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Dedicated to self-harm recovery, insight and support.

Happy Christmas?

The blog post below was written by Sophie, a previous Graduate Volunteer with SelfharmUK and Youthscape.

I’m not usually someone who gets really excited for Christmas Day. For as long as I can remember, I was always at my mum’s for half of the day and my dad’s for the other half. I never really had a problem with having two homes – it was quite nice sometimes! But Christmas is the time when having a broken family is highlighted. Seeing other people’s festive photos would get to me. Obviously I knew not everyone was having the perfect Christmas, but seeing friends having big, ‘perfect’ family do’s would just remind me that I didn’t have that. At one house, it was almost like people were trying to play happy families when it wasn’t the case at all. It just felt forced and awkward.

I don’t find it as much of an issue now, and I’m even prepared for the drama I know will take place this year! But around Christmastime, feelings are automatically triggered for me based on how I’ve experienced Christmas in the past. So over the years it’s become normal to not feel the best during this time, but it’s something that is changing!

A few years ago, I was out with some friends and the place where we were, happened to have a Christmas themed night (bearing in mind it was April, so I don’t know what was going on there!) They’d play a Christmas song every few songs and it got to the point where I had to take a step outside as it was just making me feel down. Of course, everyone LOVED it, and they were dancing around, singing at the top of their lungs. I thought everyone liked Christmas, until one of my friends joined me outside. I explained why I was out there, and she turned to me and shared how she didn’t really like Christmas that much either. She was just going along with it, having a sing and dance. It was SO refreshing to hear I wasn’t the only one in there pretending.

However you are feeling this Christmas, you are not alone.

Did you know that it’s okay to not be okay at Christmas?

It sometimes seems like we have to be so joyful at Christmas, so we put on fake smiles and go along with the festivities when really, for some, it’s a time of pain, anxiety, stress. Perhaps Christmas reminds you that a loved one is no longer with you, perhaps it reminds you of how broken your family is. There are many reasons why Christmas may not be the happiest time of the year for you, and that’s totally okay.

The thing is, it’s pretty hard to avoid Christmas altogether, but there are always ways you can try and make it easier for yourself.

Knowing that the urge to self harm is usually heightened at Christmas can give you the upper hand as it won’t catch you off guard. It means you can come up with a number of distractions and other ways to cope in those moments. You can find some suggestions here. Take time for yourself this Christmas – you don’t have to fake how you’re feeling.

This year I’m choosing to shift my focus from the things I don’t like about Christmas, to the things I’m thankful for, appreciating what I do have rather than what I don’t. I want to be thinking more about the real meaning of Christmas rather than being so caught up in my own circumstances. I’m going to make more time for self-care; doing things that help energise and fill me rather than drain me.

A YouTuber I’ve found to be really helpful is Kati Morton. She is a licenced therapist and creates videos on a broad range of topics surrounding mental health and answers questions from her viewers. My particular favourite this year is a video where she gives some handy tips on how you can stay mindful at Christmas...

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Because I can

Caroline wrote this blog about her experience walking 630 miles along the South West Coast path in a year, and raising £1150 for SelfharmUK! She hopes what she's achieved will encourage and inspire you.  

Walking the South West Coast path has been the most challenging thing I have ever done. 630 miles in one year on some of the toughest terrain on any National trail was quite a daunting prospect, but I was determined that I would ‘conquer’ it. When asked why I reply simply “because I can”.

During the walk I crossed 230 bridges, opened and closed 880 gates, climbed over 436 stiles, and went up or down over 30,000 steps.

I fell over numerous times, fortunately landed on my bum most times, I broke my shoulder bone and I broke my leg … fortunately it was my prosthetic one!!!

Raising money for charity was an important part of this walk and I chose to raise money for selfharmUk as they are close to my heart. 

I self-harmed for a while when I was younger and never understood why. SelfharmUK has some amazing resources and I wish that they had been so easily available to me. Now a member of my family has recently self harmed and has found the resources available extremely helpful. 

I started out wanting a personal challenge and I have to say that this has certainly been that.  From open clifftop paths, to muddy woodland trails, through beautiful picturesque villages, to long sandy beaches. I’ve seen tin mines, caves and hidden coves, seals, skylarks and surfers, lighthouses, fishing boats, lots and lots of water and so much more!  

It has been a walk and an experience of a lifetime and although it was extremely tough at times it has been thoroughly rewarding and a thrill to be able to support SelfharmUK along the way.

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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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Quiet – shhhh…

We have heard it from parents, teachers and librarians countless times in our lives and, sadly, often negatively, in a ‘don’t make any noise’ sense!

How about ‘quiet’ in a positive way? ‘quiet’ said in a soothing, gentle way encourages us to relax, breathe and slow down.

