Friday, 1 March 2013

Self Injury Awareness Day

image from google images
Today, 1st March is SIAD - Self Injury Awareness Day (self harming)
I feel that like depression and many mental illnesses, self harming really isn't understood or talked about enough, so I thought I would be brave and share my story with you.
Only my mum, dean and a couple of close friends know that I struggle with self harming.
I think that for me it started when I was back in Secondary school, year 8 (I would have been about 12).
I have always been shy and an 'oddball' (never one of those pretty, popular girls!) and making friends was something that I found really hard to do. By the end of year 7, I was relieved to have a group of close friends in my tutor group, one of whom I had been friends with since I was about 5! That changed very quickly the following year, when one of the girls didn't like it when I chose to be different from the rest of them. Looking back it's now clear that she was the 'trend setter / leader' of our little group, as whatever she liked, we all liked. This was all fine until crime of all crimes, I didn't like her latest obsession - Take That! (funnily enough, now that they have re-formed, I quite like their newer music!! heehee!) Anyway, it seems such a stupid thing to start bullying someone about, but that's how it began! It was all they talked about and I got pretty bored of it - I was more into alternative music, heavily influenced by my older brother ; ) I also felt that it was really childish and just didn't understand why they went round talking non-stop Take That - they even started mimicking words like 'ickle' one of the band members said instead of 'little'. I became the outsider, and started to feel really miserable and alone - if they saw any of this, it didn't seem to worry them, or encourage any of them to try and include me more by varying the subject ; ) What made it worse was that the 'leader' (I'll call her 'S') didn't seem to like the fact that I refused to be a little sheep and follow her in this latest craze. She turned really nasty and started to pick on me terribly. My other friends just stood by and watched. Being at school became unbearable, she was in all my lessons, only at break times could I escape from her. I don't know how long it went on for, but I got to the stage where I didn't want to go to school any more. I was miserable.
Outside of school was fine though, I was always busy with different clubs every night. On Mondays, I was a helper at a youth club for Primary aged kids and had some really good friends, who were all adult helpers. I was always treated as an adult, and found it easy to get on with all of them. Of all of them, Steve was my good friend and I talked to him loads about my horrible situation.
Night times became bad as well, as I would dwell on everything. I started to attack my skin to ease the pain I felt inside. I would use my fingernails and pick at the skin on my breasts, often until I bled. I would then cry myself to sleep.
My mum knew something was wrong, but it took ages before I told her I was being bullied. She went and talked to my form tutors, who couldn't believe it. You see S was the 'perfect' person, everyone thought she was so lovely - she was quiet, hard working and looking at her, you wouldn't think she could bully someone either! However, they spoke to her and she left me alone. My mum explained (and my tutors agreed), that I had 'outgrown' my friends. It actually made sense, as I found them really juvenile and could relate better to my adult friends at youth club. I think I've always been 'old' for my age! I had the big school girl crushes at Primary school (I also started my period aged 10, which could account for a lot too! ; ) )
Eventually, I made some new friends and only had to ignore my old friends during lessons, which was a lot better. The ironic thing is that eventually, the original group of friends merged with my new friends one by one - they must have decided that they wanted to be different too!! Things were not the same as before, it wasn't mentioned, but I never forgot what they did to me.
The skin picking became a nightly ritual, but I didn't tell anyone about it. If times got more stressful, I did it even more. I would start picking at the top of my left arm as well. It became a kind of release, which I needed to escape the emotional scars S had left, that I couldn't deal with.
I think no one realised, as I only did it at night time in my room, and I only picked places that no one would see. My mum noticed eventually and used to try and tell me not to do it, but I couldn't stop. My now husband was the same.
A couple of years ago, after a really bad patch with my depression, I decided that as I was getting therapy, I would try and address my self harming. I told the doctor and showed him my scarred breasts. I had never, ever shown anyone but mum and dean (still haven't!) so it was a huge deal. He thought that my self harming was dermatitis artefacta (I had to look it up!) He explained that as I have been doing it for so long, I infect the skin where I picked and then hate what I see, so do it again and again - thus creating a vicious circle.  For a while I tried to stop, but I couldn't. Each time my babies were born I would try again as I was breast feeding, but the minute they went to bottles, I couldn't stop myself from starting again.
So now, I still have this need to pick at my skin at the end of every day. If I get really upset, or stressed, I do it even more. I hate the scars I have caused and the fact that it's become routine.
Now, you might wonder why I decided to share this? Well, I am no longer ashamed to talk about the fact that I have severe depression, so I figured that this was the next step. Having this SIA day to make others more aware and less judgemental, also spurred me onto actually writing about my experience.
I hope that some people will learn not to be so judgemental about people who self harm. We don't all do it for attention - it took me about 12 years before I could admit I had a problem, and tried to get help from my doctor! The only other people who know is my best friend and a friend with the same problem.

If anyone else out there suffers with SI, please know I feel your pain and am sending you loads of hugs, you're not alone xxx

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