Self-Harm: The biggest Taboo?
Posted by Rosiebrownfightingstigma
6th Mar 2014

Hello SANE readers.

It was self-harm awareness day last week, so I thought I'd do a little blog on Self-Harm for the SANE website and explore my experiences with SH, in the hope that some of you will be able to relate to it and perhaps get some comfort in knowing that someone has been through something similar to you.

So here goes. I am a self-harmer. And I have been since the age of 13. Not many people know this, and the people that do know know that I never EVER discuss this. Even the majority of my family donít know my dark secret. I find it utterly unbearable to talk about this to peopleís faces. Those who have tried will know this. I become overcome with embarrassment and brush off any talk of self-harm with empty promises and excuses. I canít look people in the eye. I canít even say the words Ďself-harmí, I have to use code words, or symbolic language. But not today.

I have been writing in my personal blog ( about how important it is to open up about mental illness, as talking about a mental health problem prompts understanding and removes some of the stigma attached to it. Whilst I have happily written about my struggles with depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder and my constant battle with the NHS, I havenít opened up about a very secret part of my life. I am embarrassed and ashamed to say that I still, almost ten years after the first scratch, self-harm. I donít do it regularly. Sometimes months and months can pass before I make another mark on my body. However no matter how long a gap I leave between self-harming behaviour the urge always returns to me. Sometimes I think that I have been cured (when a long period of time has lapsed), yet my urge to hurt myself always seems to return.

Iím still not 100% sure why I do it. It seems to me that now it is just a habit. I am locked in a habitual cycle that I cannot break out of. I think back to the year/ years when I first started to hurt myself. At first I didnít know what I was doing. I donít even think I saw what I was doing as self-harm. Iíd scratch myself in maths with a compass or peel away at the skin around my nails. It wasnít until about a year later that I really discovered what self-harm was, and that a lot of people were doing it (or at least it certainly seems like a lot when you look at the youtube Ďself-harmí community). It started to become more regular. It was my way of coping with negative emotions. I was never very happy at school and was often bullied by my peers. I think maybe I had depression from that young age (13/14), but my teachers/parents just put it down to hormones and the bullies. In hindsight I am certain that I was experiencing a deep depression around year 10/11 (age 15/16). I felt hopeless and alone. However I passed my GCSEs with flying colours and things looked up as I entered the 6th form. There was even talk of me applying to Cambridge. However a few weeks in things started to take a turn for the worse. Once again I was bullied and the depression like symptoms re-surfaced, this time accompanied by panic and anxiety attacks. Although I went to an excellent school there was very little understanding of mental illness. I was fobbed off to the school counsellor who did very little to help me. When I was 18 I took the matter into my own hands and drove myself to my GP. She diagnosed me with depression and drugged me up. However nothing was done about my self-harm. Sure, drugs can help deal with the symptoms of depression, but they didnít remove the urge to hurt myself. A habitual thing like self-harm is deeply engrained into a person. Just like a bulimic cannot suddenly stop making themselves sick, or an anorexic suddenly wake up one morning and deciding they are going to revert to a Ďnormalí well-balanced diet (I hope those examples workÖ. :/ ) I required long-term therapy but unfortunately I moved to university at the end of the year and any help I was receiving at home was abruptly stopped.

I blundered through university with several severe bouts of depression and self-harm. However I just blamed it on the stress of the work-load. I was convinced that the self-harm and depression would go away once I had graduated. I was of course in denial. No such miraculous recovery took place. I think I thought the same thing when I left school Ė I thought Ďyes, once I am at university I will be okí. I was foolish enough to make the same mistake again Ė I thought Ďyes, once I am at Mountview pursuing my dream career I will be ok.í I was of course wrong.

I am self-harming nowhere near as much, and it has become more subtle. However the urges are still there almost every day. It is a thought pattern that often consumes me. The urges boil up inside me and I have to do everything in my power to fight them. Self-harm isnít something I want to do. I obviously donít want to scar my body and upset my family and friends in the process. It devastates me that I worry or upset anyone. But I honestly canít help it (that is the hardest thing for someone who has never done it to understand). Itís an obsessive compulsion, an addiction and a habit.

I hope by briefly sharing my experience I can show people that it isnít just Ďemosí or distressed, attention seeking teenage girls that self-harm. You donít have to have been abused or had a terrible life either. My family have given me an amazing life. I went on great holidays and I went to a fantastic school where I gained excellent grades. I went to one of the best universities in the world and now I am training to be an actor at one of the countryís leading drama schools. However, although my life may look perfect from the outside, unfortunately it isnít on the inside. Because I have a mental illness. I still donít know why I have this illness and I donít know why it just wonít go away. But I know that I want to help other people who are struggling by writing these blogs and opening up about my life with a mental illness.

Thanks for reading this blog post. I will post some more on the SANE website, but if you're interested in reading more I blog on wordpress - ( and I tweet - @fighting_stigma. I have also made a video blog about self harm which might interest you if you're into the whole YouTube thing -

Remember to see your GP or go to A&E if you are thinking of hurting yourself. There are also great helplines that are open 24hrs a day, for example The Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90 * (UK)
1850 60 90 90 * (ROI).

Be safe everyone x

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