Silence and quiet are things that are hard to achieve – maybe we don’t enjoy our own company; maybe we like to keep busy and have background noise constantly; maybe silence isn’t something we are comfortable with?

If silence isn’t something you feel comfortable with it, try it in small amounts to begin with. Thursday 14th September is National Quiet Day, a day all about encouraging you to find a place that feels safe and comfortable where you can relax (or maybe even fall asleep, as that’s what tends to happen when we find places that are quiet!).

Finding quiet in our noisy, crammed lives is hard. It is a discipline we have to learn to take time to listen to what our feelings are saying, what our thoughts are wanting us to ponder and what our body is trying to tell us about how we are doing physically.

You might find sitting with your own thoughts uncomfortable; perhaps all your thoughts and feelings come flooding into your head? That’s ok – write them down, tackle them one by one and give yourself time to think through each feeling that comes into your thoughts. Acknowledge it. Name the feeling. Validate it in the way you would let a friend know you understand them – give yourself permission to feel.

Perhaps finding your quiet place will allow you to draw or sing your thoughts? Hey, no one needs to see or hear you (that’s the joy of a quiet place!), so if you want to sing, shout, cry or laugh – do!

Perhaps reading will allow you some time to read for pleasure? Read slowly enjoying each paragraph. Find a book you loved as a child and go back to it.

Perhaps learning to breathe slower, deeper so your lungs are filled like a balloon might help you relax your muscles, your brain and anxieties?

Quiet offers us the ability to listen to ourselves. Giving yourself the gift of quiet allows you to give you what you give to some many others: your concentration, your love and your thoughts.

This year, why not use National Quiet Day to find some quiet to be with yourself?

If you already have your very own quiet place - we’d love to see it! This could be anything from that bench that you always find peaceful on your daily dog walk, that patch of grass on top of that hill with the best view near your house, your sofa at home or even that place you always like to sit at your favourite cafe. Send your images to info@selfharm.co.uk and we’ll post the best ones on our Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter on the day in the hope of inspiring others to find their own quiet places.

You can also follow the hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. #NationalQuietDay

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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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Alumina Summer Programme - Coping with scars

Jo talks to us about coping with scars.

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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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Alumina Summer Programme - Medication

Jo talks to us about managing medication.

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When it all seems too much…

Oliver shares with us what feeling overwhelmed is like for them.

Some days, just even opening my eyes feels hard. I lay there arguing with myself in my head: whether to try and sleep the whole day; or whether to try and talk myself into facing the day…

Then comes the endless interactions with others:

“did you sleep ok?”

“how are you doing today?”

“can you make sure you eat breakfast please?”

“got any plans for today?”

“what about your future – we need to get your college sorted?”

then I go upstairs to get dressed:

what to wear today, nothing feels ‘right’ or comfortable, nothing feels ‘me’ – how do I cover the scars?  Then I feel angry – why should I cover the scars? But I don’t feel brave enough not to. I feel so angry with myself for cutting, I hate that I did it but now I feel proud of myself for stopping, but sad that I did it…

I think I will just stay in my pjs today – getting dressed feels too much, too hard, too many decisions to make.

I sit watching TV, just trying to ignore the world and it’s many demands of me: from what I think of anything and everything (I am supposed to have an opinion on politics, my education, best films, worst band, foods I like…the list is endless). I like TV, I can get lost in not having to think or even follow what’s happening too much; my mind can flit in and out without demands or questions.

I am falling asleep when my phone goes: a text. Great – another distraction and prompt to enter someone else’s world.

This time it’s different:  someone is entering my world.

My Mum.

“ Hi love, just want to say – I love you. I know you are finding things hard and I may not help in the best way, but I want to help. Let me know how I can.”

I sit and think. Help: I am being offered it but I don’t even know what I need.

I reply: “Mum, I don’t know what I need. I am very unhappy but I don’t know why.”

Mum: “it’s ok to be unhappy and not know why. It’s ok to be happy and not know why. All you need to know is that you are loved, feeling like this won’t last forever, and no matter what, we will be with you, however long it takes”.

I fly downstairs and run to my mum, sitting in the sofa. I climb on her lap and am engulfed in her hug. I am safe (even when I don’t feel safe), I am loved (even when I don’t feel loved), I will get better (even when I can’t remember the last good day I had), my mum might annoy me and ask loads of questions but she actually wants to help.

When it all feels too much: I know this, I am not on my own.

I have found someone who wants to know me even when it feels too much.

It might not be your mum who texts you, it might be that you have to text someone a sad face to let them know you aren’t doing well.

I used to expect people to know that something wasn’t going well without me having to tell them, but now I realise, it’s up to me to ask for help: I can’t expect people to guess.

