Sunday, 24 July 2016

Five

TW: self harm
"I am thankful for my struggle because without it, I wouldn't have stumbled upon my strength." - Alexandra Elle

Half of a decade. 5 years.  260 weeks. 1,825 days. 2.3 million minutes.

Five has been a reoccurring number in my life this year. I turned 25 and this year marks my fifth year of being self harm free. I've talked about my self harm extensively on my blog (see here and here) Plus I even made a video about it.  See here.

For my fifth year anniversary things went a little bit differently.

To start off this special year I did something I didn't think I'd ever do. I spoke with a national newspaper about my self harm. It went online, it went into the physical newspaper. It was overwhelming. When I went to speak with the reporter it was the first time I'd ever spoken with someone about my self harm who wasn't a family member, a boyfriend, friend or my therapist. Before this article came out I could count the number of people who I had actually spoken about this issue of mine on two hands.

Once the article came out it really blew up. I had people text me that I hadn't spoken to in years, the post got shared, liked and talked about. The messages of support and love continued for days. It was as if the biggest weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Emails from the parents of my school friends poured in, sharing that their own children struggled with mental health. A school friend that I had shared a room with for one year and counted as one of my closest friends, messaged me and said that whilst we'd been roommates she'd been visiting a therapist which I had no idea about.

It was so heartwarming and at the same time heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking that girls I lived with and shared a part of my life with struggled in silence. And I didn't have a clue. It just shows how isolating suffering with mental health can be.

When the article came out, it came out suddenly and without much warning. To my shame I didn't have time to warn my parents, who I worried would try and talk me out of speaking with the reporter. When the article came out it was very difficult for my mum. Once I completed my therapy for her it felt like that chapter of my life was closed. When they read the article, my dad who paid the therapy bills but had never ever spoken with me about it before, called me and said "You've got to see this through now".

Mum and I have spoken at length since the article. She understands now that even though I'd been in therapy, the chapter of my life that was marred with self harm was never 'closed' or over for me. She admitted that she would have tried to talk me out of doing the article. But now she's proud that I did it. Only now, five years later do I realise how hard my self harm was for my mother and how alone she must have felt with it. She was trying to hold our family unit together and be the rock for all of us. She struggled as well. That still breaks my heart.

Now that I've shared the most secret and darkest part of myself to the world it truly feels like that chapter of my life is over. I have nothing to hide any longer. I have nothing to be ashamed of any more.

Something about this anniversary feels more important and I'm a little more melancholic about it than last year where I felt jubilant about it.

The biggest struggle for me is the concept of my fading scars. 

I can point out every single one of them even if they are almost gone. I know the exact part of my thigh where I carved 'fuck up'. The scars are long gone but I still see the letters like little ghostly apparitions, dancing on my own skin. But the reality is that my scars are fading. It's like finally letting go of that ex who still haunts your dreams. I don't want them to fade because once they're gone it will feel like none of it ever happened, there's nothing left to remind me except the hazy and foggy memories of difficult times. I think that's why I try and talk about the milestones as often as possible. I want to remember it happened because I want to see how far I've come.

I spoke with a friend, Si, about this and for him it's the opposite. He's glad to see his go, whereas I almost want to tattoo them on me as a permanent reminder. It sounds twisted and I can understand that others who have self harmed may disagree with me and even think I'm really insensitive about it. That's part of the problem, self harm and mental health are both so subjective. There's no blueprint or one size fixes all approach. 


This year, keeping focused on my mental health and working towards another year of being self harm free has been harder than usual. At times this year I've felt trapped in a rut and struggled with keeping things in perspective. 

With that in mind I've set myself a challenge to keep myself focused. I'm running a half marathon. On October the 2 I'll be lacing up my trainers and running 13 miles (21 kilometres) across Cardiff. The only thing that will be keeping me going for another kilometre on the day is that I'm running this half marathon to raise money for a charity that is so close to my heart.

My friend Si, along with an amazing group of people, set up Heads Above The Waves. This is a charity that supports young people who struggle with self harm. It encourages them to find positive ways to have open conversations about self harm and mental health. As well as finding positive coping techniques to 'keep your head above the waves'.

I'm hoping to raise £500 which will cover the vital workshops that HATW take to local schools to introduce the concept of positive alternatives to self-harm. They encourage honest and open conversation, and plant the seeds for self-help. Every penny donated will go straight to Heads Above The Waves, I know Si well and wish that something like HATW had been there for me when I was struggling.

If you have a few pennies to spare I'd appreciate any donations. If you don't, don't worry. Check out Heads Above The Waves online and see how you can get involved and support them. They sell great merchandise and are really engaging.

So where will I be in another year? Who knows. 

There are days when I forget that this part of my life ever existed. But then there are days when old feelings snare me down and leave me speechless. I don't know if those feelings will ever really go away. I'm single at the moment and I have no idea how I would ever bring this part of my life up to a boyfriend. Or whether I would even want to. That bothers me a lot. I guess I will just have to wait and see. The further I get down the road of recovery the more questions it seems to throw up about my self harm, what it really meant and what the effects of it have been. I'm not even sure if I'll ever get all the answers that I'm looking for.

For the meantime I know I'm still here. I know I'm a fighter. I know I've worked through worse. And I'm happy to be where I am now. So happy.  I'm surrounded by amazing people who even though I didn't always know it at the time, have had my back and always will. 

If you're struggling with any kind of mental health issues, I can understand how hard it is to get yourself on a path of recovery. It's so tough. But trust me, once you start racking up the milestones, whether it's one day, two weeks, three months or four years, you will feel amazing. And it's worth it.

I'll be seeing you at the finish line of the Cardiff half marathon in October. I'll keep you updated.

All my love as always.

"Time heals all wounds. And if it doesn't, you name them something other than wounds and agreed to let them stay." - Emma Forrest



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2 comments

  1. You are amazing, Nina <3 I am off to read the article. Good luck with the half marathon as well!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're amazing, and this post is awesome. Well done you, you deserve every happiness

    Charlotte xxx
    Fox Socks

    ReplyDelete

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