Self Harm: My Experience

A glimpse into the secret, unspoken world of self harming at Cambridge…

It’s been a part of my life for so long now that I can’t even remember the first time I did it, or even why.

All I can remember are the cravings I developed for the catharsis I began to associate with spilling my own blood. I knew it was bad for me all along, and while I’ve always been grateful for the privileges I’ve had, I didn’t give a shit about myself, and for some reason felt I deserved punishing.

I’ve always tried to maintain a pristine image of myself to present to the world; when having fun with friends,  I worried they’d find it difficult to believe that I could be suffering with a crippling depression, let alone that just a few hours later I might be sat in A&E, holding paper towels against some part of my body, streaming with blood, and having to look a nurse in the eye sheepishly admitting “I did it to myself”.

Arms tend to be the obvious place to cut, and therefore people generally only look there for signs of self-injury, and whilst these may be scar-free, ask yourself how many times you’ve seen your friends’ stomachs, upper thighs, or even areas generally covered by underwear…

It’s easy to assume that if someone had a problem that you’d know about it, but given the fact that 1 in 15 people below the age of 25 have at some point self harmed, the likelihood is that it’s affected someone in your closest circle of friends.

I think the widespread ignorance of this problem is in part due to the way that self-harm is often shown in the mainstream; despite popular belief, we don’t all cut straight lines along our forearms, we don’t even all cut. Some people burn themselves, some people pull out their hair, some people expose themselves to extreme cold, some people punch walls, and many do a mixture of these things.

The life of a self-harmer is often one of secrecy and falseness. I despise it, but when confronted, I will frequently look my best friends in the eye and grit my teeth as I lie. I feel the need, not only to protect them, but also to hide the skeleton in my closet that I’m sure would alter their perceptions of me.

Sometimes my self harming went too far, and I had to ask for help off one of my friends, but there have also been countless times when I’ve gone to Addenbrooke’s on my own, or patched myself up, or even just left the laceration to fester and mend slowly on its own. I hope people reading this can realise that self-harming is not something that deserves to be labelled “just attention seeking”.

Such labels prevent a lot of people from asking for help, which in my eyes is a total travesty.

That said however, I don’t think that you can truly get better from something like this until something inside of you clicks, and tells you that you need help and that you really should stop… Despite being labelled one of the worst cases that my therapist has ever seen, I have finally reached the headspace of wanting to quit, and started to take recovery seriously; it’s taken the best part of a decade, and I do still cave occasionally, but I know I’m on the up, and I want anyone else who does self-harm to know that they’re not alone, and that recovery is an option for everyone.

I have scars that will be with me for life, and while they are constant reminders of the bad times, seeing them also spurs me on to keep fighting the urges, to try and keep my head up, and to remember how far I’ve already come.

  • MSFR

    Very brave, but would've been good to hear WHY you self harm, what triggered it etc so that it can serve as a warning to others.

    • QuoteUnquote

      'I can’t even remember the first time I did it, or even why.'

    • Brave?

      "by Anon"

      • ???

        What the fuck is wrong with you?

  • ANO

    Brave to tell this story. Good luck with the recovery.

  • Rower

    I do a different sort of self harm

  • noddersmnodale

    I think that the scars are there forever is kind of the point. And I don't think self-harm is ever going to be acceptable behaviour (obviously), thus secrecy and lies will always be part of it (also, again, it is kind of the point too), so no point moaning about the "stigma". Most people will struggle to understand it, naturally.
    And although I agree, it is not "attention seeking behaviour", the making it somehow "acceptable" or "normal" for certain age groups might make the problem worse (i.e. encourage it, at the end of the day you stop cutting only if you choose to stop, and if you don't see anything wrong with it, you won't stop).
    What is needed is a deeper understanding of mental health problems in young people and adolescents. And, fundamentally, a greater access to therapists (not necessarily only to psychiatrists and meds, though).
    And going to see a therapist needs to have NO stigma attached and NO cause of embarrassment. Asking for help is no sign of weakness. Seeing a counsellor should be no different, and just as easy, as seeing your GP.

    • I can't see anything in this article that implies that self-harm should be considered 'acceptable' or 'normal' for any age group (those words are entirely your own). The stigma it wants to get rid of is the ignorant and stereotyped assumption that all self-harm is 'attention-seeking. I think that's a fair enough stigma to "moan about."

      Saying that the only way to recovery is through something within you clicking isn't encouraging self-harm. It's just obviously true.

    • witty onlooker

      "so no point moaning about the "stigma""

      Don't you mean 'stigmata'… :P

  • Good work

    These are a fantastic series of articles. Exposing more common than thought of problems and putting them out in the open. Good work Tab at removing stigma.

  • Well done

    You should feel proud.

  • trichotillomania

    Just something to point out, you say some people pull out their hair but actually that isn't usually a form of self harm it's a separate disorder more like a habit and not intended to harm themselves. It is more common than people think too.

    • True but

      That is true, but some people who self-harm do pull out their hair in order to cause pain. I don't think the author was considering them to be the same thing.

  • You've

    defied the fashionable Tab-commenting style of starting your comment with your 'name' before continuing it in the specified 'comment' box. You too are making a brave statement and for this I applaud you.

  • Thank you

    for having the balls to post this. It's nice to hear someone else's experiences and to be able to relate to certain aspects.

  • cynic

    cool story bro

  • Liam Jones

    Is this a joke? This article is more cringe than the actual neknomination videos.