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We can’t be there in person to help and support you in a moment of crisis, but there are other options available to you if you can’t turn to someone you trust. By giving us your postcode (or one nearby to where you are right now) we can let you know about services in your area. Remember: this moment will pass; you won’t always feel the way you do right now. 

If in doubt always call 999.

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Dedicated to self-harm recovery, insight and support.

Anger

Matt talks to us about Anger.

SelfharmUK vlog: Anger
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World Mental Health Day 2017 #dontfilterfeelings

Today is World Mental Health Day

In order to be fully human we have physical wellbeing and mental and emotional wellbeing.

In the same way you sometimes get a cold, hurt your wrist or break a leg: we all get emotionally unwell at some point. 

Physically we can see when someone isn’t well – from their pale looking skin, to a arm cast to a wheelchair – it’s obvious when someone needs additional support due to their physical illness. Often it might only be a day or two off school, sometimes it needs hospital treatment – it’s a sliding scale of needing extra physical care.

Mental care is the same – it’s a huge scale. From having a ‘bad day’ to sleeplessness to depression – the scale is huge and, sadly, at some point, we might find ourselves needing some additional support, but, because it’s unseen we can be tempted not to ask for it. 

Hiding our feelings can make us feel worse. Feeling low can easily move into depression and anxiety issues.

Anxiety isn’t just the feeling of ‘being a bit worried’, it’s an overwhelming sense of dread or fear that stops you from enjoying life and may limit where you go because you come so anxious you can’t control it.

Panic attacks are the body’s way of holding up a ‘red card’, of saying ‘STOP’.

If you ever experience any of these things then you are most probably struggling with your anxiety, and because it’s hidden inside of you, others may not be aware of it. It may not happen every day, but possibly about the same thing each time or in the same situation:

  • a feeling of panic
  • heart racing
  • sweating
  • breathlessness
  • tight chest
  • clenching fists
  • feeling like crying
  • needing to run away.

When these feelings come into our body, it can be hard to take control. Don’t filter your feelings:

  • tell someone you are feeling panicky
  • if you can, take yourself away from the situation you are in
  • breathe, breathe, breathe – Slowly in and out. The temptation to breathe fast won’t allow your brain to get the oxygen it needs; slow breaths in and out
  • if you feel light headed, put your head down
  • try not to talk but concentrate your body on breathing and relaxing your muscles
  • once your breathing is slowing, work on relaxing every muscle in your body.

Once the feeling has subsided:

  • communicate  - if talking about it starts you feeling panicky again, write it down. Try and think back to what started it (it might not be the think you thought it was)
  • take control – write yourself an action plan – what can YOU do? Is there a situation or person that added to your distress? If so, how can that/they be avoided?
  • draw a stick person – where did you first feel the anxiety in your body? (sweaty hands, clenched fists, headache, heart racing). Write an action plan for what actions you can take when you begin to recognize that feeling in your body
  • give someone a copy of your action plan – someone who might be with you when it happens, include in it how you would like them to help (not talk to you, get you water, stay with you).

Long term anxiety needs specialised help. If you are finding yourself having panic attacks often, not sleeping, struggling with food issues: you may need to think about getting specialised help before things get worse. There are some great people out there who can help, we suggest you visit anxiety.org.uk for more info.

Love,

The SelfharmUK Team

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New website!

Welcome to our brand-new website! We are so excited to be sharing with you all the weeks and months of work we have been doing to try and get this right. The first thing that you may notice is that we now have three very specific areas for the main people that visit our site. This is so you can feel totally at home sharing any stories or questions you have, knowing that parents and professionals won’t see it. Please be aware if we are really worried about you we may need to pass this information on.

To post content and to see what other people have posted you must be logged in, you can do this by clicking the register button and filling in the form that follows. 

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Please give us honest information, we may need this in the future to help keep you safe.

We want you to feel at home here, we want to try and help you build a safe online community that helps you begin to share how you are feeling about your self-harm and meet other people who can help you in this journey. Sometimes we will comment on your posts, but overall, we want you to have the space to help and support each other where you can.

