Thursday, 27 August 2015

Building an Adult: Self Harm

I always planned on writing another 'Building an Adult' post; however I was struggling to come up with topics - it is not because I don't have things to say (trust me I do!) it was more because I was avoiding certain topics, self harm being one of them. Self harm is a difficult topic for me to cover because it is so personal and is still very much a big part of my life. I am writing this post with a trigger warning - I will not delve too deep into certain topics; however I am going to cover as many bases as I feel comfortable writing about.

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When people talk about self harm the first thing that they think about is teenagers cutting up their wrists with razor blades or scissors; however there are many different ways that people self harm and many different reasons why. I can count more than ten people that I know self harm or have self harmed in their life time, the majority of them are girls but self harm is not gender exclusive. I know people who have self harmed because they suffer with personality disorders and people who have self harmed 'because other people were doing it'. Whatever reason they are doing it for it is a very serious thing and someone who self harms should not be ignored because you think that they are attention seeking. 

As I said you can self harm in a number of ways and for many different reasons. Self harming does not just refer to 'cutting' but can also refer to bruising, makings yourself sick, pulling out hair, picking at skin, scratching etc. I first became aware of self harming when I was 12 on an internet site that was aimed towards 8-12 year olds. On this website there were often very explicit conversations about people cutting and how they did it and why - as I realise now, it wasn't the best thing for a 12 year old to be reading. Still, despite my knowledge about self harm I didn't have any experience with someone who self harmed until I was in year 8 (that is the school year for children between 12-13). During this year I had a friend who manipulated me and frequently blackmailed me by using her self harm as a weapon. She would tell me that it was all my fault that she cut and that she would tell everyone what I had made her do if I didn't do x, y and z for her. She would frequently send me photos of her cuts and after a while it really began to have an effect on me. 

I was 13 when I first self harmed. I never cut my wrists (mainly because it was an obvious place and I was so ashamed) but I would do other things to myself. I did it to punish myself - I thought myself to be a disgusting person who was destroying people's lives one day at a time. AS a result I used to scratch my legs, my arms and used a pair of scissors to damage my skin in one of the most awful ways. I also really began to pick at my skin. I would pick spots and scabs and bites - the whole thing was made worse because I have the skin condition Dermatographic Urticaria so my skin would remain red, swollen and sore for a while. It also wasn't helped by the fact I scar if anything damages my skin - the things I did to myself (although faded) will probably be with me forever and I hate it but I have embraced it.

Stopping self harming was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. To regain the control that I had lost was so difficult but I was determined. I had realised that this was not the right thing to be doing to myself and that I should be respecting my body, not abusing it! To stop myself doing it I cut my nails short and filed them. I also would draw things on paper if I felt the urge to scratch myself and I threw away all of my razors and began using my mums electric razor for the time being. I also ditched the friend referred to above and it really helped. I needed to have control back in my life and that meant making decisions that may be hard but in the end they worked out okay.

You can relapse though and I did. About a year maybe two years ago I fell into the deepest depression that I have ever been in. I had fallen out with someone really close to me and the guilt just hurt me so much. I blamed myself completely for what had happened and just went numb. I used self harming to feel again. It didn't really work (in fact it didn't work at all - all it did was make me more unhappy and feel even worse) but it opened this hole inside of me so I fell back into the routine. This was harder to break because I was so depressed but my friends helped me - although none of them know about my self harming their support and the help that they gave me when I was feeling down made me less and less dependant on harming myself and hungry for control and freedom again. I stopped hurting myself in that way but when I am really stressed I do still pick at myself - this is a really hard one to break because I can do it anywhere and it is going to be a lot of work to break this cycle but I am determined to do so. 

I am okay now and you can be as well. It is going to be hard but trust me - if you are strong enough to admit that it is a problem you are also strong enough to beat it.

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Self harming is not okay but it also is not something you should be ashamed about. If I hadn't felt so bad about self harming I think that I would have got the help I needed. If  you currently are cutting I want you to throw away your razor or your scissor etc. If you throw it away now you have got that control back; however if you do do this and then you relapse don't feel bad about it. Self harming does often become an addiction and they are hard to stop. People may not think about it like that but it can be as hard as giving up drugs as you have become so dependant on it to take your pain away so a relapse is completely understandable.
Self harming has become such a taboo subject and people are so ashamed to talk about it. Even the thought of writing this was an issue for me because I was worried what my parents would think or my friends but realistically it doesn't matter. I haven't self harmed in years (if you ignore the picking but even then the amount I do this has decreased dramatically and no help is going to stop me from doing it) and not talking about it isn't helping anyone at all. Maybe me talking about it will encourage someone else to talk about their experience and help someone and then they talk about it and help someone else.... We need to break this taboo and talk about it. So many people self harm inso many different ways. By ignoring this subject or just thinking about cutting when self harm is mentioned is not helping anyone at all. 

So what should you do if you self harm? I can't make you stop, no one really can - it has to be stopped by you because you are harming yourself. But I want to tell you that you may self harm because it feels like a relief but this lasts a second and then you have to deal with the scars and cuts for a long while. It is never going to cure any problems, instead it will only create new ones that may be even worse than the ones you are facing now. To throw out that razor or to stop banging your head against walls may seem impossible to comprehend but trust me, your life really starts when you begin stopping. Why should you let that little voice of yours have the control? It's your body and you should try to love ever little bump, spot, stretch mark and scar - it may take a while for you to do so but breaking a razor isn't going to make anything better. Trust me, please.

Talking to someone about self harm may be impossible - I don't think that the words would leave my mouth but you do need help so maybe don't cover up your injuries and when people notice don't lie. If you can't say anything just let the silence speak for itself. I cant tell you what will happen next but I promise you that whatever follows will help you to stop and may give you the confidence to seek more help from professionals. It mayn't seem like it at the time. It may feel like you did the worst thing possible; however you have started to get the ball rolling and things will go from there.

If you have scars what can you do? Well there are things that you can buy but I'd say the best thing to use is bio oil. It is expensive and doesn't really work on old scars but it will work to fade newer ones. Stretch mark cream will also help but moisturising but it may still take years for them to fade but every little helps You can get lazer treatment but even that scars so what is the point. Use natural things on your skin but careful around the areas you have damaged. Avoid exfoliating.

I know that this blog post isn't going to change a lot but I think that if people begin to talk openly about their experiences it may start to. I know that you may feel trapped in a cycle of self harming and it may seem an impossible thing to break; however every step that you take to becoming clean feels like a weight off your shoulders. I wish you all well with your journeys and please feel free to ask me anything and I will try to help you.

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