Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicidal ideations, self harm.
I couldn’t talk about this topic without putting a trigger warning because I do share my own experiences in here but I promise you reading this will do more good than it will bad. I hope that by speaking about this you realise that you are not alone and you realise that there is hope even if you can’t see or feel it.
I love you.
What was the moment that you first felt you had to take your pain out on your body?
I’ve always been the kind of person who was in my head in a lot. When I was younger (I’d say from the age of 8) I was really social and bubbly and extroverted but I also spent a bunch of time in my room, thinking about everything and feeling overwhelmingly sad for reasons I didn’t understand. I have this distinct memory of being in my bedroom and looking out my window (it had bars) and feeling like I was trapped. And my thinking process was kind of like I’m trapped in my room, in my complex in this country, on this earth, inside the universe. I can’t get out
I had a little bench in my room and I’d sit there looking out my window just thinking that over and over again. And I was 9 when I first stumbled upon the phrase depression, I was reading The Sisterhood of The Travelling Pants at the time and I was like ‘that’s it, that’s the word for how I feel.’ and I went on Google and looked up the symptoms and looking at the symptoms for me was the same as you checking off every item on a to-do list.
And I told my brother, and he thought I was being dramatic. I totally don’t blame him for this at all, I did drama every day of the week whether it was at school or practicing in my bedroom, I had a dramatic flair and I had a habit of diagnosing myself off the internet (turns out I did not have cancer the one time I had a headache). And I never, not once until I was about 12 did I give any signs that I was depressed. I was happy in front of people, I smiled, I laughed, I danced, I sang and watched movies and played dress-up. So there was no way he, or anyone other than myself would have known.
I was sad for a very long time before the pain became increasingly worse. The first time I self harmed I was 12, and I had a friend at the time (we’d met online) who self harmed too and at first I was the one trying my best to be there for her and support her and we’d talk everyday after school (we both lived in Joburg, and had mutual friends) and we’d bond over our love of Hayley Kiyoko and Halsey.
And then over that period I just started to feel more depressed, worse than I ever had before. I cannot describe it in any other way than my soul hurt, picture yourself being stabbed and you can feel the pain but it’s kind of numbed and dull, and that’s a fraction of how I felt. Everything was heavy, I cried a lot, didn’t want to get out bed, wasn’t hungry or was overeating, could barely bring myself to even brush my teeth, fought with my mum nearly every day. And then one day I couldn’t feel anything. And a part of me was scared, because when you are that young or any age for that matter there are few things worse than being numb. You don’t care about yourself, you don’t care about people, you don’t care about the world.
And so the first time I cut myself I did it to feel something.
Times after that were either to feel or to get rid of an urge.
And if you’re wondering what urges are like, from a poem I wrote “A hot fiery, sense consuming urge to rip myself to shreds because I didn’t want to breathe.”
What is the first step in the road to recovery?
I will be the first person to admit that I don’t talk about recovery often because I still have a lot of days where I feel like recovery isn’t an option for me and I’m not going to go into much detail because I am still figuring this out.
But I will say the first step, for me at least, was admitting and understanding that the way I was and was feeling and what I was doing to myself physically, emotionally and mentally wasn’t okay.
Step two, this wasn’t the order in which I did it but the order in which I wish I had, was realising that recovery doesn’t happen overnight. You might relapse, more than once (I have), medication won’t suddenly fix your problems nor will rehab, recovery looks different to everyone and recovery doesn’t just start outwards but inwards as well. Recovery is not linear there are high and lows and in-betweens, and you are allowed to feel hopeless and miserable and hate everything about yourself BUT YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO STAY THAT WAY. Don’t you dare stay that way.
The rest of the journey is different for everyone. Coping tips help. Therapy helps. Youtube helps. The right people help. Medication helps.
Do you hide your scars?
