Sarah D

My Lifetime of Self Harm, Life After Self Harm.

Copyright, Sarah D

I think it started when I was about seven. I’m not sure how it came about but it started with me pulling out my eyelashes. When I was about eight or nine, I had no eyelashes and had moved on to pulling out hair from my head. By the time I was in grade 5 I had a noticeable bald patch on the crown of my head. My mum noticed one day when she was doing my hair. She was angry, and that’s all I can remember of her reaction. I never really understood why I was doing it. It was like a build up of tension in an area, the feeling was like a mixture between a dull ache, an itch, and just something annoying. When I pulled out the hair, the immediate feeling wasn’t pain, it felt good, and the tension went away. But like any addiction, the more you do it, the more often you have to do it.

I now know that this is psychological anxiety disorder called trichotillomania?. Not many psychologists or psychiatrists know about it from what I hear but knowledge about the disorder is gradually becoming more widespread.

I managed to get it under control over grade 7 and 8. I changed schools then and was into the swing of high school, pretty much just a normal student. Then what happened is what has turned my life upside down ever since.

I had only just turned fourteen. My fifteen year old friend and her thirty year old boyfriend convinced me to “wag” school to go shopping with them. But they took me to their house, and restrained me on the bed whilst trying to force me into a threesome. I kept saying no but they really insisted. They touched me and took my top off and did things I don’t like to remember — they sexually assaulted me. After that moment I forced everything that had happened to the back of my mind.

Then the hair pulling returned. Not just at the crown of my head but in other places as well. Then I started failing classes, and I had always been a good student. By the middle of grade 10 I “wagged” half of all my classes, I spent the time hiding in the bathrooms. I couldn’t concentrate in class, especially maths. My teacher hated me, or at least disliked me. I ended up failing really badly. I didn’t sleep well. I couldn’t get to sleep, I couldn’t stay asleep, and I woke up very early. Sometimes I didn’t sleep at all. My appetite increased, I began eating for comfort and gained weight. I was unhappy all the time, had no motivation to do anything. I stopped all sports I was involved in, and I had always been very athletic. I was so depressed and angry, at myself, and at everyone. Then one day I just decided to cut myself.

Well you know what happens next, it is the same as everyone’s experience with cutting. It brings relief and it is addictive. I began with cutting my thighs. Pretty soon I had over twenty cuts on each leg at a time. I’m pretty hazy about how things progressed from there, but I ended up attempting suicide by overdosing on over fifty paracetamol? and Aspirin? tablets. I was horribly sick for the next 3 days. I told my parents I probably had food poisoning, but they were very suspicious.

When I got back to school I told the guidance counsellor, whom I had been seeing for a few weeks previous to that time. We initially thought I had an eating disorder because my appetite changes made stop eating very much for a while. The counsellor immediately rang my parents and told them to take me to a hospital psychiatric ward.

I spent two weeks in the unit, was put on antidepressants? and diagnosed with depression? and anxiety?. After it was over I went back to school and tried to resume a normal life. I had to see a social worker every week. But the depression continued and the cutting continued and had moved to my wrists.

Three months after the first hospitalisation I overdosed again on my medication and was taken back to hospital. I spent four weeks there this time, my medication was changed and I was also put on sleeping pills.

I was alright for a while after that. But I started cutting again and it was a lot worse than before. I had slashes all over my wrists and stomach and chest and legs. I also developed an eating disorder and very quickly became anorexic. I was verging on suicide again. This was 6 months after the previous hospital visit. By this time I was also seeing a private psychiatrist, and we both knew it was best that I went back to hospital.

They increased my medication dosage, and changed my sleeping pills which I had formed a dependency on, over to antipsychotics? which helped with the anxiety and insomnia. I had to be fed through a tube that went up my nose and into my stomach, because I just wouldn’t eat. I attempted suicide three times while I was in the unit and had to monitored constantly. I was put under an ITO which meant I could not leave the unit of my own will, or my family’s. I was in there for five weeks.

When I got out I finally began the long path of stopping the cutting, and now have not cut myself in over six months. However my depression was easily triggered and I overdosed again on my tranquilizers. I was hospitalised immediately, had to go on a drip for a few days and was completely knocked out for the first thirty-six hours. I stayed in the psychiatric ward for a week then went home.

My depression is slowly getting better, mainly through my medication and seeing my psychiatrist regularly. My eating disorder is slowly getting under control. I still pull out my hair, but less frequently than I used to. I find myself doing it when I am stressed, although it seems to happen without me consciously realising it.

After all my ordeals, my family know everything I have been through, and they love me and support me and help me through hard times. My boyfriend of eighteen months has been with me through the worst of everything, he is my best friend and knows me almost better than I know myself. Everyday is a struggle. When I get stressed or upset I still want to cut myself, I still pull out my hair, and I still get depressed but somehow I deal with it. I graduated high school, which I wanted to do more than anything, even when my parents, friends, and doctors said I should quit.

I’m now studying Psychology at university, which I love doing. I have a keen interest in psychology and eventually want to work in promoting mental health issues. Because every time someone became aware of the things I’d done and what I’d been through, they had no idea what it was like. I was accused millions of times of being an attention seeker, and was generally an outcast from my peers. Only my close friends stuck by me, and they still didn’t understand it.

A lot of people go through experiences like these. I want to give you the message that there is life after self harm, and it is a happy life. Whether you have to travel the long path like I did, or whether you have such strength and good friends to help you through it before things get too drastic. If you are afraid of your ability to help yourself, ask someone to help you. Ask a friend you trust or find a counsellor who doesn’t know you at all. But always know you aren’t alone and there is always help. These are life changing experiences and they change us for the better. I am thankful of my experience because it has made me stronger and more determined to overcome this. It has made me who I am and I wouldn’t change it.


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