I am glad my mum text me, I know other people don’t have that. I hope you can find someone today to help you if you are feeling like this – it might be a friend, a counsellor, a youth worker or even the Samaritans – you can call them free or text them 116 123  (I have called them a few times and they were really helpful and kind and didn’t judge me at all).

 

SelfharmUK run Alumina which is an online support session for young people struggling with self-harm: it’s open to all, it’s confidential, very relaxed and run by professionals so is completely safe for you. 

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School's out...

Some people love school – they love seeing their mates every day, they enjoy learning and enjoy the structure of the school day;

Some people really dread school – getting up early, having to wear a uniform, having to sit in lessons that feel irrelevant, being surrounded by people all day and then having homework to do.

For some people the only thing worse than school are the endless summer holidays.

The idea of the summer break is good – waking up late, no plans, chilling out……

But….the reality can be so different after the first 48 hours: seeing everyone’s holiday photos of hot sunny places may make you feel sad or jealous; feeling like everyone else is out having fun and you are on your own, not wanting to join in but at the same time wanting to be invited to join anyway; hoping it might rain so you don’t have to make up a excuse for wearing long sleeves; feeling isolated without the structure of the school day which makes each day feel long; getting fed up playing online games with your sibling….

There used to be a TV programme called ‘why don’t you?’ and it gave you ideas of things to make, do, places to visit with your mates. It wasn’t too bad for the 90’s!

There was a line on the opening song which said ‘why don’t you switch off your TV and do something less boring instead?’ which used to annoy me because if I turned off the TV then, I wouldn’t be able to know what do to!

We want to give you some ideas to get you to turn off your TV (or wifi!) and make the summer feel more positive:

  • Make a plan – draw up a calendar, write on any firm plans you have,
  • Keep to a daily time schedule – the later you wake up, the harder it will be to get to sleep that night. Sticking to a routine might be helpful.
  • Keep active – whether that’s doing a yoga youtube, go for a run, walk the dog, do sit ups – something that keeps your endorphins working (the happy chemical in your brain),
  • See positive people – now it’s the holidays, you don’t have to see the annoying people from school – choose 1 or two people that you feel comfortable with and plan to see them at least once a week
  • Get a project – an art one, paint your bedroom, rearrange your furniture, do the gardening, start a photography project, do an online course (groupon always have cheap ones), build a bench or a window seat. Basically keep your hands and brain busy!
  • Learn a new skill – teach yourself to knit, design tattoos, learn a language, join the library and get some reading, volunteer in a charity shop…..
  • Get in touch with us and write a blog about your journey and wellbeing this summer

At SelfharmUK we recognize that summer can be hard with lots of additional stresses due to the changes in routine and weather – we will be running our online Alumina self-harm support group each Monday and will be adding new videos and support material weekly.

We hope it helps your summer!

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Green tea and Netflix enthusiast

The blog post below was written by Lydia. She hopes you find it helpful.

I’ve never been very good at introducing myself so here I go. Hi there! I'm Lydia, most people know me as Lid. I am an 18 year old green tea and Netflix enthusiast. One of my favourite Netflix shows is 13 Reasons Why. I also have a passion for sport, Disney films and music. My favourite time of the year is summer, when the nights get longer and the weather gets warmer. Being able to go for long walks on the beach till late and watching the sun set over horizon. However I also love winter, being able to curl up in my window watching the snowflakes fall, wrapped in a blanket with and note pad writing. My favourite colour is blue and I hate the colour yellow, I find it extremely patronising. I also love doing my makeup and trying different eyeshadow colours. I'm not a pro at it but I try aha! I guess you could say I'm your average 18 year old. 

I wanted to write for SelfharmUK because I personally deal with a lot of issues myself and have found through my own experiences, I can help other people which I’ve found extremely rewarding. I have suffered from a number of mental health illnesses since the age of 14, and whilst on my journey to recovery, the experiences I have encountered have shaped me into the person I am today. Not only do I want to write to help others, I have found writing extremely rewarding and beneficial to challenging the thoughts and voices inside my head. Yes, I am still recovering and struggle daily - but that doesn't stop me wanting to share my voice and challenge the issue I see within the mental health community. 

Being diagnosed at a very early age has meant that I have encountered lots of other people with similar issues and experiences of self-harming from school, hospital (when I was hospitalised) and later Sixth Form. Not only have I had self-experience, but I have supported peers and friends when they too have struggled by helping them to understand my approach to the topics and see a broader view of the opinions of self-harm and mental illnesses as a whole. I have for some years now vlogged on YouTube about mental illnesses and reached out to as many people as possible by starting conversations about the importance of mental health. 

When I'm not partaking in breaking the stigma of mental illness and starting conversations on mental health - you'll find me touring the countryside, taking photos or in bed relaxing. I'm excited for the future and steps I will be taking in the next year… and can't wait to start writing for SelfharmUK of course! 

You can check out Lydia's blog and vlogging links here.

