July 4, 2012

Photo of girl standing in a garden | Time to Change bloggerPlease note: do not read this blog if you feel vulnerable to triggering issues. 

Talking about mental health changed my life.

I remember the first time I ever confided in someone that I’d been self harming like it happened yesterday and not for the reasons you might think. Mine was a really positive experience and one that I have no doubt at all hugely aided my recovery.

Lets call her Cat, she was a youth worker at my local youth club and a wonderfully warm, caring person, hence me choosing her to confide in her. I remember mumbling something about wanting to talk and she listened without repulsion as I told her that I found solace in cutting myself. There was no judgement, no fear, no nastiness at all. She simply said that she was there if I needed her and that she’d have to pass it on to her boss due to child protection issues.

He was equally as lovely and agreed that they’d support me as best they could. I remember the feeling of relief that finally someone knew and whilst it made me feel very vulnerable in the early days, it helped. That 5 minute conversation was the first step.

A couple of years later those two youth workers would be the ones to introduce me to two of the most positive influential people I have ever met. Let’s call them Carole and Lou. Both of them were youth workers in different sections but they fought hard for me. There were battles that went on on a daily basis and at the time I hated it. They both knew that I self harmed and both were behind my recovery 100%. It got to the point that I trusted them so much, I finally found the strength I needed to disclose the reasons behind my self harming. That moment changed me.

On the bad days when I desperately wanted to hurt myself and I was slamming doors, it was Lou and her wonderful co-workers, let’s call them Julie and Jan, who talked me through it and helped me release some of the ever-building pent up emotion I carried around with me. Even on the days when I went into the youth centre with injuries that needed attention, they helped me clean myself up when I couldn’t face it.

It was Lou who eventually got me the help of a fantastic Clinical Psychologist, let’s call her Angela. Those early sessions were horrendous and each week without fail I’d turn into an angry monster leading up to them. They terrified me but once again I found someone else who was supportive and wonderful in her own way.

I had finally found the support group I desperately needed and made a few serious, committed attempts at stopping self harming. Even when I had a “blip” as we called them, they didn’t get angry, they all picked me up, dusted me off and helped me try again. They were my dream team. No matter what mood I was in, I could rely on at least one of them being able to make a bad day, better.

These people knew the damage I had done, knew the pain and hurt I carried around with me and saw past that, they saw me. Not my illness.

In talking to them all I found courage, hope, redemption, faith, compassion and above all trust.

I think a huge turning point in my time with Lou and the gang was the day I finally chose to share with her a poem I had written, her comments remain with me to this day “Thank you for trusting me enough to share this. In response. Yeah, people do like the real you. Angry isn't the only thing people see.” I cried over those words, in my eyes it was so important that she didn’t react badly to what I’d told her, and her response floored me.

Over 3 years have elapsed since I left the youth service provision and I am free from self harm as of 26th February 2009. I no longer feel the need to hide my scars and have even been open with employers about it since then, all of which has been received positively. Not only did talking to my old youth workers enable me to stop self harming, it gave me the strength and courage to broach the subject with other people.

No matter the miles that separate us, they remain in my heart.

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