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Stories of Hope

Confessions of a 15 Year Self Harm Junky Now 1 Year in Recovery (may trigger, but not graphic)


bulletAuthor:    Maria
bulletAge:        29


Hi This is the first time I've visited this site (in fact it's a longtime since I visited any SI sites) I had a problem with self-harm and Eating disorders for over 16 yrs.  I've been in recovery from the SI for 2yrs and from anorexia for over a year. It doesn't sound very long ago but honestly if you could see me now, and knew me a year ago, and then a year before that, and a year before that........It's really hard to believe I am the same person. 

I've experienced severe trauma since I quit cutting myself and starving and I didn't resort back to either.  I did my best to deal with it. 

Part of my recovery involved separating myself from my self-harm.  Treating my self-harm as "someone-else not me" I think in some ways it was initially harder to let go of the identity of a "self-harmer" than it was to let go of the SI itself.  The problem was that as someone who self-harmed I was very isolated from other people (felt like a freak) so the only people who I related to were other people who self-harmed. In my life a part of me had been violently stolen and destroyed (through trauma) the only thing left was an empty space, and my self-harm (my friend, my enemy). I was at war with myself (psychologically as well as physically).  If anyone tried to stop my self-harm then inwardly I'd feel relieved, and outwardly it would feel like being raped all over again, because my self-harm was all I had.

I wanted to be physically restrained and stopped so that I didn't feel compelled to keep doing this to myself. At the same time if professionals threatened me with sections or contracts, I told them that they would have to grant me leave at some point, and when they did (if I hadn't managed to do so already), I would most certainly kill myself.  (Didn't make things easy for them did I?)

Part of me wanted the restraint and tube-feeding as punishment. I felt that If I could get people who were supposed to care about me into a position where they were inhumanely torturing me through "behavioural" methods (no sunlight, no books, no phone calls, no visits unless you eat etc).  If I could get them to care enough to physically (and legally) intervene to save my life, despite my best efforts to fight them at this - then I would feel that I was worth something, that my life (me) was worth saving. 

I don't know about the wanting them to punish (abuse) me and the same time fight for my life thing - I've kind of only just realised this just now as I began to type these words.  I think I was trying to put my professional carers in the position of becoming my abuser (I think they call it "transference") That by making people who cared about me and others like me in a position where they may be forced to abuse me (e.g. contracts, sections, restraint, loss of "privileges" aka Loss of human rights to human contact and sunlight) that I could get to see guilt in them..... that I could get to see them be sorry, and wanting to protect me......  That they could become the person who should have protected me, but abused me..... that they could then say "We're sorry we hurt you, we only did it because we care too much, we were wrong to treat you this way, but we didn't want you to loose you (to suicide)"  I wanted to hear them say these things because that's what I wanted to hear m!
y abuser say (I never did).  I was attempting to re-create the past.

I know most of you reading this (particularly professionals) will be thinking "Yet another young woman who hurt herself because she was sexually abused"  I just want to add that sexual abuse was only a factor in my self-harm IT WASN'T THE CAUSE. There isn't a "cause" but there are triggers and feelings and biological factors too.  Sexual abuse was just one factor.

I also want to add that if I had waited until I had resolved all the issues regarding my abuse before I "let go" of my self-harm.  Either I would still be doing it, or (more likely) I wouldn't be here.  My self-harm was also a form of self-inflicted trauma and an ADDICTION.  SI released opiates and other stress hormones which were damaging my brain, Keeping me locked in the "emergency phase" of my trauma, and keeping me addicted to psychological as well as physical forms of pain. Now 2yrs since I self-Injured, I'm only just beginning to understand the feelings behind it.  I wasn't able to before, because I was an SI junky. Yes one does have to address the triggers and underlying feelings as well as the symptoms, but neither the symptoms or the underlying feelings can be successfully treated in isolation to each other.  I'm now campaigning for improvements in services which empowers people who self-harm to work towards ways they can be supported to make the choice to "contain" their
self-harm whilst they address the underlying feelings. A complete balance is needed at all times.

I now have a nice flat, gorgeous partner, growing professional career and two gorgeous cats whose innocent faces I only have to look at when I wake up and think of harming myself.  They are so beautiful they make me want to cry. I couldn't hurt myself, because I'd be hurting them and everybody else too.