A personal story

This frank yet poetic article began as a video; Sarah was kind enough to offer it to LifeSIGNS and we’ve edited it into a very personal expression of what self-injury feels like for one person. Please make sure you’re in a safe space, mentally and physically, before reading.

'Sarah' going for a runI don’t think it’s possible to explain in words how it begins. Quite often there isn’t a single trigger or event that starts off this chain of feelings. I suppose, it sort of starts in my chest, like a match that is lit or a seed that is planted and begins to grow.

I first did it when I was thirteen. I had just started secondary school, and, I guess I felt overwhelmed and, a bit like a fish out of water; although what was going through my head that day, is hard to remember. In so many ways, I remember that day perfectly, and yet it is also a misty haze of thoughts and emotions.

It’s almost eleven years, since that day, and I’ve put my body through a great deal of damage and medical care. The harming has, undeniably got a lot worse. At times I felt like a junky; my mind completely consumed with thoughts about hurting myself.

On the outside I can appear normal, engage in conversation or work – but on the inside I’m a complete mess of emotions, all bubbling away under the surface, like the blood in my veins is boiling and my organs are vibrating.

I am ashamed to say that I have, in the past, left social occasions to go into the toilet and cut myself, and then gone back into the room and carried on as if nothing has happened.

You see, there’s such a sense of detachment in all of this that is just so hard to convey; it’s like an out of body experience, as though you’re watching someone else do it.

'Sarah' in the parkI feel wild, electric, almost manic, like my veins are full of glass and pulsing through my body. Once the thoughts and emotions take over you, it’s hard to remember who you are anymore, hard to stay in control and stay rational.

It all becomes about wanting to ease pain, but also to feel it, to feel like someone else, but to find yourself, to feel normal, but to feel different from who you really are.

My heart gets lodged in my throat and my lungs feel like they’re brimming at my rib cage. I have to let it out, get release. I hurt myself. Sometimes I feel it, sometimes I don’t. I want to feel – I want to feel.

In my head, I suppose I’m thinking that I deserve to feel more pain, or that I must feel more pain. The feeling that I’m worthless, that I’m useless or, that I’m nothing.

There’s an initial numbness that follows the cutting; it’s like a coming back down to earth – the sick realisation of what’s happened, what I’ve done to myself and the consequences of these actions.

The feeling of disgust or, embarrassment; shame, fear. The initial anger disperses as quickly it came; there’s no more unbearable noise and mayhem in my mind.

'Sarah' in the bathFor so many years, cutting has been my friend; someone I can rely on in a way I have never felt with anyone or anything else before.

I’m not sure if I’m prepared to give that up yet but, I’d look to a time when I will be ready to walk away from it forever.

Sarah

The photographs on this page show an actor.

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