The site is broken down into different places for you to get the help and support you need we have our main chat space where you can upload appropriate pictures, questions and tell us your story. When you post on that page you get to choose your colour background, your font and picture so it feels more personal to you. 

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We want you to feel supported in your times of crisis and have somewhere to take your concerns and fears when you feel lost and alone. This main chat forum and space is for you to help and support one another. This will be monitored, please remember we are all about pro-recovery here so be sensitive and supportive to everyone needs.

We will also be hosting live chat sessions where we will look at a whole series of topics from anxiety to LGBTQ+ to depression and many more. These sessions will start on the 1st November 2017 at 7pm. They will run for approximately 30-40 minutes and will be held once a week on a Wednesday evening. These are completely informal and will be hosted in a chat room format. We would love you to come along when you can. You can find the links to these chat rooms and a little bit about what we will be discussing that week under the help button on the main page of our website.

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Finally, when you are ready we have our weekly support group called Alumina, you can find information about this and sign up under the Alumina tab in the main menu. This is a more intentional form of support and we would love to welcome you when you feel ready.

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If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions please contact us at info@selfharm.co.uk and we will try and see if we can help. We really want you to feel supported in this journey and have the space to share your experience. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook

Love,

The SelfharmUK Team x

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World Suicide Prevention Day 2017

Words matter, don’t they?

They have the power to inspire hope or induce despair in seconds.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and at ThinkTwice we believe that the words we use to describe the despair of thoughts of suicide are important.

It’s thought that up to a quarter of young people have suicidal thoughts - and yet so many suffer in silence  - afraid of the stigma that can be attached to suicide.

When we use phrases like “commit suicide” or “failed suicide attempt” we make it seem unspeakable.

And yet suicide isn’t a crime to be committed; it’s a preventable tragedy; and the way we prevent it is by talking about it.

When we talk about suicide, we want to be talking about hope, because where there is life there is hope.

Having thoughts of suicide doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it just means you’re struggling.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to speak out when you’re struggling - because when you speak out you allow yourself to be helped - and you help to lessen the stigma.

It doesn’t matter whether you talk to a teacher or a parent - what matters is that you talk about it.

If you’re the one hearing your friend speak about suicide, it can feel scary, but you aren’t alone.

Whether you're struggling yourself or it’s your friend - there are people you can talk to.

So this World Suicide Prevention Day we are encouraging everyone to speak of suicide and to speak of hope.

To find out more about our campaign head to ThinkTwice or follow the hashtag on Twitter #SpeakofSuicide #WSPD17 

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Starting again…and again…and again….

September brings new challenges for many of us – a new term isn’t just back at school or college, it’s all the changes it brings: new classes, new teachers, different people in our classes, a change in timetable, pressured teachers pressuring us to do well, and the hope that this year we will ‘do better’.

What if you don’t need to ‘do better’? what if actually just ‘doing enough’ is good enough this year for you? Pressure to achieve and fear of failure is a big reason why so many of us struggle with our mental health – we are scared that we won’t make the grades, fit in with the right people, that others are better than us, we want to make our family proud and then, sadly, we take it out on ourselves if we think we aren’t ‘doing better’ this year.

So, let’s turn it around this academic year – what if you teach yourself to hear this statement every time you are told about how hard you are going to have to work this academic year: ‘ just do enough, by your own standards’ (this isn’t in any way your ticket to ‘don’t care and just fly by the seat of your pants’!), it’s an instruction to learn something new this year:

Be gentle with yourself. There is only one you.

Good enough might not get you the grades you want but it might just keep you well enough to be able to cope with how you are feeling.

Good enough might just relieve the deep pressure that keeps you awake at night.

Good enough might allow you time to flourish outside of academic pressure and develop new skills on things you are passionate about.

Good enough means that it doesn’t matter how many times you have to ‘start again’, each time is good enough because each day, you are doing good enough.

You are more than ‘good enough’, you really are - whether you believe it not.

As we all start again, have hope that this year, however many times you need to start again in your journey coping with self-harm; it is good enough.

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Alumina Summer Programme - Introduction

Jo Introduces us to the programme and what to expect over the summer.

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Self-harm Challenges

Hope is the author of 'Stand Tall Little Girl', a book about her eating disorder struggles. Here she talks openly about why young people struggle to express their emotions and why self-harm challenges might be on the rise.

