This was a tough editorial for me to write. Being so open about my life, so honest with myself writing about my experiences was not easy. I find talking about my life and my feelings difficult, preferring to err on the side of light banter chat with all but those closest to me. But I felt like now was the time for me to be entirely honest about what I’ve been going through.
Before I even began this editorial in earnest, I sat down with a close friend and asked the questions “Am I being melodramatic? Is this appropriate? Am I being too personal?” As the conversation drew to a close, I realised that by not talking about my issues, I was becoming a larger part of the problem surrounding the ongoing narrative of stigmatisation in Ireland. I would be wasting the potential of drawing attention to my problem, and the potential of helping others by speaking about it.
So, here we go. I am a self-harmer. I have hurt myself in serious ways in the past due to feelings of intense anger, stress, and frustration. The image of a self-harmer many of us foster is that of an angsty 16 year old, self-harming to the tune of My Chemical Romance in their room. This is how it started for me, as so many of these long-lasting issues do – in my teen years. However, finding solace in internet chatrooms, I guarantee you that it’s not just this outdated stereotype who find release in self-harm. This is a serious problem that affects all ages, genders, races, creeds and cultures. Some people who talked to me back then are adults now who still haven’t, can not, and may never “outgrow” what is perceived as a teenage problem.
As I grew, the issue grew with me. Upon arrival in college, it died down for a while. I’ve said it before, but Trinity was the best thing to ever happen to me. But with this year, the stresses of a new job, and other factors, it raised its head again, worse than before. By the end of October, I was self-harming at least once a day, typically in the evenings, and more frequently when I’d drink. I started to binge eat, and with that came further feelings of inadequacy and self-hatred.
When I had really injured myself during an episode, I made a decision to see someone. I took my first nervous steps towards the Student Counseling Service in November, unsure if my visiting them was even valid. I found myself asking if this was even a problem. Is hitting yourself even classed as self-harm? If you don’t bleed, does it count? All these stupid questions and more went through my head going up the elevator that first day.
It took three sessions for me to even come to terms with the fact that what I was doing was a problem, that it wasn’t stupid to complain, and that I shouldn’t put up with it. I learned that it was a result of trying to gain control of myself when my emotions went out of control. Part of it was to do with self-punishment when I felt like I had done something wrong, even if this was completely arbitrary. Self-harming for reasons like me being angry at someone – when I look back on it now, even in the past month where I’ve been free of it – it seems foolish.
In a short time, I’ve come a very long way. I haven’t done it since I started with counselling, and I’ve been working through my problems with guilt and self-hate slowly but steadily. This is something I’ve needed to get off my chest for some time, and to do it in such an incredibly public way is incredibly daunting. Whether it’s self-harm, depression or anxiety, by writing this I want you to know that if you’re going through the same thing, what you’re feeling is valid. It’s okay to feel out of control, and to have days where getting out of bed might be the biggest thing you’ll accomplish. Your feelings are not stupid, and you are not less worthy than those around you.
But I will urge you – please talk to someone. You don’t have to get it published in a paper, or shout it from the rooftops. You don’t have to tell anyone if you feel you aren’t ready. But when the time is right for you, please talk. I promise you, that first step is the biggest, and everything from then on is simply a road to recovery.
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