As the winter nights are drawing in I am finding things increasingly challenging. This is the first winter in a very long time that I have not been self harming. I’m finding this unsurprisingly very hard. In recent years I always manage to convince myself that self harming in the winter is just ‘a given’ and that it would be silly for me not to be cutting when everyone is wearing long sleeves and wrapping up warm. Unlike in the summer when you stick out like a sore thumb with your winter clothes in summer colours desperately trying to make your outfit look casual and that you are just one of those ‘constantly cold’ people who needs to wrap up all year round. When in reality you are constantly scanning for a moment to break away from other people and roll up your sleeves to get a few seconds of fresh air on your skin. The main thing that has got me through the colder weeks so far without slipping back into those oh so easy old habits is the reminder that I can spend the long-sleeved months working on the process of fading my scars, so when the summer comes around I will be able for the first time in years to confidently wear short sleeves. Who knew short sleeves could open up so many doors, eh?
- Surfing and water sports! short-sleeved wet suits are the best!
- No longer be constantly looking for those rare amazing long-sleeved tops!
- SUMMER DRESSES- YES PLEASE!
- Sleeping over at someones house? No worries! You no longer have to find a long-sleeved outfit for the day and long sleeve PJ’s!
- You see that top over there, that’s cute! You buy it! As simple as that! You won’t have to think about “it’s just a little too short..” or “does it show those scars too much..??”
- No more searching for those cardigans that are lightweight enough to wear on the hot days but also running the risk of being too shear and making scars visible.
- Going to an event and get a one-off tee-shirt? Wear it with pride right then and there, because you haven’t got vivid scars holding you back!
- No longer will you have to sweat it out in a jumper that you can’t take off because you were foolish enough to think it would stay the same temperature all day
These are just a few of the things that I think about to get me through my daily urges. The process of recovering from self harm is a long one and it will never be an easy by any stretch of the imagination. But reminding myself everyday of the bigger picture helps me get through the smaller goals that I set myself day to day. Baby steps will get me there.
I have been using writing as a coping tool for almost a year now. I have always been interested in making short stories and I have enjoyed mixing art and my love of words to explain what goes on inside my head (disordered and non disordered). Since my admission to hospital in December 2014 my love of writing has flourished and the way that I use words and creativity has been mainly channeled to get a stronger understanding of my somewhat hectic mind. It has been really helpful for me to use scrapbooking along side my journaling and therapy to cope with overwhelming emotions and in has been a really visual way to see my progress without going into deep meaningful detail. I can just choose to dip into a scrapbook that I put together in February – March and flick through some of the pages and I will see how my thoughts were shifting and smile at the small goals I set and achieved. I still keep a scrapbook now and I would recommend to anyone that they should start one! Not every page was about mental health, I have pages about all sorts of thing. Like what songs I like, films, events, goals, places I want to visit etc.. I will put some photos in this post of some of the pages I have made over the past year and maybe it might give you some inspiration!
Dear 14 year old Tilly,
So, things aren’t great right now, huh? Well I have some good and bad news for you but just keep reading because it does have a happy ending! The mental health stuff isn’t a phase unfortunately. Over the next 4 years you will gain scars, friends, weight, new talents and most importantly hope! – To name but a few! You will be given an ever changing diagnosis and sometimes they will feel like you have been slapped with a label and are really scary. But at the age of 17 you will get the diagnosis of ‘emotionally unstable personality disorder’ with then gets officially changed to ‘borderline personality disorder’ and it will be a good fit for you. Although it is still a scary diagnosis it is something that you can work with and one that will give you hope and perspective! You will fight to stay out of hospital several times but in December 2014 you aren’t able to scrape by with another near miss and you get admitted to a psychiatric ward. Your self harm spirals out of control to unmanageable severity the voices becoming cripplingly loud and are with you every moment of the day this leads you to become extremely unwell. You spend 9 months as a inpatient and you meet some truly amazing people. Your friendships outside of hospital grow stronger as do your family relationships. The friendships that you form in hospital are unlike any other relationships you will have and they make you feel understood in a way that you have never felt before. The voices in your head stay, but it isn’t all bad because the medication they give you makes them quieter and you learn to live happily with them. I don’t think you will believe me but you do get to a point that you don’t keep them a secret and you can speak openly about them without the shame you feel so strongly right now.
