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.

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University of Cambridge