Self harm is an addictive way to cope with mental pain #NoNormal

Sian talks frankly about self harm, using social media responsibly and striving to be happy instead of normal

True Stories

Sian No Normal

I’m Sian Bradley and I’m 22. I’m a freelance journalist advocating for better mental health understanding and treatment. When I’m not writing, I like cycling around London, seeing friends or sighing over cute photos/videos/gifs/memes of dogs.

We are raised with a herd mentality

We’re told to be like everyone else to fit in. But the reality is that normality is unattainable. Having a mental health issue can make you feel like an outsider. But there is only one you on this entire planet of over 7 billion people, and that is a truly amazing feat. So shake off any idea of being normal – strive to be happy instead.

I first self harmed when I was 15 years old

The compulsion to self harm is sudden, ferocious and blindingly overwhelming. I stood in my kitchen, searching for something to attack myself, and attack those dark thoughts. It was confusing, but I knew it helped to alleviate the pain temporarily, meaning it became a habitual ritual. Angry red cuts became a permanent feature on my inner arm, legs and tummy, followed by anxious panic trying to cover them up. I’d lie to family members that made worried enquiries. Eventually, one friend called me out on it in front of our English class. I still remember the gut-wrenching shame of people knowing what I do to myself.

I’m ashamed of my scars

There is a misconception that everyone who self harms is attention seeking, but I never want people to see my scars. Self harm is a release from self-doubt, negative thoughts and all-consuming sadness or anger.

Relapsing can be disheartening, but it can happen to anyone

You should be kind to yourself. I thought I had recovered, until it happened again. Over the years, I have resorted to self-harm when my mental health has been at its worst, and rejection or failure can act as a trigger. I’ve never felt it’s been ‘bad enough’ to get help, but I fear that people will judge me, and think I’m a freak for hurting myself.

Self harm only provides short term relief

It doesn’t address the underlying issues that throw you into such an intense panic or despair that all you can think is “I need to harm myself.” It can become an addictive, unhealthy coping mechanism.

The potential of technology shouldn’t be diminished

Innovative tech is revolutionising how we treat conditions. However, I try to remind myself that social media isn’t reality. I’ve learnt to deactivate my accounts when I’m at my lowest. Everyone is presenting a glorified version of themselves. At the same time, social media can help if you follow the right people, and it can offer a supportive online community.

Self harm doesn’t just mean cutting or burning yourself

It takes many forms, such as over or under eating, drinking or taking drugs. If the underlying intention is to harm or punish yourself as a way to deal with emotions, then it can be classed as self harm.

If you feel the compulsion to self harm, here’s what to do:

  • Try to satisfy that urge without hurting yourself. It can be anything from flicking elastic bands against your wrist, rubbing ice cubes on your skin, or dropping hot sauce on your tongue. This doesn’t eliminate the underlying causes, but it can keep you safe.
  • Look after yourself if you do self harm, and keep injuries clean. If you think you have really hurt yourself, call 999.
  • Talk to someone you trust. You will be surprised how much people care.
  •  When the idea enters your head, try to write down the thoughts circling your head before acting.
  •  Don’t ever think that you aren’t worthy of help. There’s no barometer for how ‘serious’ your self harm is.
  • Recognise your triggers – and develop ways to manage if they happen.
  • Ask yourself why you do it. Understanding your thought processes can help you find the right help.
  • Finally, you are a wonderful human and you deserve to be kind to yourself. This can get better. You can move past this.

If you recognise that someone is self harming and want to support them, handle it sensitively. Don’t get angry, or tell them off. Don’t force them to ‘show you’ if they are visibly distressed. Just show that you care. And ask a simple question: “How can I help?”

Read about our work on Self-Harm Awareness Day!

Next Steps

  • selfharmUK provides information and advice about self harm. You can ask a question to their expert panel or share your story.
  • Under 19? You can get confidential help with self-harm from ChildLine – either over the phone or through an online chat.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 25-Oct-2018