When you walk down the road you have no idea what other people are going through, what they are thinking, or what their history is. When people look on at me they assume I am a happy young girl living in London. But in reality everyone has their own story and their reasons for acting the way they do.

Researching methods of self-harm have never been easier, and the world we live in sometimes means that people find it easier to self-harm than to admit they are struggling. 

Last year, NHS figures showed that the number of young people self-harming had increased. It was sad but at the same time intriguing. The figures emphasized that numbers of young girls being admitted to hospital for self -harm had quadrupled, and the number of young boys cutting themselves had also increased by 186%.  This got me thinking – why now?

Why did I as a young person and why do so many other young people struggle to express their emotions? Is there more pressure today on people generally and do people feel that self-harm challenges are becoming more of a thing? More fashionable? 

I believe the answer to all those questions is yes. Much of this is fueled by self-harm methods such as the salt and ice challenge or the blue whale challenge being discussed so openly in chat rooms. If you scroll through these pages you come across people from around the country offering advice, methods and their thoughts. 

These chat rooms fuel this epidemic. They bring young people in to a false sense of security.

For me growing up, my self-harm came out in not eating and damaging my body through over-exercising. Anorexia was my way of challenging emotional pain and my way of being in control. I challenged those intense emotions that I did not know how to cope with and emotions that I definitely did not want to feel. And I had an element of what I thought was control over my life through limiting my food intake.

When I was 17 I was admitted to a mental health hospital where I lived for a year recovering. I spent a year talking about how I felt, putting on weight so I was healthy and learning how to manage moving forward. It was one of the hardest years of my life but it taught me about the importance of sharing how I feel.

For people with any mental health problem, sharing how you feel can sometimes feel so hard. You might feel like a burden or afraid of what will happen if you do share how you feel, but you mustn’t feel like that. It is so important to talk, share your feelings and find people that you can be honest with. I know that from talking about how I felt - this is something that has kept me well.

You are probably reading this blog feeling like I am lecturing, feeling like I have no idea where you are or why you feel how you do. But I get it. The thrill of missing a meal, surviving off of nothing before going for long runs left me with a similar sensation.  

Self-harm may feel like it sorts you and comforts you, gives you some element of control… but in reality it is not doing that.  

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Letter to January 2016 Me

Whilst Sophie was part of the Graduate Volunteer scheme at Youthscape, she worked closely with the SelfharmUK team. The blog post below is something Sophie found extremely helpful to write as it's helped her to reflect on her year and to think positively about the year ahead. Sophie continues to write blogs for us even though her time as a volunteer has come to an end. She hopes you find this blog helpful.

Christmas is almost here, and with that, the end of 2016. I’m sure there are many mixed feelings out there about this, and I am one of those people with mixed feelings! When I reflect on my year, I feel as though so much has happened, both good and bad, but I don’t have an immediate “2016, wow what a great/bad year” reaction. Recently, a friend told me about a letter she had written to her younger self, and I thought it would be the perfect way to help me reflect on my year and encourage myself for the year ahead. Maybe it’s something you could try?

So here goes:

Hi Soph,

Future you here (it’s currently December 2016). 2016 is going to be an interesting one, it’s going to have highs and lows, but don’t worry, it looks like it will end on a high.

I know you’ve just come off your medication, and I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be a tough few months, but I promise you; your body WILL adjust, so bear with it. Yes, at some points during the year you’ll slip back into self-harm, anxiety will get the better of you every now and then, some ‘sucky’ things happen, and at times life is going to feel pretty overwhelming. BUT, good news! As horrid as it may be, those times don’t last.

You grow so much this year, Soph. You FINALLY start making decisions that are looking out for your own wellbeing rather than based on making other people happy, how great is that?? I won’t tell you what these decisions are, but just go with your gut and know it’s okay to look after yourself. Oh and remember, admitting you need a bit of help again doesn’t mean you’re back to square one.

You know this already, but you have some really amazing people in your life who are totally going to be there for you – try to not feel guilty or ashamed to reach out to them if you need it – they HONESTLY don’t mind and only want the best for you. And be honest, Soph, I know being vulnerable can be scary, but opening up to these people is so safe.

