Steve

Posted on 15 September 2014,   0 Comments

I can’t remember exactly when it started – I think I was about 15 or 16. It started with me punching my legs. It then moved to sharp objects on my lower arms and then – at its worst – razor blades on my upper arms. I’m 29 now and I still have the scars.

It carried on until I was about 19 or 20, well into my uni days (even though I was much happier at uni than I was at school). No one around me understood what I was going through, mainly because no one I knew – other than a few long-distance Internet friends – was doing it.

It got worse when I was 16-17. I had two groups of friends but fell out with both of them at around the same time. When one group found out, they used to ridicule me for it. They used to jokingly punch themselves. One guy even jokingly gave me a butter-knife to cut myself with. Suffice to say that I don’t see them or hang out with them much anymore. I also had an abusive ex, someone who I was once crazy about. We had an ugly break-up and in order to get revenge, she got into an Internet chat with my friends, asked them to tell her everything they didn’t like about me, compiled a list and then gave it to me to read – it was like that Friends episode where Rachel gets a list of everything wrong with her. It really hurt me and affected me massively.

I love my parents and have an incredible relationship with them these days (I’m very fortunate in that regard), but when they found out, they just didn’t know how to react. They sent me to see a counsellor, whose diagnosis was that I was simply mimicking an Internet friend, which was ridiculous and made the problem worse – the counsellor, ironically, made me feel even more like a freak.

As I said above, it went on until I was 19 or 20, although it occurred less frequently at that age compared to when I was 16-18. However since then I’ve rarely thought about it. I think a few things contributed to the recovery:

  • I made some great friends at uni and used to help out with the live music society. It was not only a welcome distraction but something that I was extremely passionate about. I was sad to hear that it’d disbanded about 1-2 years after I’d graduated, as we achieved so much with it.
  • I used to write songs and perform at open mic nights and gigs as a solo-acoustic singer-songwriter. I also played bass in a couple of bands over the years: one rock, one folk, one acoustic. Again, I was contributing to something worthwhile that I enjoyed.
  • This is going to sound cheesy, but I also met my future wife when I was 20. She found out about my past (the scars were a bit of a giveaway!) but she was so understanding about it. I think part of me stopping self-harming was simply out of respect for her – it wouldn’t have felt right to carry on doing it when I could talk to her about any problems that I had.

Nowadays I am self-employed in a line of work that I really enjoy and I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when I’m stressed, scared and anxious. I may not think of self-harm, but sometimes I still struggle and feel like I’m in a bad place…

As a short-term fix, I find Whose Line Is It Anyway? videos on YouTube help – I’m a self-diagnosed HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), so when things upset/affect me, I dwell on them for ages, but a quick 5-minute burst of WLIIA? and I’ll be laughing like an idiot with a big grin on my face.

I used to use video games as a distraction, but I found that 50% of my mind would be playing the game, while the other 50% would still be dwelling on whatever’s upsetting me at the time. These days I blog a lot, especially in my industry (SEO – Search Engine Optimisation), which is a 100% distraction. I don’t see it as a bore or a chore, but as a hobby – this may sound sad but when I have an idea for a post, I’ll get excited about writing it, publishing it and seeing people’s reaction to it, especially if it’s something that no one’s written about before.

I love the idea of HATW because when I was a teen, it felt like there was absolutely no one that I could talk to about it. Even calling the Samaritans didn’t seem right at the time, even though that’s exactly what they’re there for. It’s great that there’s an organisation out there especially for the self-harming side of things.

Just please do me one favour and remember this:

You’re not alone. You’re never alone.

There are people out there who have been-there-and-done-it before, gotten through it and would be more than happy to talk to you about it and help you through it too – myself included.

– Steve

Things to take from Steve’s story:

  • Getting involved with a group/society can be a good distraction, giving you something to focus on, and a chance to meet people with a common interest.
  • Try finding something creative like making music as a way of working through your feelings.
  • You might decide to stop self-harming because you’ve got someone else that you can talk to about whatever you’re going through, but really, it’s only you who can decide to stop for yourself.
  • Counselling may not be for everyone, if you do go see a counsellor, just be totally honest and open with them – they’re there to listen, but take it one step at a time.
  • Watching something funny, or even just downright silly, might be an awesome short-term distraction, and before you know it, you’ll catch yourself laughing and smiling.
  • Find something that interests and excites you (yes, that could even be related to work), and get stuck into it, by writing blogs or joining forums/communities of likeminded people.

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