The 1st of March each year marks Self Injury Awareness Day, and today it really got me thinking about my own struggles with self-harm.
Self-harm is not a concept that I have discussed much on my blog; in fact I don't think I've actually talked about it since I first opened up about it in April 2015 (read that post here). I think that's actually partly down to the stigma around it - I personally feel like there's more stigma around self-harm than suicide. I certainly feel more comfortable discussing suicidal thoughts, which is actually quite weird when you think about it.
I think that people are slowly starting to understand that suicide is not selfish or stupid, and that it's a last resort for a lot of very distressed people. Whereas self-harm is still seen as an attention-seeking behaviour, and something that people can control.
Throughout my years and years of depression I never really found myself self-harming very often. At one point in my teens I was very, very low, and it became more frequent and the only way I could cope with how I was feeling. It would relieve my emotions for a very short period of time, and then I would feel really guilty, because I knew that someone would eventually find out and that it would hurt them. For me, I felt like I deserved to be hurt, and as soon as I saw some blood that would make me feel like I had got what I deserved. However I have never been a 'typical' self harmer - I don't have lots and lots of scars all over my body (there are a few, but you wouldn't notice them unless you knew what you were looking for), and I never found myself doing it daily or even weekly. But my behaviours were still hurting myself, even if it was infrequent, and that was still a problem.
I also think that many people believe self-harm is just about cutting oneself, whereas there are so many different ways that people injure themselves. I also carried out other destructive behaviours that would be classed as self-harm, such as scratching my skin or pulling my hair. Inflicting pain on myself made me feel better, because I felt like that was what I deserved.
The last time I self-harmed was last year, and the time before that was in 2015. I'm hoping it will never happen again. I have never been addicted to it like some people, but it sometimes becomes a coping mechanism when I am extremely distressed. And, actually, it's not the worst thing I could do to myself in that situation, especially when I have felt very suicidal in the past - one counsellor I saw even almost encouraged it, saying that as long as I was safe and it was stopping me from doing anything worse, it wasn't the worst thing I could be doing.
Self injury is a real issue, and it's something that I have been seeing daily during my psychiatry rotation. I think it's important that people understand that it is not attention-seeking (most people cover it up), and it's not something that someone can just stop. It is still such a taboo subject, and although I am so open about my depression with everyone (seriously, I would talk to a stranger on the street about it if it came up!), it's still a subject that I struggle to talk about. I can only think of a few people that I have ever discussed it with.
So here's me embracing my past and saying that I'm not ashamed of it - and here I am discussing it with all of my readers and whoever else wants to read about it. I have scars, but at least that means I can show that I survived.
If you are struggling with self-harm, or feel that your mental health is deteriorating, please visit your GP or call the Samaritans for advice on 116 123.
Stick with the people who pull the magic out of you, not the madness.