You’ll start worrying about what to do job-wise after July, and then you’ll freak out about not having a job. Again, things work out; don’t put a load of unnecessary pressure on yourself. You don’t need to try and live up to the expectations of other people, this is YOUR life, and you need to do what’s best for you.

Spoiler Alert! You voluntarily say you’ll get up on stage and talk to 100+ people, AND you actually go through with it… AND it goes pretty well! Who would have thought it!?

2016 will be okay, but here’s a little peak at what I’ll try to remember and take into 2017 with me:

  • You are SO loved
  • You are SO blessed. Even when life is tough, keep what you’re thankful for close to your heart.
  • It’s okay to ask for help
  • Fight the fear
  • Being vulnerable is not weak, it shows strength and courage
  • Keep writing down what goes on in your head; it’s a great way to get it out!
  • Keep your chin up girl, you can do this!

Love, almost-2017-Soph

If you were to write a letter to yourself this year, what would you say? How would you encourage yourself for 2017?

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Finding Myself

Sanyha is a sixth form student and the self-harm team met her at the Priory School Mental Wellbeing Fayre, Sanyha has suffered with depression and self-harm and uses this blog to talk to us about where she has come from and where she is now. It's really inspiring to read and we hope this helps some of you think about a life without self-harm. 

Imagine being so confused with yourself to the point where you can't even recognise who you are anymore; well that was me roughly two years ago.

I was diagnosed with severe depression in January 2015 when I was fifteen years old, at this time I was referred to CAMHS where I had regular therapy sessions since until October 2016. I have been discharged from the services, however in the past two years I had an incredibly difficult time in living my life as the thoughts of worthlessness and uselessness overwhelmed the positivity that I once had. Fortunately, I have regained my usual self through therapy as well as medication which I was put on in December 2015 as this was known to be a better route for me. I went through more than 3 suicide attempts and I am near to 11 months clean from self harm which is such a proud achievement for me.

I can honestly say that, I would never wish any of the experiences I went through on anybody at all because feeling like you want to leave the world is such a horrible feeling and us teenagers should not be thinking such a thought when we have our whole life ahead of us. The same goes for anybody of any age group as everybody has a purpose, whether you can see it yourself or not. This is why mental health awareness is vital and too important to ignore. Since my diagnosis, I have learnt so much about mental health and this has added to my passion about mental health and getting people to start talking about this topic rather than viewing it as a weakness and a taboo thing to talk about. It is my mission to do my best in raising awareness to mental health as it certainly does not get the attention that it should do. I raise awareness through my blog, YouTube Channel, Instagram, Twitter and my Snapchat Vlogs.

Currently, I am at Sixth Form studying Art, Sociology and Philosophy & Ethics and I am absolutely loving Sixth Form life! As well as studying my A Levels, I am beginning an Art Therapy group for the younger students at my school. I have started doing freelance makeup artistry as I have a passion for beauty as well and I also attend blogging events and meetings.

I have huge plans for my future which I did not think I would have as I honestly did not think I would get this far in life but I have, which is saying something – if I can then anybody can! I want to make a difference and I want to inspire, those are my main goals.

Mental health is like physical illness; how long will it take for people to realise this?

You can see more about what Sanyha is up to here  http://sanzshares.blogspot.co.uk

There are books that can help with your own recovery here https://www.youthscape.co.uk/store/project/selfharm

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Frustration Explored

Frustration can be, well, frustrating in itself.

The smallest things can make us frustrated - I get easily frustrated when I’m trying to untangle my headphones or if my phone isn’t working properly! Frustration can come from the bigger things too, such as not getting the exam grades or job you want. 

How do we manage these frustrations life throws at us? We can either:

  • do nothing and let it frustrate us
  • accept it and try and move on/let it go
  • do something about it by making a change or using it for good 

Sometimes there will be frustrating situations that we can’t change, and learning to let go of this frustration can be quite difficult. At the end of last year, we had to move house. Moving out of a house I’d lived in for the past 13 years, to a new house which was about an hour’s drive away, away from my hometown, friends, and half of my family, was really frustrating. It was something I couldn’t change, but had to accept – easier said than done – but possible. Telling myself that everything would be okay and that something great could come from the move really helped me accept it and let go of some of that frustration.

