So here we are, a year later. God how things have changed, for better and for worse.
A year ago today I was sitting in her classroom sobbing, I couldn’t see a way out. It was at this moment she found out about my struggle.
Let me give you a bit of background. I was 15 soon approaching my 16th birthday. I come from a wonderful family, a mum and dad, 3 siblings. It was a wonderful upbringing. But as most teenagers say I was different. I really was. I had a secret I had been carrying around with me since I was 11 and now it had all come to a head *fast forward to the wreck of a 15-year-old in her teachers classroom.*
It was my fault – I had been careless. Normally I was completely aware of my cuts and covered them well, even in sweltering heat. It was Tuesday 10th June 2014 and it was a hot day, especially in my black school uniform. So as I was alone I had taken off my blazer and rolled up my shirt sleeves. No one would see, I told myself, besides as I had already mention I was alone and there wasn’t a lot there just a few cuts nothing super conspicuous. Well that’s what I thought, until she called me from down the corridor. I responded with my usual smile, no matter how hard it was. She wasn’t my teacher, she was my best friend – I’m not sure you should say that about teachers but what the hell, I just did, get over it.
Anyway over the course of our general conversation about life, exams and our favourite topic – theatre (even though she was an English teacher) we had ended up in her classroom as usual. The conversation then went down a path I had never seen coming. What have you done? That one question accompanied with that look changed everything. I had forgotten – my sleeves were rolled up, I rolled them down quickly but the damage was done. She had seen. I did my best to deny all knowledge and come up with a good excuse but my brain turned to mush and she knew me too well to be fooled. Did you do this? I nodded, barely able to speak as tears threatened. The person who I trusted the most had just uncovered a dark secret – I self-harmed.
Sadness crossed her face along with a mixture of other emotions. I was stumped, I wanted to run away but I couldn’t. I was frozen to the spot. She didn’t say a word but shook her head for a moment – comprehending the situation. There was half an hour left until the bell so I knew I couldn’t get out of this if I tried. Then came another question – why?
Why? What a question. Now for those who don’t self-harm (and I am by no means encouraging it) it’s very hard to understand why someone would bring a blade to their skin or a lighter to themselves but I’m going to attempt to shed some light on that. If I was to give a full explanation then this would be a ridiculously long story so I’m going to abbreviate this as much as I can. When someone self-harms (and this is only from my perspective) they are numb, they cannot feel any form of emotion when they are doing it however once they make that first cut, or the moment that burning lighter comes into contact with the skin they feel relief. They can feel something! There is often so much conflict in their minds, so much emotional pain that by inflicting physical pain upon themselves makes them realise they are alive and as they are focusing on the physical pain they are currently enduring, it distracts them from the emotional pain they are feeling.
Now that’s my explanation as abbreviated as I could get it. Anyway – on with the tale.
Why? I simply shook my head as the first tear fell. I don’t know I responded. My head was spinning, I knew what was going to come next, it was the standard procedure. The Child Protection Officer for the school (in this case the deputy head who also happened to be my English Teacher) would be notified and they would evaluate the situation but ultimately my parents would be told at the first opportunity. I didn’t want that – my parents couldn’t find out, they wouldn’t understand. They didn’t need the stress, they already had enough on their plates with the 3 children, not to mention my Grandad (maternal side) had died of cancer the previous January (2013) so they were also dealing with that still and looking after my Nan. It was a secret I had wanted to keep to myself for the rest of my life or until I got better, turns out that wasn’t to be. She knew I was well aware of procedure however as she was genuinely concerned she wanted to understand why and see if there was anything she could do to help. All I needed at that moment was either the ability to turn back time or a box of tissues and a hug. Unfortunately I had to make do with the tissues – tears and black makeup do not mix well!
I did my best to explain in a coherent way but failed miserably. She didn’t push me she just sat there, telling me everything was going to be okay. Then came the hard part. She had to fill out an incident report or something along those lines and submit it to the relevant parties as soon as possible. She wanted to be as accurate as possible in her recount of the situation so the form was not finished until then next day. I refused to read through it – trusting her judgment completely, only now I wish I had read it but that’s the joy of hindsight. Anyway the deputy head was away training so the assistant deputy had a brief meeting with me to discuss what would happen next – when the deputy head was back (the following day) she would phone my parents. Another day passed and then judgment day loomed, Thursday 12th June 2014
Time had never passed so slowly. I was in fact doing my level best to avoid her, I knew she wouldn’t make the call without me present, the longer I could put it off the better. Of course fate intervened at the worst possible moment. I rounded the corner on the corridor as she came out of a room and she had already seen me. My office 10 minutes. I remember those words well, they were like a death sentence.
I ran back to my teacher’s classroom and with one look she knew it was time.
My feet were heavy as I climbed the stairs to her office, it felt like I was walking to my execution. I knocked on the door praying she wasn’t there, but she was. I was told to sit and with a look of concern she spoke to me, wanting to know why. Again I couldn’t explain and to be honest I didn’t want to. When she realised questioning me was getting her nowhere, she made the call to my parents.
I forgot to mention – we were going on holiday for the weekend, so if there could be a bad time for news like this to come out, this was it. Stuck with my family in a tent for 4 days with an elephant in the room could only end badly. The topic was never broached over that weekend and to be honest it never was. I was taken to the doctors the weekend after we got back but more on that later.
