1st March: Self Injury Awareness Day

*The following could potentially be triggering*

Today is Self Injury Awareness Day.

Raising awareness about self harm is important. More awareness leads to better understanding, empathy and it helps stop judgement and fears therefore reducing stigma.

There are multiple assumptions about self harming which leads to stereotyping. Many of these assumptions are myths, today I hope to debunk a few of these.

Self Harming Myth: “People who self harm are attention seeking”

A lot of people think that people who self harm are doing it for attention. This is not quite the case. In a lot of cases people have feelings of shame after self harming. Self injuring is a personal thing and people tend to try and hide it, make sure it is covered up.

Self Harming Myth: “Only young people/ teenagers self injure”

This is not true. Self injury is an issue across every generation. It is important for people to know that people self harm at any age! Not just when young. It is important for people at any age to reach out for help if they need it. It is important to know that is even an option, they are not ‘weird’ or acting ‘inappropriate for their age’.

Self Harming Myth: “Self harming means cutting”

Self harming is always assumed to be cutting. However, it is not the only way that people injure themselves. Self harming is a physical response to emotional distress. Anything from biting, scratching, starving yourself, burning, purposely depriving yourself of sleep, overdosing these are all examples of self harming, and there are many more.

Self Harming Myth: “People who self injure are trying to kill themselves”

It is often perceived that people who self harm are trying to kill themselves. This is not the case. It can be true that people are self injuring with the intention to end their lives. However, self injury is more complex. A lot of people who self harm are injuring themselves in order to make their lives manageable – it is a coping method. They want to switch off feelings, or sometimes it is the opposite, want to feel something. It is a way to release an overload of emotions and feelings that they don’t know how to let out, or convey in another way.

Self Harming Myth: “It is only girls who self harm”

It is true that statistics show it is more females who self harm than men but there is not a true representation of data. Males are less likely to reach out for help.

Self Harming Myth: “Self injuring is just a phase”

It is quite a common misconception, especially concerning young people that self harming is just a phase that a person is going through which they will overcome or ‘grow out of’. This can be damaging to an individual. It demeans their feelings and experiences and create a feeling of loneliness for that person. If a person has approached you and told you that they self harm or have self harming thoughts, it is important to let them know that they are being taken seriously, you are listening and that they are not alone.

Self Harming Myth: “Self Harming is about trying to look/ be cool (especially online)” or “It is only emos/goths who self harm”

When I was in school, this was a very common point of view. If you were a goth or emo then it was automatically assumed that you were a self harmer. If you listened to certain music, or dressed a certain way, or even had certain friends then you were a self harmer. The bit that I never understood, and still don’t to this day, is that if you were part of these social groups and it was assumed that you were a self harmer then you were still bullied. Surely, if you thought somebody was self injuring you would want to try and help them? Not bully them?

There are websites online that can be damaging, especially to young and vulnerable people. Self harming is romanticised on them and portray self harming as ‘trendy’.

There is a cycle of self harming. It starts with a build up of emotions and suffering, which will lead to the act of self harming which provides an instant, short-term relief. However, this is usually followed by feelings of shame which then leads to emotional suffering. It is a vicious circle, and it is a circle that is difficult to break. Learning methods and techniques to break the circle is important is a person’s journey of growth and recovery. A person stuck in this cycle needs help and understanding in order to get the strength to break out the cycle.

Spreading awareness about self harm will hopefully remind people that they are not alone, and there are places to turn in their times of need. Self injury does not discriminate. It affects people of any age, gender, race, sexuality, rich, poor. It affects people of all walks of life. If a person tells you that they self harm, let them know that you are there for them, without judgement. Encourage them to be safe and to speak to a medical professional. Remind them that they are not alone. Some Tender Loving Care can go a long way! Be kind to people, you don’t know what struggles they face on a daily basis. Everybody is just trying to feel their way through life.

Below  I have linked some useful sites for information and contacts

Childline: 08001111

Samaritans: 116123

Breathing Space: 0800838587 (open 6pm – 2am Monday – Thursday, 6pm Friday – 6am Monday)

For any readers not from the UK, the To Write Love on her Arms website has quite a useful list under their “Find Help” Section. Do check it out, quite a lot of places are covered. https://twloha.com/find-help/local-resources/

http://www.lifesigns.org.uk/

https://www.selfharm.co.uk/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/truth-about-self-harm

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Time To Talk

It has been a while since I have posted. I have been struggling over the last few weeks. Although today (a Thursday) is not the usual day I post (a Sunday) I felt it would be a good day to upload something as it is Time to talk day. Time to talk day is part of the time to change initiative aiming to end stigma that surrounds mental health.

Talking about mental health is important. Starting a conversation with a person can have a huge impact. Starting a conversation with a person can be a step towards spreading awareness or ending stigma. More importantly, it benefits the person you are listening to. There is some truth in the old saying, “a problem shared is a problem halved.” Starting a conversation can change a person’s whole world. That might sound like an exaggeration, but the smallest thing can make the biggest changes. Talking to a person about mental health can remind them that they are not alone, it can give them a new perspective, it could potentially give them reasons to live.