Sometimes there will be situations we can change, and sometimes we can use our frustration for good. I came across this quote:

‘Frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success.’ – Bo Bennett

Frustration can spur us on to greater things. Frustration can make us more determined to succeed – the frustration of not doing as well on an exam as we’d hoped, can give us the determination to work harder and achieve the grades we want. We have the choice of whether or not we decide to use the frustration for good and make a change.

I find that not only does music, taking deep breaths or having a cry help relieve frustration, but also telling myself certain things. Putting your frustration into perspective can make such a difference to how you feel. For example, if I get frustrated by how tangled my headphones are, I can remind myself that on the scale of things, this really isn’t a big deal. I just need to slow down and be patient. This can really lessen how frustrated I’m feeling and in some cases, almost make me laugh at how I’ve let something so small annoy me so much!

Recently I’ve discovered a really great way of minimizing the time I give to thinking about the bigger frustrations in life - focusing on what I’m thankful for. Starting to remind myself of all the things I’m thankful for doesn’t leave as much room to be frustrated by the other things!

Remind yourself that you can make a change. 

Life is what we make of it – we can’t fully control what happens in our life, but we can choose how we react to it.

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If You Could Change One Thing...

That voice.

That voice.

That voice that creeps in, it lingers, hanging around when it knows it isn't welcome. That voice which can be self critiquing about my appearance. That tells me nothing looks good on me as I get ready to go to work in the morning; which makes me think for a while I am all that I can see in the mirror. That voice. That voice that makes me doubt the size I actually am. Knowing I'm a healthy size 10 yet the mirror making me feel dissatisfied at times with the reflection looking back at me. That voice that then makes me annoyed, knowing it isn't welcome and I shouldn't listen to it. Knowing I've developed a healthy relationship with food, no longer comfort eating my emotions away.

But If I could change one thing it would be that voice. That voice that pops up once in a while and then stays a little longer than welcome.

Over the years I've learnt to become more and more satisfied with life, with what I have and enjoying life in the present, not wishing for the future or longing for the past.

Yet that voice still pops up every now and then... And when it does, it makes me doubt myself.

When I was given the theme for this blog post, I decided I would be vulnerable.  Decided I'd let some of my guard down and share that battle I still face at times.

So often, people can be quick to look at pictures of my slimmer figure and assume everything must be perfect.  Yes, I do feel better, so much better in myself since losing some weight to benefit my health and yes, I am in a good and happy place with life overall. However, that doesn't mean I don't still struggle at times with that voice.

I had been in a great place with loving myself and all that I am.  But the other night saw me burst into tears when someone asked me an innocent question and that voice told me they must have thought I had put on weight. Yet as I processed how I was feeling, I was  reminded that anxiety can have a way of lying to you, of making you believe things which aren't true and can leave you feeling exposed, vulnerable and raw.

Thankfully time and time again, I am reminded that vulnerability is strength.

Choosing to tell someone when you're struggling brings a sense of freedom. Knowing you're not on your own. Knowing someone cares and not only listens but hears what you're saying.

I've found speaking out and saying how I feel when that voice visits, lets me fight it quicker and stops it getting louder and bigger. I continue to enjoy my food, good meals out and love cooking, that voice isn't related to that, it's related to appearance.

It can be a scary concept telling someone how you're really feeling, but by doing so, it can also be the very thing to help you work through situations you face, knowing you're not alone.

Despite me telling my boyfriend how stupid I was for crying and feeling rubbish and horrid, and a load of other things; he comforted me and told me I wasn't any of those things but he heard me. He didn't try to dismiss how I felt but he reassured me and worked through with me how I felt and helped me corme out the other side. Sometimes we need to find another voice, outside of our own to help guide us through.

I wonder if you have a voice, whatever that voice may be that you could sit with and share with others? Choosing to be vulnerable can be the steps to rising above it and moving forwards.  After all, as Brene Brown says 'vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change."

What is out there that could be new for you?

