Musings and Snoozes

​“Write about the stuff you’d rather not write about”

on August 15, 2016



Some thoughts are practically bursting to escape my head. Others are so well hidden that I barely admit that they’re there, let alone want to write about them. But maybe I should. I acknowledge them maybe once a day, sometimes a little more when things are spiraling out of my control, but mostly I put a little lid on the box and tell myself it’ll go away one day. It’s been nearly 15 years though and it hasn’t yet, so maybe it’s time to rethink. 

Social stigma around mental health is fading slowly, and I’m hopeful that one day someone will be able to say “I have depression” in the same was as they can say “I have diabetes”. I follow the mental health charity Mind as well as the campaign Time to Change – each of which been instrumental in changing the perception of depression, anxiety and many other conditions, but both sites posted something this week which very much struck a chord with me and gave me cause to think. First the quote below from Mind :

“Lots of people with mental health problems struggle with self-harm, yet it’s still something that many family, friends, and even professionals find hard to understand.”

And secondly, Time to Change shared a link to a lovely blog post by Grace Believed who said this:

“As someone who advocates talking and raising awareness of mental health it’s still something that I wouldn’t have even dreamed about discussing.”

The first is factual, the second is more personal. I will happily talk about all my physical health conditions – evidently since I have this blog – and I’m even happy to admit (at least to friends and family) when I’m falling into a period of depression or when my anxiety is getting on top of me – after all, they’re fairly well understood topics – but the one thing I never ever talk about is my struggle with self harm. And so as a huge advocate in sharing experiences, reducing stigma, and maybe helping others, I now want to play my part.

I should however start with a couple of disclaimers –

Firstly, I’m ok. This is just a part of me like everything else. You’ll see in my story below that it’s not something I act on a lot these days, it’s just there and I cope in much healthier ways.

Secondly, there’s a big reason I don’t talk about this – I don’t want to hurt anyone. Ironic I realise given the subject matter. But I’m so damn scared of upsetting anyone with my feelings that I find it easier to say nothing at all. So I’m telling myself and I’m telling you, that it’s ok that I’m sharing this. It’s less hurtful to share than to bottle it all up.

So all good stories start with music and this is no different. As I sit here indulging in my love for Ryan Adams, I can go straight back to being 14 years old, 18…..21….. 25…… in a heartbeat. I love the way music can do that and while you may not think that’s a positive thing given the subject matter, I can tell you there have been hundreds of nights that by simply plugging in my headphones and losing myself in the music, I’ve been able to feel and cry and sleep and be ok.

And that’s what this all comes down to – how to feel, how to cope with feeling, and how to control it all . I’ve learned a huge amount of coping methods and strategies in the last ten years or so, and it’s why I’m able to sit here and talk about this in the (mostly) past tense, but I cannot pretend that self harm won’t always be an option, even if it’s quickly pushed away. I feel intensely, far too intensely for my head and my heart to cope with. Or I feel nothing. A complete blank, an emptiness that can neither be explained nor rationalised. Honestly, I don’t know which is worse, but they both result in a desperate need for control – and for a long time, self harm was the only way I knew to manage that need. It’s taken me an extremely long time to work that out, and only with the support of friends, family, and network groups have I been able to finally put it into words. 

The stigma that surrounds self harm is that it’s a cry for help, that the person is suicidal, that they hate themselves, that it’s a form of punishment. And for many people that’s true, but it never was for me. It’s only in the last few years as other people have started opening up and sharing their stories, that I’ve begun to understand that that wasn’t what drove me to it, and more importantly that I’m by no means alone. 

And that’s my aim of this. Or one of them. I said before that I have discovered a plethora of coping strategies now – well one of them is writing. It literally keeps me sane on a day by day basis. This post has been floating around my head for weeks, if not months – or rather the thoughts behind it have – and this is how I can take those thoughts and turn them into something positive. Think of it like the pensieve in Harry Potter – each thought, be it good or bad, can be picked out one by one and examined in front of you. Self harm used to serve that purpose in the past, now writing brings the same relief. 

But just as importantly, this subject needs talking about. I see the amazing progress we’ve made around talking about mental health over the last ten years, and yet this is something that is still only whispered about. I spent too long not asking for help, being ashamed, embarrassed, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. So I’m not saying shout it from the rooftops, but I am saying you’re not alone. Find someone you can trust, who you can open up to, don’t be scared to ask for help. When I finally spoke to a professional about how I was feeling, I was so shocked to not only be faced with understanding, but also the sheer fact that they took me seriously and didn’t judge. If there’s one thing I’m still learning (as last night’s anxiety filled post proved), it’s that it’ll never be as bad as you think. 

So that’s my story. It’s not over yet, because I choose for it not to be over. All I ask of you is to think about being that person, the one that someone can come to. You might not be able to do anything other than listen and that’s ok. Sharing our stories is how we’ll fight this and everyone has an important part to play. 




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