Once the call was disconnected she gave me some sort of ‘guide’ on self-harm, it was so unhelpful. I left the office quickly and went back to my teacher and cried. Apparently my parents had taken the news well but I didn’t know what they said after the call was disconnected and I dread to think.
The holiday passed – awkwardly but we got through it – and I was led to the doctors. She insisted on coming in with me but left the room after I refused to speak – I was never going to have that conversation in front of my mother, ever. But then even after she was gone I didn’t say much to my doctor even though I trusted her.
Fast forward a couple of months. Gradually I opened up to my doctor, while under observation my self harm stopped however I channelled all my emotions back into my eating disorder – Pica. It’s one of the lesser known disorders but it is just as important as bulimia and anorexia. An eating disorder is still serious and support is needed. I opened up about my past and to this day she still doesn’t know everything – no one does, but I’m going to tell you guys. I’ve learnt that telling your story can help not only you but others so here’s a glimpse into my past…..
When I was 11 I started secondary school, a big step in anyone’s life. I was a good kid, worked hard and I was in a lot of shows. At ones of these shows something happened. I was backstage before we began arranging some chairs for the performance when one of the guys started talking to me. We got on well and he helped me with the task at hand. Once we were done, he kissed me. It was my first kiss – I didn’t feel anything but it wasn’t right. He pushed me back against the wall and continued, I was frozen, I didn’t know what to do. His hand began to wander and he pressed himself against me. I managed to push him off before things could get out of hand. I was scared. At 11 years old I didn’t know what to do. I felt so guilty so told no one, not my parents, friends, teachers – no one. I thought it was a one-off but over time it began again and continued for years until one time he dragged me into the boys’ loos and tried to rape me. I kicked him and ran faster than my legs had ever carried me. Remember I was 13 years old. I didn’t know what to think, I thought I had done something wrong. I was scared of what people would say so I kept quiet.
It was during this time I got a boyfriend. My first official boyfriend. Everyone has that first crush in the playground but I thought this was the real deal. You’d have thought that after my last experience I would have been more careful. But I fell and fell hard.
It was great to start with, we kept our relationship a secret. Then about 2 months in things went wrong, really wrong. Again I was only 13 and had no idea what love was, as no 13-year-old does He started forcing me to do things I didn’t want to. I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore and it worked – for a while.
A couple of months passed and I vowed never to become attached to anyone again. I had started to self-harm again during this time. I felt so alone. And then he came back – we were on a school trip and he pulled me into a dark corner and tried to kiss me and touch me. It happened over a course of school trips and then during school. Then he got my phone number from somewhere and kept hassling me.
I felt terrible – I felt dirty and used. I was a child. I didn’t know what to do. To this day it still haunts me and I’m still scared of getting into a relationship. I’m now almost 17 and this is still a secret. Until now. For you all reading this I hope you understand how hard this is to write. This is my coming out story.
I’m 17 years old. I have a job, I have a car. I’ve pulled my life back together. I’m still haunted by my past secrets, I still have black days. I still self-harm and my eating disorder is still prevalent. However I’m learning to cope.
Yes there are dark days but they will pass, I promise.
To whoever may be reading this please please know you are not alone. If you feel like no one will listen to you – I will. I’ll listen to your story, I’ll help you through.
I know you don’t want to hear it, I certainly didn’t but talking really does help. I have one friend who knows absolutely everything, she’s always there for me whenever I need her and I’m eternally grateful.
You need to be willing to open up to people, even just one, then they can help you, even just by listening.
Tips and a quote.
Fact Of The Day – 10th June 2015
Although self-harmers cannot always explain their reasons, psychologists believe that virtually all self-harm is caused by one of 4 motivations. These are the need to change the emotional state, the need to express something they feel they are not able to otherwise, the need to control something in their life’s themselves, and the need to punish themselves
Tip of the day 12th June 2015
It is important not to push yourself around emotionally. Do not force yourself to feel emotions you are not ready for or repress ones that you may be able to handle.
www.childline.org.uk – I’ve taken full advantage of their 1-1 chat service. I can’t express myself fully face to face. I feel safer behind a screen
www.b-eat.co.uk – These guys have given me insight into my eating disorder (pica) and have been a big help!
www.stopselfharm.info – the quotes, tips and facts these guys have are amazing! One for everyday of the week.
If anyone needs to talk to someone, as I said earlier…. I’m here firstname.lastname@example.org
Some beautiful quotes
“Still, you’re not alone. No one is alone ~ Into the Woods”
“No-one fights alone and losing is not an option ~ Richard Long”
“Let us respect others. No one lives alone in a city, a nation or a world ~ Thomas A Monson”
“It’s your road and yours alone. Others may be obliged to walk it with you, yet no one can walk it for you ~ Rumi
“You may feel alone for no one will ever completely understand how you feel. That is because each individual is unique, no two are like the other and this leads us to believe that we are all alone in the world. If everyone at some point in their life feels alone, then we aren’t really alone are we? Each person feels alone at some point, but because everyone does, it means that in actual fact, no one is alone. Think about it… ~ My best friend who will remain anonymous