Self Harm is something that strikes people of all ages, and in all walks of life – it’s not the staple of teenage girls or manic depressives, it’s something that I’ve battled with for years, and in my pursuit I thought I’d share my story. It won’t be an easy read, it’s (very) graphic in places but it gives you an insight into the story of me. If this is something you’ve been through – it could be a bit of a trigger.
My first experience of self harm started when I was in my late teens, I had a ‘thing’ for picking at the soles of my feet, i’d pick at the hard skin, gradually peeling away a fine layer of it. I could sit for ages, in my room, zoned out just doing that. I’d often go too deep and i’d make them bleed, the sting of pain snapping me out of the weird trance I was in. It was a strange compulsion, I didn’t do it all the time – but looking back – it tallied with times of stress and upset, exams etc. I didn’t consciously decide to do it – I just did it without thinking, stopping when I felt the sting. It was something that continued into adult life, my ‘manky’ feet were an embarrassment – but, rarely seen.
It started to get worse in my twenties, harming myself became a coping mechanism for dealing with guilt and stress, a subconscious one, I never FELT I had to hurt myself, or made a decision to, again I just zoned out and did it. Not stopping until I felt the pain kick in – It was no longer the skin on my feet I was attacking, it was my arms, my legs, and the odd occasion, my face, I was scratching and my skin with my fingernails, repeatedly until the pain hit.
It’s horrible reading this and what I did to myself, but it was just something deep within me that was telling me I must, I had no real control over it, it just happened. It’s not a pretty sight to watch I imagine, someone in a trance state attacking themselves with their own hand. It was upsetting for those close to me who saw it with their own eyes. For those who have never experienced Self Harm, it’s so easy to say.
“Well, just don’t do it..”
I wished I didn’t do it – I hated the scabs, the scars, trying to explain to people why I looked such a fucking mess, I’d ‘scraped against xyz’ more times than I care to remember. I had to lie constantly – I rarely wear sleeves or shirts so they were always visible. I tried to fold my arms to hide them away when I spoke to people, it was a vicious cycle, of feeling like I’d upset and hurt those close to me, harming myself, and upsetting those close to me because I harmed myself – and repeat. It’s a horrible situation for those who are harming, and those close enough to witness it.
I don’t really know what stopped it, I think knowing the signs that it COULD happen and trying to distance myself from whatever is occurring, I can sense the scratchy feelings inside. I’ll concentrate on something really hard, I know some SH’ers snap elastic bands into their wrists to simulate the sting pain, to turn it away from harming. I’ve tried this, but it didn’t really work for me, I try and make sure I’m not close to that point because when I’m usually there, there’s no going back. I have noticed I will pick at the hard skin on my fingers if I’m feeling slightly scratchy, but really, it’s nothing compared to how it use to be.
I don’t think I’ll ever been 100% free of Self Harm, it’s been ‘better’ for many years now, but, it’s still there – you just learn to cope. When I feel myself getting stressed I run my fingers through my hair, or rub my arms gently. I guess it’s a mental acknowledgement that I’ve still got the desire, but I don’t *need* to do it, and the impulse will pass in time. Hopefully.
Self harm is something that never really leaves you, it’s another Dark Passenger that’s along for the journey.
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