I replaced my eating disorder with self-harm
Marie was glad she had overcome her eating disorder. But she replaced it with another problem - self-harming. She tells The Mix about how, with time, she learned to conquer both.
Although I didn’t realise it, the first time I self-harmed was one of those life-changing moments. I was 18 and going through a particularly tough time in my life: battling an eating disorder which had left extremely depressed while doing my A-levels at school.
I remember one night feeling stressed about my exams, and overwhelmed by the deep depression that I had fallen into. Even now I have no idea why, but I picked up a pair of nail scissors and ran them across the top of my arm. I was feeling so crap on the inside, that in a warped way it made sense to balance it out with a physical pain on the outside.
It was as if I was trying to let all the anxiety, depression and hate seep out of my body. I felt cleansed, and strangely euphoric, but the next day I was extremely shocked by what I had done.
Over the next few months, scratching my arm became something I did regularly. I had a really poor body image and low self-esteem and self-harming became my way of showing my disgust for my body. Although I didn’t realise it at the time I was replacing my eating disorder problem with self-harming.
At the time, I didn’t think I had a problem: cutting was something that I chose to do, and thought I could stop whenever I wanted to. But I was very wrong. That first time I had scratched my arm with those scissors I had changed everything.
During this time I started to see a counsellor for my eating disorder, but never told her about my self-harming. It appeared that I was making great progress, but things were far from fine as I was just using a different coping mechanism. I had been scared into stopping throwing up by the fact that my teeth were badly damaged and I had developed stomach problems. Cutting seemed like a safer alternative for my body.
I hadn’t planned on the self-harming getting out of control, but soon I was so worried about it that I told my counsellor as I felt that it was becoming dangerous.
I was scared of her reaction, but I needn’t have worried. She began to help me understand why I was cutting, and helped me with coping mechanisms that I could do instead of cutting.
Unfortunately, I had to change counsellors when my other one moved, and have struggled to find someone I clicked with.
When my family found out they were initially shocked as they hadn’t realised I was in so much pain. They were extremely upset at first, then angry and then confused as to how I could inflict pain on myself. I gave them some websites to check out which helped them understand better, and although they still don’t really ‘get it’, they are supportive.
A few close friends know about it, but it’s something that I keep private and only talk to them about when I really need their support. Dealing with depression and self-harm is extremely overwhelming and lonely, and some support can make things so much easier; a counsellor, friend, family member or even an online forum.
Dealing with it
I’m now 24, and despite making huge progress over the past few years I still struggle with self-harm. During this time I have managed to stop cutting for months at a time, and at one stage had not cut for almost two years. But I realise that it’s something that I may have to battle with for a while, and like with any habit there will always be times when I fall off the wagon.
I now recognise how important it is to look after myself and to try to prevent myself from getting stressed, as this is when cutting becomes a problem.
I have found that it is extremely important for me to put things in place that help me unwind, as my depression and self-harm becomes unmanageable when I am stressed. Exercise, music and writing are things that I find relaxing and that I find are essential to me feeling well.
I also have a box full of things to cheer me up when things are tough. I have a few of my favourite dvds, cds, books and anything that cheers me up. I also have some inspirational quotes, pictures and some letters from my friends which are guaranteed to put that smile back on my face.
Although things can still be extremely tough, I have found that life is worth fighting for and I hope one day that I will be able to say that self-harm is something that is far in my past.
Photo of girl with guitar by Shutterstock and posed by model
Updated on 29-Sep-2015
10 Things I Wish I’d Known As A Teenager
Natasha Devon shares what she wish she had known as a ...
Loneliness is not your fault
Loneliness is common amongst young people; Becky shares ...
Are you feeling stressed? Don’t ignore the symptoms
Tom Pollock explores the theme of stress for this ...
What is anxiety?
Feeling scared all the time? You may have an issue with ...
A guide to self care
How to keep your mind and body happy and healthy.