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World Music Day

The article below to celebrate World Music Day was written by Sophie, a previous Graduate Volunteer with Youthscape.

I am a massive lover of music; I’m constantly listening to it. I’ve actually got my headphones in now as I write this!

Music is powerful. It can be so influential, and can be used as a way to express feelings, share a particular message, tell a story, and bring people together. There’s always something for everyone’s taste. You can study music, create it, or simply just listen and appreciate it. There is so much I love about music, where do I even start?

I’ve grown up in a musical family. My dad led the music at Church and was always playing his guitar and singing around the house.  Whenever we would see his side of the family, it would always end up in a good ol’ sing song, and it still does! My brother is also very musical and I’d say I am too, though not to the same extent – my guitar playing skills are a little rusty! However, as I said, I’m always listening to music, and it has certainly helped me through life.

Music is everywhere we go; most shops we go into will always have music playing in the background, and I’ve even been in some shops that have a DJ! I also particularly like the pianos at St Pancras train station, free for anyone to play. It amazes me how much talent there is out there, and being able to hear a performance live is always so great! I love when you can literally feel the music, the bass in your chest, those songs that give you goosebumps, music that really resonates with you.

I love that music is for any and every mood, from when you need a good cry, to when you’re absolutely pumped and feel on top of the world! Music would help me through times where I felt alone and it would sometimes express my emotions – you know, when there’s a song that completely describes how you’re feeling or what you’re going through? Or when a song puts into words what you struggle to? Music helps calm my anxiety and has distracted me when I need a break from what’s going on around me – headphones in, world out! Music can put me in an amazing mood, it can lift me if I’m feeling a bit down,  it can bring back great memories and can make me want to sing and dance around wherever I am (and I will do so where appropriate!)

Music has got me through many hours of work, revision and essays. I know a lot of people who need silence to work, but music motivates me and helps me concentrate (most of the time). I remember my friend once telling me how she got around music being a distraction - she had started listening to songs in a different language so it meant she couldn’t get distracted by singing along to it!

I absolutely love how music brings people together, through the love of a song, band/artist, cause - we recently saw how so many people came together for the benefit concert, to help raise funds for the victims of the Manchester attack and their families. As well as people actually being at the concert, so many people tuned in to watch from home too. Music can connect people across cities, countries and continents, and in a way, it’s like a language we all share.

I just couldn’t imagine a world without music, could you? There are so many reasons to celebrate it today!

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What songs say that I can’t…

It’s more than ‘liking’  a song or favourite band; it’s more than ‘having a sing song’;

When you find a song that says how you are feeling, it opens up emotions that are trapped deep within us.

For me, right now, there are two songs that connect deep within me, both very different in mood and lyrics but both are able to say what I can’t find the right words to.  I play these songs over and over; I cry to them, I scream the lyrics when I am on my own, I hit the air at the words that connect hardest to me and after, I feel much better.

Why?

Because song lyrics are poetry. They speak emotions, they resonate feelings, they help us find words for pain that we can’t express; song lyrics complete us.

Songs tell a story; one that we ‘get’. We all have songs we play at different times depending on our moods  - happy songs we sing to with our mates, angry songs we blare out loudly at home when we are feeling cross and frustrated, sad songs that open up our feelings of pain.

Songs make us feel alive because they are about our story.

Radio 1 are doing a fantastic piece on songs and mental health – getting musicians to tell their journey through poor mental health by relating to the songs they wrote on the dark days. It’s inspiring and comforting to know that those songs were written when that person was feeling like we are – that’s why we can sing with the same feeling they did; because they can put words to our thoughts.

Think about what you are listening to, perhaps write the lyrics to keep near you, maybe send them to a family member or friend so they can understand how you are feeling and what you might be wanting to say – songs are the poetry of our souls: let’s use them to speak out.

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I feel the urge

The piece below was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team. The urge to self-harm is often all consuming and when it comes, it's hard to think of anything else! Next time you feel the urge to self-harm, try slowly reading this outloud, whilst breathing deeply.

 

I am twitchy, full of nervous energy

I can’t sit still, I can’t focus,

I am breathing quickly,

I am wringing my hands.

 

I try to calm myself

I try to take control

The thoughts are coming quickly

Spiralling into my head

My breathing gets faster

 

I must take control

 

Slow

Slow    slow      slow      slow

Slow

I tell myself

 

The battle is done – I make the choice

 

Run on the spot

Clench my fists

Breathe          Breathe          Breathe

Run on the spot

Clench my fists

Breathe         Breathe           Breathe

 

I feel the urge

 

                             Slow                             Slow                                     Slow

 

I match my breathing to the dogs

I bite my hands and wait

 

And wait

 

And wait

 

The tears begin to flow

 

The urge has passed

 

I made the choice

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