I used to hold in my feelings, bottle them up. I didn’t like talking to people about my ‘problems’. I have people in my family that encourage not telling people personal business. I’m sure the saying is something like, “you don’t want to air dirty underwear”, that has been passed around. Not only that, but the advice tends to be “just get on with it.”

 

I have learned that bottling up my feelings is not good for me. Pressure builds and as an outcome, I break. I think this is why I am fairly open about what is going on in my life now.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot that has happened in my life that is too painful to talk about at times. There are things that I do not want to talk about or don’t feel ready to talk about. All that being said, mental health is a thing that I fully believe should be spoken about. I know it’s hard. I know it’s hard to open up. I know the physical pain that can be felt from talking about things that you’ve pushed down deep. I know the confusion of trying to put feelings into words. I know the shame that can be felt from thoughts you have, reactions you have or the physical signs of what is going on.

However, I know I have people in my life who I can talk to. I know the people I can contact and talk to about anything, with no judgement only love and support. They might not fully understand what I am going through or what I am feeling, but they remind me I am not alone. They remind me of the good in the world and they provide me with hope. Hope that things can change. Hope that this feeling is not going to last forever. Hope for the future.

Find more information about the time to change campaign at https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

“I’ve become so numb…”

Hearing reports on Thursday 20th about Chester Bennington’s death by suicide at the age of 41 shocked and upset me.

The date of his death looks to be significant as it is the date that his friend Chris Cornell’s (who died by suicide himself 2 months ago) birthday. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays can be very difficult for people. That date can magnify that your loved one is no longer with here, and their loss can be really felt. Losing a loved one can be a trigger for mental health issues. The overwhelming variety of emotions that attack you, the grief and realisation that loved one is not with us anymore are all hard to deal with. This can lead to feelings of self harm or suicidal thoughts/ attempts.

It is a tragedy when any loss of life is due to suicide. There seems to be something more terrifying about it when it is somebody you admire, you look up to. It is especially sad when that person and their art helps you through dark times and feelings in your own life.

Death by suicide always raises a lot of questions, with people wondering how he could do it and think about how he “had it all”, they think “what about his … [children, wife, family, friends, band, fans]?”, “why did this happen?” The hard thing is, there will be no answers for the ones searching for them. Even if their is a note or some kind of message nobody is going to really have any answers.

Linkin Park, and their music are often said to have ‘saved lives’. Their powerful music and lyrics have impacted many people’s lives.The music reminded people that they are not alone in their battles with their demons. It provides a safe outlet to scream out frustrations, emotions, repressed feelings. Lyrics of songs and music can be so important. Lyrics can give feelings and experiences words, especially when you cannot put words to these yourself. Pain and hope were often themes through Linkin Park’s music. That’s important to people. There are Linkin Park songs that resonate with me. Linkin Park music is part of my own journey and I, like all fans, can feel this loss of a man whose words and emotions through music impacted on life. The title I’ve picked is from “Numb” which is a song that has helped me through some times. The phrases “…all I want to do // is be more like me and be less like you” and “every step that I take is another mistake to you” felt like they were describing me. I remember listening to “Numb” and thinking that this song was exactly like me and my life. It had a huge impact on me. I just don’t have the right words to describe just how much they did.

Tributes can be found all over for Chester Bennington. I really hope that his family can take some comfort from the fact that he has helped so many people through their own mental health journeys and that his music and songs will continue to be there through tough times. I hope Chester is at peace now, I hope he knows the impact he has had on so many lives. I am sorry that he didn’t have help at a time that he was so vulnerable.

For everybody grieving the passing of Chester Bennington. For everybody grieving the passing of a loved one (whether it was suicide or not). For everybody suffering from depression, anxiety or any other mental health condition, chronic illness, disability (invisible and visible). For everybody with thoughts of self harm or suicide. There are a few things I want to say to you:

  • It is ok to feel. It is ok to have many different emotions going on. It is ok to not know how you feel, you can’t give it a ‘label’ you just feel..
  • You are not alone. Other people may not know exactly how you feel, or what you are experiencing, but people can relate.
  • There are people out there who can help. There are people out there who want to help you! It is ok to reach out for help. It is not being weak asking for help. It is easy to feel that the whole world is against you, but it’s not. There will be help available somewhere.
  • Be kind to one another. You don’t know the battles that some people are facing. It is not always apparent that somebody is struggling.
  • Above all know that you matter! Your life, your story, your journey… You!! It all matters. YOU matter!!

If you, or anybody you know, are requiring help and support then there are multiple companies you can call, or get in contact with.

You can call the Samaritans any time, for free from the UK on 116 123.

For any readers not from the UK, the To Write Love on her Arms website has quite a useful list under their “Find Help” Section. Do check it out, quite a lot of places are covered. https://twloha.com/find-help/local-resources/