I first self harmed when I was twelve years old. It was after a violent argument with my mother and I couldn’t stop crying. I remember finding a little wooden bird, some sort of ornament that a friend had given me, with a sharp uneven beak. I scratched it over my hand until the skin broke, and then I stopped.
It was only when I was fourteen that I tried it again. Scratching myself that one time hadn’t really done much to make me feel better, but I was overwhelmed by everything going on around me and was desperate for something to dampen my emotions, even if it was just for a few minutes. And, unfortunately, it did make me feel better. I was calmer and felt as if I had released something; as if somehow everything that was hurting me inside had bled into the outside through the cuts.
I began cutting myself more and more frequently, yet although it provided immediate relief, it didn’t help with anything long term. I didn’t like my new school and there was a suffocating amount of pressure to achieve the highest grades possible in every subject. I was arguing with my friends and I couldn’t seem to get on with anyone; I wanted my friends to be mine and no one else’s, and I would become furious at the smallest sign of rejection. I had been possessive and extremely sensitive from a very young age, and teachers had mentioned it many times at primary school, but my parents had always thought it was something I would grow out of in time.
My mother and father were still fighting daily and when I was thirteen or fourteen, just hitting puberty, my mother put me on a diet. I remember how she used to weigh me once a month on the bathroom scales; she would go first and then I would step on, bare feet flinching against cold glass, watching the dial spin and click. She would then compare the two numbers: mine always had to be lower.
During my first couple of years at secondary school I ignored my mother’s constant threats about grounding me if I didn’t exercise, her criticisms surrounding what I ate and the quantity of it. Instead of succumbing to what she wanted I started saving my pocket money for sweets, skipping sports lessons and sucking my stomach in tight when she was around. When she noticed that I wasn’t visibly losing any weight the threats worsened, so I eventually began to use the treadmill. I hated it at first; the monotonous pounding of trainers against rubber; women sizing themselves up against each other; men panting like rabid dogs, their hair slick with sweat. I continued going once a week to placate my mother and over time my opinions began to change. I came to the conclusion that losing weight would bring with it acceptance and love that I felt completely deprived of, that it would help me to feel confident and happy. From then on I started increasing the amount of time I spent in the gym and the frequency, as well as cutting out “bad foods” such as chocolate, crisps and sweets.
It was because of all of this that I began to see my school counsellor. Looking back she was honestly completely useless, however she did do one good thing, which was referring me to CAMHS (the child and adolescent mental health service, which is part of the NHS).