From a teen in England: I’ve had a problem with self-harm for a long time. It started when I was about 13 and I would just repeatedly punch myself in the face and slam myself into furniture to leave bruises all over my body. Adoring the attention people would give me as I got the reputation of being clumsy so others would get things for me, lift heavy items for me or hold my arm so I wouldn’t trip.
This was innocent enough but as the years progressed I began to want more. With me forcing myself to vomit over the floor so others would have to clean it up, throwing myself down a flight of stairs, drinking nail varnish remover, breaking my own nose by slamming it into a wall too hard, pouring boiling hot water from the kettle onto my arm, not eating or drinking for days to make myself faint, I also have become a frequent cutter and have scars littering my arms and legs.
You’d think I’d feel ashamed of my actions but in actuality, I just feel very proud of it all. I love seeing myself like this to the point I’ll stare at my scars in the mirror for hours. I do know deep down this isn’t healthy and I don’t know why exactly I’m doing it since I hate the pain, it’s the results I’m after. Most likely it is for attention. I was sexually assaulted when I was 8 years old so that could tie into it but I’m not sure.
I have been considering seeking help for my behaviour as I know it’ll just continue to escalate as recently I’ve been getting the urge to cut off my own fingers and to drink bleach. I’m just not sure what I can do to get help or if I even have a mental illness as in all other aspects of my life I function pretty normally.
As worrisome as this all is, it makes sense to me. You were sexually assaulted when you were 8. I don’t know what kind of help you got at that time but whatever it was, it wasn’t enough. You are still sending up flares – looking for help. You didn’t have enough language/vocabulary at the time to ask for the help and nurturing and caretaking you needed so you did what kids do, you started acting out your need instead of talking about it. Unfortunately, that need is like an emotional black hole inside. Nothing anyone around you can do is enough to take care of the little girl inside who is still hurting so, so much.
What you need is not, not, not a more dangerous method for hurting yourself. What you need is for someone to really hear that hurt little girl and to give her (and her parents) the tools she needs to heal. There are therapists who specialize in helping young women like yourself heal from trauma and move on in life.
I hope you have parents who can help you. If so, share your letter and this response with them. Ask them to help you find a therapist who specializes in trauma and teens.
If your parents are not the kind of folks who respect therapy, consider talking with your school counselor about how to get help. Since you are internet savvy, you could also do your own research to find local mental health clinics or practices that offer free or low cost treatment to women who have experienced sexual assault.
Please follow through. You need and deserve the help.
I wish you well.