It depends. Fresh cuts are never seen by anyone until they are healed because that’s potentially triggering. But the scars on my arms I don’t hide and I still wear shorts despite my heavily scarred thigh. And at the end of the day whether or not you show your scars is up to you, but they are nothing to be ashamed of. Everybody copes differently and at the end of the day that is how you coped and nobody has any right to make you feel bad about that, a big F*UCK YOU to anybody who makes you feel anything less beautiful because of your scars.
There are ways of hiding your scars and still wearing short sleeves and shorts, and at some point maybe I’ll write a list that I hope you use for the right reasons because I understand what it’s like to have people judge you and have to listen to comments about your trauma like it’s the next bit of celebrity gossip (which is wrong btw).
Hide them if you want, but please get help. If not for yourself, then for me, the girl on the internet writing this who has been there and continues to go there but is trying really hard not to.
You are an incredible being, you don’t deserve to hate yourself, and I will love you until you are ready to love yourself and continue to do so after.
I write for you, nobody else.
What advice would you give someone in the same mental state you were in when you began to self harm?
Talk to someone even if it’s not your parents.My friends were amazing to me and they supported me when I couldn’t support myself but if that isn’t an option for you, there are resources. My DMs and email are always open. I promise you I will not think you’re a nuisance, or a bother or irritating or any of the other irrational things your mind is telling you right now. I have a disorder that causes my mood to change so frequently I could be at an ultimate low and wouldn’t message anyone because I’d be manic pretty soon, and please DON’T DO WHAT I DO. It’ll pass yes, but in that moment when you feel low, I don’t want you to scroll through your contact list and feel like you have nobody to call or message.
I can tell you the number of times a friend has told me they were sad/ depressed/ considering self harm/suicide/ having an urge/ anxious/confused and I’ve turned them away:
And I can guarantee that number will stay at zero for as long as I am breathing.
Find people to support you, even if it’s people who don’t know you. I watched so much Youtube back then and even now I have a folder called for the bad days full of videos, I watched Dodie, Jenna Alexis, Zannah, Isabel. Find people who make you feel like you’re not alone, make you smile (even if you’re not ready to get out of bed yet).
Start a blog. Walk around barefoot. Draw. Rip paper to shreds. Organise your books according to colour.
DON’T WATCH ANYTHING TRIGGERING ON PURPOSE. Stay the hell away from searching self harm accounts, watching videos of people talking about stays in psych wards (if you think it’ll trigger you), showing self harm, anything that could trigger you needs to be kept very far away from you.
I used to watch those because a part of me enjoyed feeling sick, feeling bad, feeling like the trash of the planet, a part of me couldn’t imagine a day where I didn’t want to die and so I’d watch those on purpose IT DOESN’T HELP.
I know you don’t want to feel alone, I know you want to feel understood, but there are ways that aren’t going to hurt you emotionally and mentally.
What support should be provided for vulnerable young people?
- Therapy needs to be made more affordable and more accessible and so does medication
- Mental health needs to be talked at in school(NOT JUST ONCE A YEAR) and at home
- We need to do more to listen and support instead of judging
- Encourage people to talk about their feelings, say no to toxic masculinity, say no to the idea of perfection
- We need to stop making people feel more broken than they already feel.
What should you do if a friend is self-harming?
I’d say research what self harm is and why people self harm, try to understand why people self harm and then taking what you’ve learnt speak to your friend and ask them what’s going on. It’s not always going to be this big event that caused them to feel this way. Listen, try to understand, support them in the best way you know how and I don’t mean smother them with advice or force them to go out.
Be there for them. Show them the love they can’t give themselves at the moment. Don’t be judgmental, don’t make them feel guilty, don’t give them ultimatums or expect them to go into recovery overnight.
And I’m going to be 100% honest with you, sometimes telling an adult or their parents does more bad than good and other times telling them does more good than bad. And it differs in every situation, so really it’s up to you to decide but whatever your choice is you need to try your best to make sure that your friend is going to get the support they need.
If you have any more questions leave them in the comments, it’s kind of hard to trigger me so don’t worry about asking anything personal.