As many people, I sometimes struggle with mental health. I've a long history of anxiety and depression. I'm fortunate enough to be (just about) able to pay for a therapist, and I've been seeing one for years now. It's helped me massively. I used to have episodes where I could barely get out of bed, let alone my flat, for weeks. Meeting people I knew was incredibly hard - meeting new people was impossible. I've come a long way by working with my therapist and many other people. A bit over a year ago I even started meeting people in real life that I'd come across on Twitter. It's been mostly platonic, though there have been one or two dates as well. This would have been completely unimaginable two years ago.
So all's good then. Everything's heading in the right direction. I thought that too, until my therapy session tonight. The funny thing with therapy is that it's a rollercoaster. The highs are when I see something in myself, work with my therapist, and find a practical way of managing it. The lows are when I see something in myself and don't have a clue what it's about, let alone how to manage it. It was the latter than happen to me tonight. When I realised that I self harm. Every. Single. Day.
Self harm, as with many mental health illnesses, is much misunderstood. Even as a Mental Health first aider, I think I know very little about it. Before tonight's therapy session, I was prejudiced to think self harm manifested itself physically - cutting, burning, punching and the like. What I've now realised is that people - like me - can self harm in without the physiological dimension. It can purely psychological.
As with many self harmers, I feel ashamed at what I do. The last thing I was is for anybody to know about it. I fear you will judge me, and find me wanting. You certainly won't want to be my friend, and by christ I need friends. As a rational person (which I normally am), it also feels that it makes no sense - why would I want to do that? So I've kept it very private, even from myself.
So, on to some practical examples of how I self harm. Even as I think about writing these, I realise how petty they the may sound. I fear you will judge me. Then laugh at me. Then judge me again. Oh well, here goes ...
- My flat is super untidy. I mean mega untidy. Dirty clothes can be on the floor (bedroom and living room) for weeks. I wash up when I've run out of clean crockery & cutlery - and I live enough with enough for about 6 days! I hate the untidiness, but when I come home from work I just drop my coat on the floor.
- When I'm tired, I don't go to bed. Even though I know I will feel like shit the next day. When I'm hungry, I don't eat. My stomach can be growling at me, and I know that if I eat - even just a slice of toast - I will feel loads better. But I don't eat.
- I often don't check post or email - sometimes for months. I worry that I've missed something really important - bills, court summons, a wealthy Nigerian needing my help - but I seem to prefer worrying about it than to know,
- I have to move. My tenancy ends in a little other a month. I've still not tried to find somewhere else to live. I'm very stressed about where I live, but haven't done anything about it.
I could come up with many other examples. It all sounds petty to me. So where am I going with this self-absorbed introspection? Two things really ...
First, I hope that by outing myself I can reduce the fear of you judging me. Perhaps this will take away a barrier to a path of good mental health to me - I'm determined to find the light at the end of the tunnel! You can still judge me, though it will be on what you think, and not what I think you will think. Do your worst!
Second, I hope that anybody else that goes through similar experiences to me realises that they're not the only one that feel or do these things. And that will be a step on a path to manage these feelings and behaviors.
I think Mind are an excellent charity offer great support to people with mental health issues. We all need a little help, or even just a listening ear. They very good at that!