Thursday, 6 February 2014

Time to Talk - Self Harm Recovery

Inspired by people such as Lyzi and Megan I decided to take part in Time To Change, who seek to end the discrimination against mental health by sparking up a million conversations about mental health.  Today seems like a good day to finally share this with you.  This post has been sat in my Drafts section for months and it took a long time to work up the courage to press publish, my heart was pounding whilst I wrote this but now is the time to share this with you.

Self harm affects 1 in 12 young people and I'm one of those people.  I struggled with self harm on off for about 6 years and for two years now I have been self harm free.  This is a massive achievement for me.  I was always ashamed to talk about this part of my life, I didn't know how to even start.  But I'm 22 years old now, I am happy and confident in my own skin and if I don't speak out who will? Someone has to take the first step and if putting my story out there helps someone else then I can sleep better at night.

My self harm never felt like a problem because of the stigma and stereotype attached to it.  Self harm is always made out to affect people who have struggled with massive losses in their life and a traumatic upbringing.  My life has never been a sob story.  My parents have been happily married for 25 years, my dad worked himself to the bone to get a good job and provide for his family and I had the opportunity to receive a great education in a boarding school.  But the grass is always greener on the other side.  

From about the age of 12 I struggled massively with identity and crippling self esteem issues.  I was picked on for being German by an older boy in secondary school.  It seems so trivial and insignificant but having grown up away from my home country meant I felt very displaced already, and so when someone attacked the only thing I could really identify with it caused massive problems.  I felt ashamed and always had a massive problem from then on identifying with being German.  People underestimate the importance of national identity but it's something you don't notice until it's gone.  I hated myself and took out all those emotions on myself because I didn't know what else to do with them.  The environment in boarding school made things even more intense for me.  I never felt pretty enough, clever enough, funny enough, popular enough and still suffered from massive confidence issues.  What made it worse was that I had lovely and supportive friends around me who were there for me, but I still felt miserable and couldn't communicate my issues across.  Once self harm has it's claws in you it's almost impossible to shake it off.

There were long periods where I wasn't self harming and I thought I was doing okay, but the issues and self hatred never went away no matter how hard I tried to pretend they didn't exist.  It started causing huge problems with my family because they didn't know how to approach my self harm and how to talk to me.  Self harm doesn't just affect an individual but a whole host of people that care for you.  It wasn't until I was in my second year at university that I decided enough was enough.  I was fed up of hating myself and spending energy on something that was so negative in my life.  I finally decided to go and see a therapist and it was the best decision I ever made.  There is no shame in seeking help, it doesn't make you look weak.  My therapist was my rock and helped me through some hard times.  We talked and talked and finally touched on the issues that were at the root of the problem.  What I learnt was that self harm was merely a symptom of something bigger.  I got to speak to her for months and months and we finally got to the root of the issues.  I've had to address and deal with those problems myself, they didn't go away overnight and some will probably stick with me for the rest of my life but I need to keep my head up.  I'm not perfect but I can try and be the best version of myself possible.

I am not defined by my self harm, coming out the other end and fighting my demons defines me.  Now I’m happy.  I’m not happy all the time but that’s okay, that wouldn’t be normal.  A lot of the scars have faded and I’ll be sad to see them go because they remind me that I made it through.  I’m coming to terms with my self hatred.  It’s not self hatred anymore, it’s more slight dislike but: I’m taking a pro active approach.  I’m spending time around good people, going for walks and not buying magazines with photoshopped constantly dieting celebrities on the front.  I'm learning to love myself a little more every day and trying to be kinder to myself.  I'm doing the best that I can.

I really can only beg that people who suffer from self harm go get help.  It’s a long and tough road but you’ve got to learn to love yourself and come to terms with yourself.  Self hatred destroys the soul, and life is far too beautiful to be hurting.  The road to recovery is long but it’s worth it.  Getting help was the best thing I ever did and it's made me the person that I am now, someone I can be proud of.

Please visit Time to Change and do your bit to end mental health discrimination.  If you know or think someone you know is suffering then speak to them, ask them how they really feel and be there for them.  I'f you'd like to speak to me I'm only a tweet or an email away.

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  1. This is so brave. Thank you for sharing your story. I posted my own story today. Here's the link if you want to read it


  2. I'm so pleased you felt brave enough to post this, Nina. Your story is so touching, and I can relate to a lot of it. You've explained self harm so well, I can imagine that people reading this who have been affected will feel as empowered as I do reading it. I think it'll also help loved ones of people who self harm, who don't know how to approach the subject. Such a honest and beautiful post, thank you <3

  3. First off, congratulations on your two years self harm free! It's a massive achievement and I'm glad you feel proud of yourself for that.
    Your story speaks to me, as another mental health sufferer (let's call us survivors, that's more positive!) and I'm glad I read it. I'm glad you were able to find your place in the world and things are so much better now.

    Like you say, you are doing the best you can. That's all we can do, all of us.

    ~ K

  4. What a brave post! I pray that those who need to read this will :) P.S. I love your blog!

  5. this was such a brave post and what you said about self harm affecting not only you but everyone who cares about you is so so true. I shared a little of my story today too and i can relate to a lot of what you've spoken about so if you ever want to chat then just end me a message :) and of course two years SH free is an amazing achievement so congrats! x

  6. I came to your blog through Being Little and just wanted to say well done, and thank you, for sharing your story. I don't usually comment on things like this, but really wanted to say I think it's a brave and wonderful thing of you to do. You've inspired me to think about talking about my own experiences even if just with my own friends and family, as that's something I've always found difficult. I hope that people reading this find it as encouraging and empowering as I did! I'm glad things are better for you now and hope they stay that way :) x

  7. I'm glad you bring this up. It's really brave of you! Self-harm was something I was familiar with since the age of 13. And I could never really explain why did I do such things, the instinct, the impulse to do it... Therapy might have helped me during my teenage years and I don't mutilate myself anymore, however, I keep on being destructive, to myself and to other agents. Shoplifting, drinking and benzo abuse were some things that sort of replaced my former urge to attack my own skin... Sorry if I sound nonsense. Thank you so much for sharing your story! This post is really special and you really help your readers to deal with it properly xx

  8. Thank you for sharing your story - this is such an honest post and it's really inspired me, so thank you.


  9. This article really touched me as I can identify with a lot of the things you talk about.
    Recently I've begun to admit to myself that maybe I do have some mental health issues and that feeling sad, desperately alone and lost is not the norm and is not ok.
    These words really inspired me: 'I'm not perfect but I can try and be the best version of myself possible.'
    Thank you for encouraging people with your story.

  10. Well done for being able to post this - and for not self harming for the past two years! I think it's great how many people really opened up yesterday for this xx

    D Is For...

  11. Thanks for sharing, it couldn't have been easy at all. People think they're alone when in reality many of us have similar stories, if only more people spoke out about it! xx

  12. It was really brave of you to share this, Nina! I'm sure this has helped a lot of people who can identify with your story :)

  13. Wow wow wow. This post is incredible. This might sound weird but when I go onto blogs I never think that I'd be able to read a post with such strength and boldness. You're incredible for writing this andI'm so happy for you that you've overcome this and that you're happy!! A lot of love and hugs your way x
    Love, the Afropolitan

  14. Thank you so very much for this, Nina. The belief that, coming from a perfectly normal home life leaves you with no reason to have any issues really resounds with me, as this is something I've battled against, too. Two years is absolutely amazing (and I know it's been longer, I hope it's okay I'm commenting on such an old post!). So thank you for your honesty, and I wish you the absolute best!


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