Copyright, Tobey

I was about 13 or 14 when I first self injured. I’d had a huge argument with my mum’s boyfriend and as usual he’d resorted to his usual method of putting me in my place (or at least trying to) — violence. I locked myself in my bedroom — a place I seemed to spend most of my life when I lived with my mum because it was safe — and got into bed. I didn’t cry, I never did. But, I was angry, frustrated, hurt and full of a whole load of other emotions too complicated to spend time describing them here. Without even realising it I started to scratch at the upper end of my forearm with a fair amount of ferocity. Sometime later — I’m not sure exactly how long — I realised what I’d done to myself. I’d scratched away a huge patch of skin leaving behind something resembling a large friction burn. It hurt but it felt good. After that, whenever I felt angry, upset or depressed, I’d harm myself. I’d burn myself with lighters or with knife blades I’d heated up in a candle flame. I’d scratch chunks of skin out of my arms with my fingernails and pointy objects like metal nail files or even the catch on my watch.

After a while it got to such a point that I didn’t have to feel depressed or upset to harm myself because it felt good any time, even in the toilets during my lunchbreak at work. I kept things well covered, physically and emotionally. I’d wear longsleeved tops to cover what I’d done to myself. If anyone did happen to see my arms I’d make excuses and try to avoid the issue as best I could. I also put on a front. With other people I was happy, bright and breezy. No one knew of my depresseion apart from my mum, and that was only because I was diagnosed with having depression at such an early age — around 7 or 8 from what I remember — and I even managed to hide my self harm from her. If she’d found out, god knows what it would have done to her, she had enough problems of her own for me to burden her with mine as well. So, I coped, on my own. At the time I thought I was doing a pretty good job of coping, looking back on things now I obviously wasn’t, otherwise I wouldn’t have self injured as much as I did.

Up until I was about 17 I’d never cut myself. Then, one day, the first thing I got hold of was a pair of kitchen scissors. The blades cut into my skin so much easier than fingernails or nail files and it felt just as good. I rarely cut too deep, just enough to cause the right amount of pain and draw blood but not enough to leave serious scars. I was ashamed of what I was doing to myself and the last thing I wanted was to be left with something for the rest of my life that reminded me and other people of it all. Luckiy I don’t scar all that easily so it wasn’t too much of a problem.

I carried on with the self harm and then a year or two later, a few months after my 19th birthday things all got a little too much. I’d been living with depression as far back as I could remember, caused by one bad event in my life and made worse by others along the way. Why was my life so bad? Why did people hate me so much and want to hurt me so badly? Why did the people I love always leave me? I was desparate, I didn’t want to live my life like that anymore, so I took and overdose. Immediately I began thinking, all I could think about was my mum. If she’d have reacted badly to my self harm then what would finding me dead on my own bedroom floor do to her? It would have destroyed her, she’d gone through too much in her life already, lost too many people. I couldn’t do that to her, I loved her too much, so I panicked and told her what I’d done.

A day or two afterwards, once I’d come back from the hospital, I started to self harm again. After everything that had happened that was one thing I refused to tell my mum about. This time I cut my thighs, they were easier to cover up and it was less likely that people would touch them and so I wouldn’t give the game away by wincing in pain every time someone did so.

Not long after that I met my current boyfriend and we fell in love almost immediately. For the first time in my life I had someone who would listen to everything I had to say without judging me or putting me down. I told him about my self harm and one day as I was getting changed he saw some recent cuts in my leg. He told me it hurt him to see me like that, to think that I could do that to myself. He wasn’t scared or freaked out — like so many people are — because he did understand. He just couldn’t stand to see that someone he loved so much was doing something like that to themselves.

We discussed my problem at some length, he gave me an ultimatum, he wanted me to promise him I would never harm myself again. He wouldn’t leave me if I did but he would have felt let down and disappointed. I loved him so much I didn’t want to let him down so I stopped. It was hard, like a smoker trying to quit or a chocoholic going without a candy bar, but I did it. The temptation to cut myself was there, especially when I was feeling down, but I beat it. I’m 21 now and haven’t self harmed in over a year and a half. I can’t say I haven’t been tempted but I haven’t given in. I have several piercings and tattoos, I find that they’re almost a controlled way of feeling a certain amount of pain, and the adrenaline produced by it, without having to harm myself. It works for me and piercings and tattoos don’t look half as ugly as ladders of scars up my arms and thighs.

I’ve been with my boyfriend for 2 years now and I thank god every day that I met him, without him I might not be here.


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