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Alternate Family

You could say my family is pretty dysfunctional and all over the place, there have been a number of divorces, step siblings have come and gone, and living in two houses can be tiring. But at the end of the day, we are family. However, for me family doesn’t end at this.

During the Easter holiday, I spent a week with a pretty large group of people who I consider to be family. Why family? I’ve never really thought about the ins and outs of why I felt like I was surrounded by family – it just felt like that. So I had quick think and these were the reasons that immediately sprung to mind:

  • Inclusivity and acceptance – Some of us had known each other for years, others were there for the first time and didn’t know anyone. But that didn’t matter, no one was left on their own, everyone was included. It didn’t matter who you were, what you looked like, what you did or where you came from, you were totally accepted for who you are! When I spoke to a number of people who had come along for the first time, they all mentioned how everyone was so welcoming and how comfortable they felt.
     
  • Something shared – In all of our families, there may be certain values/beliefs/interests that are shared, and with this group of people, we all shared the same faith. It brought us together and created such a special family feel.
     
  • People who care and help you – I was surrounded by people who really cared about each other and genuinely wanted to get to know you more. Some of these people have helped me through a lot and continue to – I can’t explain how much they’ve lovingly challenged me, helped me grow, and have encouraged me.
     
  • You don’t have to hide how you feel – As these people genuinely care about how you’re doing, they don’t want you to put a mask on and pretend everything is okay if it isn’t. There is no shame in having a big cry around this lot!
     
  • You don’t have to see them all the time but still have that connection – This group of people are from all over the country and many of us won’t see each other for months at a time, but whenever we do, things are still the same. That’s the thing with family, it doesn’t matter where you are or how often you see each other, you still have that bond!

So I suppose that’s why this great bunch of people feel like family to me, being amongst them just feels like home!

Family doesn’t have to stop at who you live with, or who you are related to.

Who do you consider family?

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Coping With Scars

Whether you’re currently in the midst of struggling with self harm, giving up, or have stopped for years, scars can be a difficult part of self harm to deal with. I’d say I’ve pretty much accepted my scars now, yet sat on a coach writing this, bare arms, I still find myself automatically trying to cover up as someone walks past my seat.

When you were younger, did you love to show your grazes and cuts to others when you were injured from maybe climbing a tree, or doing something adventurous? Feeling proud and wanting to tell everyone how you got that injury, and even once it had healed, still showing off your scars, no matter how big or small it was?

As we grow up, this can still be the case, but scars from self harm can leave us feeling ashamed, disgusted or angry at ourselves, and are certainly something we wouldn’t point out to everyone. We even go that bit further and make the effort to actively hide them - to avoid exposing our secret, avoid the stares or questions, avoid being made to feel uncomfortable.

I really like the theme this month – Survival Scars. It makes you look at scars in a different way. They make me think of coming out of a battle, like warriors with scars, reminding us that we fought and survived. I’ve found that the way we view scars makes a huge difference when coping with them.

Being able to cope with your scars doesn’t necessarily mean showing them off. Scars are there whether we hide them or not. I think coping with scars, for me, is about acceptance. The more we accept our scars, the easier we will find it to cope with them.

A few important things to remember:

> Scars may not be as obvious as we think they are to other people. Because we know they’re there it means we’re naturally going to be more aware of them.

> One day your scars could give you the opportunity to help someone else on their journey.

> They show that through deep emotional pain, you strove to survive – so if people stare or make comments about them, don’t be ashamed, they don’t know your story and how far you’ve come.

> If you have worries about later on in life, about how you’ll deal with your scars in marriage/if you have children etc. Don’t worry about that right now, you don’t know how far you will have come by then, and it may not be a worry at all when you reach that point

Accepting your scars is a process, it may be difficult at first, but just as wounds take time to heal, so does how you view your scars. Each person is different so what could take months for one person could take years for someone else, and that’s totally okay.

Your scars are a sign of survival and healing, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of that. You made it out of battle, and that is awesome.

