined to finish my law degree. But, I definitely was not in the best place to get the results I was capable of.

I was signed off for a year and was told I had to go for counselling to address the issues that were causing me to self harm. I didn’t go back to Uni. I got a couple of jobs to keep me going and pay my rent. So I worked but I continued to drink too much and smoke cannabis and then I met someone. Who knew that 9 years on we would be married! Things changed.

My boyfriend wasn't horrified or ashamed of me

Into the first year of our relationship, my then boyfriend, now husband, asked me what my scars were and why I did it. I didn’t have an answer then but I did tell him what I did to myself. All of it. I laid it all bare for him to see my emotional nakedness. And he didn’t go anywhere. So the first person I really confided in (the doctor didn’t count), didn’t run a mile. In fact, he wasn’t horrified or ashamed of me. He was sad. He was sad that I felt I had to do it. He asked me to never do it again and to talk to him. And to be honest, I had a few slips in that first year or 2, as I had nowhere to hide it from my boyfriend.

Taking the time to reflect on my life, I now understand why my family, who knew, didn’t want to ask me why I did it and felt they couldn’t ask me to stop: they were frightened of the answer. Or frightened that I would go off the rails and do it more. Or perhaps they were worried I would say it was because of them.

I can only now admit to myself why I did it

I know now that I self harm to deal with my frustration and anger - usually at myself, and it started with my parents divorce. Self harming, for me, was a compulsion. I don’t place any blame on anyone. Not even on myself. It was just my way of dealing with those feelings and it isn’t until some 18 years later I can admit that to myself. I self-stigmatise. I can only now admit to myself why I did it, why I always think about doing it, but why I hopefully will never do it again.

I recently went through 2 miscarriages – the most emotional last 6 months of mine and my husband’s lives. I didn’t self harm. I thought about it, as I always do, but never had any intention to do it. It was then that I realised I am strong enough to share my story.

All I needed was for someone to support me

I always thought it was my family and friends that showed stigma towards my ‘situation’ by not really talking about it and sweeping it under the carpet. By eluding to it and making reference to it, but never discussing ‘it’. But it wasn’t, it was me self-stigmatising. I now realise that it must be a really hard thing for a family member or a friend to see someone clearly struggling and doing so by hurting themselves, and perhaps worrying that that person might go off the rails. From my experience, I know all I needed was for someone to ask me, to support me, to love me and then give me time to reflect on the reasons why.

Hi, my name is Suzi and I am a self harmer.... I intend to be cut free forever.

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