Self-harming two little words that just by saying it out loud is enough to kill a conversation and see the tumble weeds just roll on by. But why even in a society today where we are encouraged to talk about our mental health more do people still find this subject matter just a little too much to handle?
My name is Martina Martin and I am a self-harmer. I want to share my own personal journey of self-harm with others as a way to educate and help others understand and to help quash those misconceptions of why people do it what they do.
I have self-harmed going on 14 years now, maybe if I am honest I had once dabbled with it out of curiosity due to sitting across from a boy in school who used to do it whilst in art class without caring for who was watching him. At that time I was a person like many people who could never understand why anyone would want to deliberately want to harm themselves. Now having been the person harming I sympathise and empathise with those who feel the need to without judgement.
There are so many methods of self harm that people do to themselves but for me I am a cutter. I remember my first time cutting like it was yesterday, I was feeling overwhelmed with my emotions, I felt locked in my own head and my thoughts and feelings were suffocating me from inside. I was a shy reserved girl who really didn’t like to communicate with others how I was feeling about things, I mainly learned to express myself through my passion for art. But this particular time in my life that passion had been extinguished and I was not able to release. I took a craft blade from my art kit and I always remember sitting in my room and lifting my shorts I had on to reveal the top of my leg. I put the blade to my skin and I felt the sudden rush of adrenaline when I pressed the blade down on my skin. The only way to describe how it made me feel was when you put a pot of water on the cooker to boil and with the blade moving along my skin it was like boiling water overflowing a pot. I felt for the first time in months that I was alive my sensation of feeling was back and that numbness I had been feeling had dispersed. For me watching the blood slowly trickle out the cut and spreading in all directions on my leg creating these vein like trails along my skin was almost soothing to me, it was like I was watching those negative thoughts and feelings leave my body and for about 10 minutes after the cut I enjoyed nothing but silence. It may sound stupid but for me self harming was almost like my meditation act. I found after it that I would most often get the best sleep, as at that point my mind was free and empty.
At the beginning I only really self harmed once or twice a month I was quite conscious of how bad my cuts would scar so I would vary on how deep, some were very superficial whilst others if I was having really bad periods would be deep but small. I always confined them to a specific area always at the very top of my leg near my groin as I was always fearful that someone might notice them and then I would have to admit to what I was doing. For me self harming at that time was something I wanted to keep as my thing if I am honest over the years it almost became like a guilty pleasure, as looking back on it I almost looked forward to doing it as I was getting that buzz out of it and then that time of relaxing. Just like when a addict takes a hit.
Eventually though just like an addict I became more dependent on it, I found myself up until recently having the need to do it four and five times a day. I wasn’t just doing one cut I was making a series of cuts, I was feeling totally locked in my own head more and more. I could cope with the thoughts I was having, I had extremely low self-esteem, paranoia of what others were thinking about me, feeling like I was being judged by everyone, overwhelmed with the feelings of failure, anger, resentment and jealousy for others. My thoughts and feelings basically were like a cancer raging through my body and they were rapidly infecting everything. I lost all interest in my life, passions for art and design, doing photography even just everyday normality. I reached the point that I was so enraged about even waking up in the morning. Cutting was my only saving grace to help me function and carry on putting on my face of normality. I found that I could do a lot more damage without causing unnecessary pain but cutting in the shower, although I said early that the adrenaline kicked in when you dig in deep pulling it along the skin can be pretty painful as I tended to do it slowly and precisely. Doing it in the shower the extreme heat was almost like a numbing cream.
Four or five years back I moved from cutting the tops of my legs, I was no longer getting that release feeling due to constantly going over the same part of my skin cutting over older scars I have lost the sensation. I am permanently numb. I moved to my stomach area, the tops of my arms, wrists and tops of my hands. When I moved to those areas there were becoming more visible to others. For me this was the turning point of self harm being my little dirty secret. Don’t get me wrong I became a really good liar whenever anyone asked me how I managed to cut myself I always made sure that the answer back was well rehearsed. But with every cut the lies and excuses were becoming more and more difficult which in turn I felt that I was falling down that dark hole.
It was about three years ago that I decided that I needed help. I still couldn’t pluck up the courage to tell anyone close to me so I went to my GP. I had been attending her frequently but on this particular day it was the first time that I had shown any true emotion to how I was actually feeling. She was brilliant in that she listened, she let me get that emotion out and then she told me that she had known for weeks what was wrong with me but she couldn’t tell me that I was depressed and suffering anxiety because I was not ready to accept it myself at that time. She highlighted to me that the only way for me to help myself was to admit to myself that I had a problem. At this point I was referred on to the mental health team with which I can honestly say have helped me immensely. I went through intense therapy and worked on plans to help me reduce self harming. More healthier ways to deal with my head as they put it. The biggest challenge I had was learning to open up to how I was feeling and what my thoughts were but I did eventually relax into doing it with a professional. I was however living a lie with family and friends as for me having to admit to my loved ones and those who cared about me what I was doing to myself was that of shame.
Fast forward a year and a half I did slip back into self harming becoming my routine again looking back on it I know that my reasoning for this was the fact that I still had no one close to me to talk to and for that I fell into the trap of turning to what I knew best to cure me fast. My self harming escalated a lot quicker than before. I fell deeper into that dark hole of depression and out of nowhere I found myself having fleeting moments of wanting to end my life. Self harming for me in a way helped keep that frightening thought of suicide at bay for me, I used it as a tool not to do anything stupid.
It was at this time that I had to make the toughest decision in that I knew I had to tell my family and friends. I needed them on side to support me through this time for me and once I had done that I had this calmness appear in my life. I have been on a journey this past year of self evaluation, a lot of counselling and mental health team input has been involved, but also a lot of self help on my part. Talking about my journey is my therapy at the moment and particularly about self harm as after the years of damage I am now a person full of visible scars that don’t go unnoticed and come with it a lot of questions.
Today I describe my journey as that of being on a roller coaster every day is full of ups and downs and with the support of family and friends I am now able to cope better with them. I still do have little moments whereby my techniques I have learned do not help and I slip and cut, but I put it behind me and start the count again to how many days I can go without picking up a blade. Those days I count each time go further and further and I know that one day I wont need to start the count again.
All that is left for me to say is: if you are a person who self harms and find this resonates and yourself in the position I once was: It will get better, but you have to accept it the bad and the ugly for what it is even although you don’t like it. Talking is the best way to start that healing process talk to family, friends, professionals hey even a stranger…..As long as you are getting what is hurting you on the inside out it is better that keeping it locked in. To those reading this who knows of anyone that self harms be there for them, don’t judge, don’t push just be patient and let them know that you are there when they need you.
I have chosen the picture of a tree I came across the other day that was so badly marked. I say that this is a representation of what my body has become. But I can now say I don’t hide my scars away anymore. I wear them with pride as however much pain I have caused myself those scares have made me stronger.
Love and Peace xoxo