Interview with Maddie Bruce: Recovering from self-harm

Maddie Bruce is dressed all in pink and wearing a beret. She is smiling.

Q&A with Maddie Bruce

Maddie Bruce is a successful YouTuber who produces lots of excellent videos, in which she offers her insights on mental health and her experience of self-harm (amongst other things). Maddie collaborated with us for our Self-Harm Awareness Day campaign and was kind enough shared her recovery journey with us. If you or anyone you know needs support with self-harm, know that you are not alone and The Mix is here for you. You can get help and support here today.

Trigger warning: This content doesn’t include any physical details of self-harm, but the subject matter may be triggering or upsetting to those who have experience of self-harm, or know someone who does.

The Mix: When did you first realise you were self-harming?

Maddie: I don’t think I realised that what I was doing was self-harming until I was about 16 (I started at 14). I hadn’t seen it online or in magazines anywhere so I had figured it out as a way to hurt/ punish myself and I kept it secret for a long time. It wasn’t until my GCSE’s when it became worse that friends would notice and I actually started recognising that what I was dealing with was potentially depression, that was causing me to self harm.

The Mix: What made you realise you needed help?

Maddie: I first went to the doctors for help with my mental health aged 16 as I had amazing things happening in my life but overall I just felt depressed and like something was wrong with me. I didn’t mention my self-harm to the doctor at first because I was scared, I only said that I’d been feeling depressed. They referred me to a phone counselling service, which didn’t work out for me, so after that experience I just didn’t go back. The moment I kind of realised I needed help with self-harm was my parents finding out. I was 17 and I became really unwell and my self-harm/ general mood became very out of control. My mum walked in on me doing it, she was hysterical but then I opened up to her and said it had been something I’d been doing since I was 14 and that it was a way of me punishing myself or something I did to get a release.

The Mix: What was your first step towards seeking support?

Maddie: After finding out, my parents then took me (well dragged me) to the doctor to get help because at this point the self-harm was bad and I was also very suicidal. The doctor then referred me to mental health services, however in the meantime my mental health deteriorated a lot and after multiple A&E trips, I ended up in a psychiatric unit as I was deemed a risk to myself.

The Mix: What was recovery journey like?

Maddie: Hard. After my stay in the unit my self harm actually continued getting worse. When I was in there it was harder to self-harm as everything you could use is taken off you but you still find ways to hurt yourself. When I got out, my parents had been told by the hospital to lock away all the sharps/ medications etc. in the house but I still found ways around it, and I still hadn’t had proper therapy for it for long enough to deal with the underlying issues. When I then started seeing the community mental health team and my overall mental health started improving – that’s when I feel like I fully committed to recovery. I would work out coping mechanisms and alternatives with my psychologist. There were lots of relapses but because I was putting the effort in and working on myself, I was using healthy coping techniques instead and things seemed to improve overall.

Watch the video Maddie Bruce made with us for our Self-Harm Awareness Day campaign:

The Mix: What are the main challenges that you faced?

Maddie: Not reacting in the way in which my brain had become accustomed to i.e., trigger arises, my thinking spirals and I feel the need to self-harm. Recognising and stopping that process before it escalated to self-harm was the most difficult. Relapses can be disheartening because you can feel like you’ve made so much progress by being say 40 days clean and then you break it and it can feel like you’re back to square one. But instead of pressuring myself to be 41 days clean the next time I would just focus on staying clean for however long I could.

The Mix: What helped you the most when you were in recovery?

Maddie: Having all the sharps etc. locked away was a massive help (although annoying at the time). CBT Therapy helped me massively and also the main thing for me was just distraction. Sometimes your brain doesn’t have the capacity to think about alternatives or use techniques so distracting yourself with a good series, or your pet, or a bath can be an easy method.

The Mix: How did other people in your life help you with your recovery?

Maddie: My friends were super supportive. Throughout my recovery I’ve met lots of people who also struggle with the same issues so having them to speak to was great. But even my friends who had never struggled but gave me their time if I was feeling urges and wanted to talk through how I was feeling was so important. My family, and especially my mum, were amazing. Mum actually took time off work to look after me and help me in my recovery and my family kept the house as safe as possible for me. My mum was just a non-judgemental comforting influence at that time. I think she realised there was nothing she could do to stop it and even though it made her sad she was just supportive and that’s all I needed at the time.

The Mix: What advice would you give to someone who wants to recover from self-harm?

Maddie: Talk to someone. Perhaps a doctor to then get referred to therapy, because therapy helped my recovery massively. Or a friend or family member who can just sit and listen to how you feel. Even finding a community online (like The Mix’s boards) can be so helpful.

Be easy on yourself because recovery is not linear. It’s forwards, backwards, up, down and round and round but when you commit to getting yourself to a better headspace and remember that self-harm is not the answer to all your problems, things will get better. The setbacks shouldn’t matter as much, it’s how you pick yourself back up again.

Finally, it is possible. I didn’t think I‘d be able to do it in a million years but it does get easier over time. Be patient, stay strong and you will get there, I promise.

Coping with self-harm and need support?

Coping with self-harm can be really difficult, and we know recovery isn’t a straightforward journey. That’s why we want to break the stigma around self-harm and make it ok to talk about. Talking is the first important step and The Mix are here to listen. Head to our Self-Harm Awareness Day page for lots of helpful support and advice.

Many thanks to Maddie for her involvement in this project. You can watch more of Maddie’s videos on her YouTube channel.

Next Steps

  • Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • selfharmUK provides information and advice about self harm. You can ask a question to their expert panel or share your story.
  • Self-Injury Support provides emotional support and information for women and girls in distress, especially those who self-harm. You can email or call them for free on 0808 800 8088 or text them on 07537 432444.
  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • Under 19? You can get confidential help with self-harm from ChildLine – either over the phone or through an online chat.
  • DistrACT is a free mobile app available on the App Store (Apple) and Google Play (Android). The app gives discreet access to information and advice about self-harm and suicidal thoughts. The content has been created by doctors and experts in self-harming and suicide prevention.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 13-Mar-2020

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