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Dedicated to self-harm recovery, insight and support.

Dear Reader

The blog post below was written by a lovely lady called Emma, who got in touch with SelfharmUK to share her story about her recovery from bulimia and self-harm.

Dear Reader,

What I am writing here is really a love letter to my younger self, and I hope that it will help you too.  You see, I grew up not knowing how to love myself.  In fact, it felt selfish to do that. I felt, for many, many years, that I was somehow a bad and unlovable person.  I developed a lot of ‘coping strategies’ to keep myself feeling that I could not be hurt by other people.

I don’t know what tactics you are using, but mine were mainly around pretending: pretending to be confident, pretending to be friendly, pretending to be happy, pretending to be transparent and open – and all the time, inside, I hated myself (and many of them), I didn’t trust anyone, I was self-harming, bulimic and generally wishing that I was dead. 

There is so much stigma about mental health, when all it really is – is some sad memories and an imbalance of the chemicals in our brain. Isn’t it weird that society makes it seem more than that? That we feel embarrassed to be sick? Stupid, isn’t it. Well – I’m not embarrassed anymore. I am proud – very, very proud for having the courage to say I was sick, and continuing my journey to get well.

People often think that when we have depression and anxiety or hurt ourselves, we are being selfish – that we are ‘wrapped up’ in ourselves. I often found that people criticised me in that way. And yet I felt that I was living for others. I must have been – because I didn’t love myself enough to be living for me – back then…

You know what? Self-harm is not selfish. It’s self-preservation. The pain in the heart is so strong that sometimes you feel like you want to just smash the world apart, hit people, break things, scream, set the world on fire, destroy your life and that of those around you.  So, instead of doing those things, we turn the pain inwards and cut, scrape, pick, harm our own bodies… or stuff our bellies and throw it up… or refuse to eat… because for a little while we get to be in control, we get to decide - and while we are feeling that physical pain, we get some relief from the torture inside our chemically unbalanced little minds and our sad hearts.

I don’t know your exact circumstances or what you are doing to yourself in order to try to handle those very difficult feelings. But let me tell you something, I know for a fact that you are trying! I know for a fact that, right now, as you read this blog, you are doing your very best to try and get well.  People who want to stay depressed, anxious or unhappy do not surf the internet to find blogs like this one. Because you are looking for advice and help, you are on your way towards health.

Let that be a source of hope for you. I am so proud of you for investing in yourself by reading this blog. We have never met, but I promise you, you are more deeply loved than you can ever imagine. Recovery is not easy, but you can get well – and you have already started your journey of recovery. Keep going! I promise you, you can do this. I know you find it so very hard to believe – but I promise you, you can.

Lots of love,

Emma

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Self Poisoning: Why I Did It

Self-poisoning is back in the news, with reports that more young teenage girls are using it as a form of self-harm than ever before.

We’ve said before that self-poisoning is much more than the assumed suicide attempt. People also use self-poisoning or overdosing as a method of self-harm – how we distinguish between the two is by understanding the intent, and the only way we can do that is by talking to those who are struggling in this way and understanding how they feel and and what they’re going through – not easy when mental health services are constantly being trimmed down.

Self-poisoning is incredibly dangerous; one of the only methods of self-harm that always requires medical attention, and potentially one of the riskiest in terms of endangering life. Even the smallest overdose can do irreversible damage, and the effects of such actions may not be evident straight away, leading some into a false sense of wellness. Self-poisoning kills.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was a teenage self-poisoner and lived to tell the tale. Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what was going on or why it suddenly seemed to be the best thing to be doing. I guess deep down there was an unbearable pain, and a desperate need to be heard. I’m not talking about someone sitting down and having a chat, I mean an urgent longing for someone – anyone – to hear something I had no way of communicating; of understanding The Thing I didn’t have a clue about. I didn’t have the words to express what was going on, and so it began to leak out through my behaviours instead.

Let’s be clear about something, though – taking an overdose is HORRID. Don’t ever for one second think anyone gets any pleasure from it, and the treatment isn’t exactly a walk in the park either – I’ve been made to drink charcoal, have had countless blood tests, and yes, I’m pretty familiar with what stomach pumping involves. Nothing before or since has made me feel as wretched as having my stomach washed out – it hurts, it’s undignified and you invariably end up with your hair matted in vomit. It’s not what some chooses if they think they’re being funny or just want a bit of attention; it’s seriously unpleasant.

But – it does get you in the system. People struggling with self-harm want to be heard and they long for a life of freedom, but getting the help can feel impossible at times. Too many people have now been assessed only on the extent of their wounds, and have left GP surgeries or A&E Departments with an indirect message of ‘you don’t cut deeply enough’ or ‘you’re not ill enough’ to qualify for treatment. This means we have a generation of people self-harming, but believing they’re not ‘good enough’ at being in pain or suffering in order to be taken seriously. It might not be what the intended message is, but it’s what’s being heard.

We need the tide to turn, we need people to be able to go to hospital saying they struggling with the thought of self-poisoning rather than turn up only when they have a stomach full of tablets or bleach or something else utterly destroying their health. We need access to mental health services to be about what someone is feeling rather than what they’re doing, and we need to know that the support will be given, that it’s ok to hope of a life free from harm.

Self-poisoning kills, and every time someone does it we risk losing another life. Don’t let it be you.

BeFree|LiveFree

@FreedomFromHarm | @RachelWelch

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