So today I was mulling over the fact that I still struggle with accepting my self harm history. I will openly discuss my problems surrounding food both online and in real life, I will stand proud with my views on diet culture, ask me a question and I can talk for hours. Anxiety and depression are also things I will discuss. But something that I remain quiet about is the fact I have caused myself harm.
So I ask myself: ‘why the big secret?’
Why is it when people ask about the marks on my arm I think of a flippant excuse?
‘A cat scratched me’
‘I burnt myself on the stove’
‘I fell over’
(Let’s be honest, who believes those answers anyway?)
What’s stopping me from saying exactly what’s happened? That I have dealt with depression and anxiety and these marks are my self harm scars. They are proof that I have overcome a lengthy battle and dealt with thoughts that a lot of people wouldn’t even consider.
What’s stopping me from walking around with no fear surrounding other people’s thoughts?
It’s because of the subtle glances down at your arm, because of the quizzical stares when people realise what they’re looking at. It’s putting all of your vulnerability out there for the world to judge and I’ve found that not everyone is so accepting of mental health illnesses.
But I’m kind of done sitting in the dark with this so called ‘taboo’ hanging over me. I’m fed up of pulling my sleeves down when people take a look. I’m over feeling embarrassed, ashamed or any other emotions. My whole time on this blog, is spent trying to undo the stigma around mental health. I open up and hope people find some comfort in my words in realising that their not alone and if that means putting myself out there then so be it.
So I’m going to put all of my vulnerability out there for people to ‘judge.’
My self harm normally arose during anxiety attacks and not depressive episodes. I would be at a point of no return with my overwhelming emotions and majority of the time I’d feel like there was no going back. So I’d be alone, becoming increasingly panicked, heart rate increasing, hands sweaty, throat dry. There would be uncontrollable tears and breathlessness, there would be shaking and pacing around the house, finding anything to change my thought process. There would be fear and irrational thoughts pulsing through me. I’d try to have a cup of tea or work on my breathing to calm down even just slightly, I’d attempt all of my distraction techniques but sometimes they just wouldn’t work! People would say, why didn’t you call someone or reach out? Because there is not a single rational thought in you mind at that point. So there I was, alone and scared, the only thing I believed would help me was self harming. It brought me (or so I thought) a clear mind and control over a situation that was so obviously out of my control.
This is not a sympathy post, I’m not looking for words of encouragement or a pat on the back. I am also not seeking out attention. I just want to give people a brief insight into the mind of someone who self harms.
Self harm is not something to be ashamed of. It is not something we should sit in the dark with. Just like any other mental health issue, it should be addressed because it’s not a healthy way to deal with emotions. If you are struggling please reach out, if you have reached out and are receiving help but don’t know any other coping techniques to replace self harm with, then you can read a previous post I did: Self harm to self care
Just remember, you were not wrong for learning to take care of yourself in this way. At that moment it was all you could do and that’s okay.
And for those who don’t understand why someone would ever want to cause themselves deliberate harm and for those of you who unwittingly judge, please find some space in your mind, in your heart to try and understand that self harm is just a person who is hurting and needs loving support, not your angry words, harsh glares or awkward questions. If you want to help then ask the individual in a non threatening, non judgemental and honest way.
Maybe we can start overcoming this stigma.