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It's Better to Talk

What would stop me from telling someone about my self harm? Probably the jokes people make about it - it is frowned upon and often laughed about instead of being taken seriously. A common myth is that only “goths” or “emos” do it, that it's for attention, being part of a trend or belonging to that certain culture involving black clothes, darkness and self hating. I was worried I would be seen as a freak under the assumption I was doing it for the wrong reasons. But you cannot assume someone is doing it for a particular reason, you have no idea what they are feeling or the thoughts happening inside their head. Not everyone who self harms is ‘crazy’, not eveyone who self harms wants to kill themselves, not everyone who self harms is attention seeking.

One of the reasons for me personally, was a way of punishing myself for not being 'good enough'. It was a coping mechanism, and a way to turn those bad feelings into something physical and being able to let the pain out. It was, in truth, probably a cry for help, I was always trying my best to cover up and hide it but also secretly hoping someone might see, just so they knew something was wrong. I was ashamed of doing it, after all, so many people go through undeserving suffering caused by an illness or disease when they would choose not to, and what I was doing was self imposed. I would have pangs of guilt for someone worrying about me for something I'd done to myself on purpose, and this held me back from telling anyone.

However, even though I didn't like talking about it with anyone, the last time I did, the person I spoke to was supportive. They didn't fully understand as it’s hard to grasp the extent of it when you haven't been through it yourself. But despite this, the worries in my head and the myths out there, they were still supportive!

I still find it uncomfortable to talk about sometimes, but, it’s so much better to talk about self harm more to reduce the stigma surrounding it. It is something that should be taken very seriously, and it is important to remember the signs may not be so obvious, and there will be mental pain as well as physical.

It is so important to address it with compassion rather than disgust.

If I could give any advice to someone learning of a person they know self-harming, it would be to listen and take time to respond. Always offer support and words of encouragement instead of reacting negatively.

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What Myths are Holding You Back?

We all believe things that other people tell us. Remember the time your mum told you to eat your carrots because they will make your eyes better? And the day your best mate joked that if you swallowed an apple seed a tree would grow inside of you? What about the bus ride home your older sibling said they had swallowed chewing gum and it was going to stay inside of them for seven years?

We believe people and we evaluate our choices based upon previous responses and personal beliefs.

During the years that I self harmed in Secondary School it was much easier to hide or lie about the marks on my arm instead of having to explain the complicated feelings that were dominating 90% of my waking thoughts. I didn’t feel loved or valued enough and I feared that if people knew they would love and value me even less. As much as I desperately wanted my friends to help me and advise me, wearing a jumper or twenty bracelets on my forearm was the easier option. To not self-harm was to be normal and that’s what I was trying to put across with all my might. 

I built up these myths in my head, I told them to myself daily to make sure the secret wouldn’t come out and the whole class didn’t think I was crazy.

“If you tell them, they won’t be your friend.”

“If you tell them, you will lose your value.”

“If you tell them, they will think you are crazy.”

My inner commentary was stuck on repeat.

I didn’t want to forfeit being loved by telling my friends about a few cuts on my arm. It didn’t seem worth it.

As I’ve been recovering over the last few years I have realised the importance of honesty. I have learnt that true friends will love you and value you for who you are. Even if you are in your lowest place, friends will be the people who pick you up, encourage you and set you back on the path. When you’ve relapsed for the third time in one week, friends are the ones who will give you a positive text, a smile and a hug. Real friends will be there for you no matter what the myths are that you tell yourself.

Self-harming does not make you any less of a person or any less worthy of being on this earth. It’s okay to be scared, talking about self harm isn’t like talking about any other injury, it has deep emotions attached to it. Our lives are fragile and it’s okay to struggle with showing the true you for fear of shame or embarrassment.

I challenge you to think about some of the myths you have built up. What’s holding you back? What do you fear most? What myth about sharing what you’re going through has controlled you for too long?

You matter, you are important. No myth you tell yourself about what others may think of you can take your value away. Recovery is done in community and you deserve friends to walk beside you, encouraging you and teaching you your true worth. 

Caitlin loves the seaside, loves community and is passionate about using her experiences of mental health to encourage and help others. She is currently living in lovely Brighton studying for a degree in International Development and Anthropology, however, spends most of her time eating cake, helping out at church and blogging. You can find her at caitlinfaithcollins.wordpress.com or touring the coffee shops of Brighton.

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