Childhood abuse made me self-harm

Ellie's troubled upbringing of abuse, homelessness and bullying made her start self-harming as a coping mechanism. This unhealthy habit soon spiralled into an obsession. She describes how cutting became like a drug, and how she finally overcame her addiction.

True Stories

A young woman is on her phone. She feels empowered having recovered from sexual abuse and self harm. This is a wide-angle image.

T/W: This content contains references to self-harm.

My Mum left my biological father when I was five years-old. I had a very close relationship with my Dad; he was everything to me. Even though he was abusive I felt close to him – it was all I knew. I hated leaving him and until I was eleven I told my Mum every night that I wanted him back. She never knew how to answer me. All the non-answers became overwhelming as my life became more and more stressful. 

Living in a shelter was stressful and when we finally got our own place and I went to school I was bullied and teased. I had no friends. Eventually, everyone became the enemy; sometimes that even included my own family. We moved a couple more times and after multiple moves,  my Mum decided to homeschool my brothers and I. I started to get lonely and pull back from my brothers. My Mum was the sole provider in our family, so I hardly saw her because she was always at work. Then she met another man – I despised him from the moment I heard his voice.

Starting to self-harm 

It was around this time that I started to cut myself. It’s hard to believe but I was only 11 years-old. Everything that was happening in my life was stressing me out and cutting was a way to escape all that stress. I remember the first time I cut myself and this unexplained rush filled my body. There was this instant calm that washed over me. I cleaned myself up and didn’t tell anyone. If they asked what happened to my hand I’d tell them it was an accident. No one questioned me – They probably thought I was too young to feel stress.

I didn’t know that what I was doing had a name, but I was aware of why I was doing it. It was a powerful release and a convenient way of punishing myself. I had a really bad case of low self-esteem; I’d cry if someone called me stupid.

Why childhood abuse made me self-harm

I don’t think anyone knew what I was doing at this stage. I knew my mum would freak out if she knew the random cuts were on purpose, but cutting was my personal drug – it made me feel high. Keeping it a secret was the most thrilling thing.

I was cutting on and off for about four years. I would tell myself I was going to quit but within months I was doing it again. It got to a point where I was thinking about it all the time. It seemed like no one could reach me. Needless to say, this was an extremely dangerous and harmful coping mechanism. Luckily, I managed to stay safe and eventually find help, But I realise now that some people aren’t so lucky and I think about them everyday. 

Getting help 

I ended up getting help by accident really. My Mum scheduled me and my brother for a check-up and while they were in the other room the doctor asked me some questions. He said that anything I told him was in confidence. I don’t know why, but at that moment I felt like I had to tell someone. I told him I’d been depressed for a long time and I cut myself. He made me promise to tell someone. There was only one person I could tell; my mentor. We started counselling and little by little I’m opening up about everything.

It’s been so hard to recover. My mentor advised me to find something to replace cutting, otherwise it was useless to put effort into it. I started writing poetry, spending time with my brothers, singing and reading books. It helped a lot. The hard work is definitely worth it – I’m learning how to deal with stress in a healthy way that doesn’t harm me.

A message from The Mix: If you are looking for support with self-harm, head to our self-harm hub page for a wide range of support and advice.

Understanding self-harm

Even though there are a lot of people out there who self-harm, it’s still a taboo subject. I only recently found out that one of my favourite celebrities and a friend’s brother used to cut. I wish that someone would have opened up and told me they’re a recovering cutter, maybe even offered me some advice. 

Suffering in silence is one of the worst things for a person to go through. It can be incredibly isolating and terrifying. Your mind constantly validates those negative feelings you’re having until they are all you can think about. Eventually, it becomes too hard to express the emotions you’re feeling so you just keep bottling them up. This is the reason why so many mental health struggles go undiagnosed until the person is in a critical state. 

Advice to other people  

It is hard to stop self-harming, but it is possible. My first piece of advice is to tell someone you trust, like a friend, teacher or parent. Someone older is usually preferable as they’re better equipped to know how to get you the support you need. You could also get help online. The LCET website helped me a lot – it has poems, stories and tips on how to stop cutting. Personally, I kept a journal of how I felt – it really helps to vent out all your emotions. Just write down everything you can think of, and if you feel comfortable, share it with the person you confide in – it’ll help them understand you better.

Finally, if you’re feeling depressed, try saying good things about yourself, even if you don’t think what you’re saying is true. The words will eventually sink in and you’ll begin to believe them. 

Final words from The Mix: If you need anything at all, get in touch with our team for a judgement free chat and some guidance to help you figure things out.

Next Steps

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By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 01-Oct-2021

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