What I wish everyone knew about self-harm
Posted by lucyd
9th Feb 2016

The idea of telling anyone to stop and think before they self-harm for the first time is a strange one. For most of us, I'm guessing we haven't weighed up and the pros and cons beforehand and then decided to do it; it's an act of impulsivity that's hard, if not impossible, to resist.

But here is what I wish I could tell everyone about self-harm.

Whatever drives you to do it for the first time, it's always the start of a slippery slope.

I don't know the statistics, but my guess is that people who self-harm once and then never do it again are few and far between.

I first self-harmed as a young child when I would hit myself until I bruised. I first drew blood as a teenager, when I took apart pencil sharpeners and razors to use against my own body. I first needed hospital treatment for self-harm injuries at the age of 35. I've needed stitches, steri-strips or glue more times than I can count since then.

My experience shows that once you start self-harming, it's very, very hard to stop.

When I first self-harmed during this episode of depression - an episode that still has me in its grips over two years on - I thought I was bigger than it. I thought I was in control. I deliberately chose a place to cut that could easily be covered by short sleeves, even in summer. I restricted it to a small area and I convinced myself that I wouldn't go any further than that.

But self-harm is an addiction, and like all addictions. it escalates. It gets its claws into you. It removes your control.

I don't think you CAN self-harm 'just a little bit.' It's all or nothing. As I've found out over the past 24 months.

I thought I was in charge of it, but it's in charge of me. It's why I now have scars from armpit to wrist. It's ugly and disfiguring and makes people wary of me. It's why I'll have to find a long-sleeved dress to wear to my brother's wedding in Australia this summer.

It's shameful and I hate it. I hate myself for not being strong enough to resist it. I hate that I can't go swimming without being stared at. I hate that my children, and my friends' children, ask questions that I can't answer.

It makes me feel like a freak. And yet it is SO HARD to stop.

I wish, I wish so much that I had never made that first cut. That I had never thought I was big and strong enough to keep it under control.

I wish I could tell everybody who's tempted to self-harm - whether they're 13, 30, 60, whatever - not to do it. Because the relief and the release is only temporary and when it wears off the temptation to do it more and bigger and harder is so difficult to resist. And those best laid plans to keep it small, neat and contained just don't work.

You won't be able to keep it under control.

You won't be able to limit it to a nice, discreet area.

Soon, you'll be compulsively buying razor blades and hiding them from the people you love.

You'll be shutting yourself in the bathroom while your children are playing outside the door and cutting yourself to a soundtrack of their giggles.

You'll be wearing long sleeves on the hottest summer days.

You'll feel like everyone is staring at you wherever you go.

You'll be making three trips to the hospital within a month and will end up with social services on your back.

It's an evil, evil habit, or addiction, or compulsion, or whatever you want to call it.

It makes you ashamed, and that only makes you feel worse.

How I wish I had never, ever started.

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