I’m almost 18 now, Tills! I know at one point you didn’t think you would make it to your 16th birthday. I’m glad we made it this far because even though things are still tough and it is still a daily battle with our own mind, I now also have a yearning to explore and live the life we deserve.
Keep on keeping on, Tilly. You truly are a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for! From, 17 year old Tilly
Just a quick post because I really need to share a self harm recovery win! So, cutting has been a huge struggle for me and was the most prominent reason for my admission. The more I am fighting it the more I notice the small things about self harm that just wriggled there way into my life. It feels as if it’s a weed growing around the cracks in the wall and it doesn’t matter how much weed killer you put on there will always be small little vines that rise up again and again. As I was getting ready to leave the house today I came across a small knife that my mum bought from IKEA the past weekend. She was pleased with it because it was so sharp and all of our knives are dull and that comment alone triggered me quite a lot. In the past I have come across sharps and I would always ‘test’ how sharp they are by cutting myself really superficially. But today was the first time ever that I did not hurt myself with the rouge house hold sharp! Admittedly I did cry for half an hour after putting the knife down but it is still a huge achievement for me! One step closer to full recovery from self harm and I can’t bloody wait to have it out of my life for good!
After my 9 month long admission to a CAMHS ward there are many things I have learnt to never take for granted ever again. There are the classics that all patients can agree on, like not having access to internet and missing your own bed but I want to talk about some of the things that don’t spring straight to mind and your longing for them builds up over time. So lets begin!
- Toilet seats! – highly underrated and all around make for a better bathroom experience
- Having a lemsip when you are feeling under the weather. In hospital they would have to call the doctor so they could write the over the counter medication on your chart *sigh*
- Familiar noisiness of your own home. I live in a flat so we have a lot of small ongoing noises but oh how I missed them while living in the noisiest place on earth
- My bedroom mirror- the ones we had in our bathrooms were made of plastic and I would liken them to fun house mirrors. Not cool guys.
- Making your own cup of tea just the way you like it. I must give credit to the few members of staff who made my tea perfectly but you were few and far between.
- Watching something on the TV that runs past 10pm on a week day
- Unsupervised scissor access. This is brilliant for hours of uninterrupted craft time
- Being able to put my iPod on charge myself- Never have to go a night music-less ever again!
- Using a proper mug not a plastic one- This was quite possibly one of the best things about going on leave. Ahhh a good brew in a bucket sized mug, fantastic!
- Getting fresh air when I want it without having to ask first- this includes walking in the rain, I missed feeling the rain on my face a lot more than I could have ever expected. Unsurprisingly staff were never keen to take us on a grounds walk in the rain.. shame!
- Picking up the phone and calling a loved one when ever you want to
- Sleeping without a light being shone in your eyes throughout the night, especially when you are on 15 minuet checks. No no. Just no.
- Having a shower without having to yell “I’M ALIVE!!!” constantly.
Coming off 1:1 was and still is one of my proudest hospital moments and I would like to share some more specific things that I will never take for granted ever again;
- Going for a wee without someone in the bathroom with you or listening on the other side of slightly open door. (You have no idea how many times I have awkwardly sang the song ‘let it go’ due to bathroom stage fright)
- Going for a shower and being able to sing for your own enjoyment. Oppose to singing so you don’t have a member of staff bursting in and joining you in your shower.
- Waking up knowing that someone hasn’t been staring at you all night long- this is unsupervised bliss!
These are just a few of the things I do not miss from hospital and will always be thankful I have the freedom and trust to do or not do now!
thanks for reading! Tilly 🙂
I feel like the end of 2014 didn’t happen and 2015 didn’t happen either. I don’t know any of the social media jokes from this year. I don’t know how christmas was or how my friends celebrated new year. I don’t know what it was like to have a life that didn’t consist of constant self destructive urges and attempts to kill yourself. I know I’m in a better place now. Such a better place and for that I’m proud. But I can’t help but feel a little sad for all of the things I have missed out on in the past year. 2015 has only got a few months left on its shelf life but for me its going to be a year that I will never let go of. I started the year sad and extremely unwell, I’m ending the year with so many friends and a new craving to live and enjoy life. Although this year coming to close feels very scary I’m proud of the progress I have made and the clear achievements that can be seen by everyone who has known me for the past 12 months. So even though it will no longer be the year I spent in hospital that doesn’t mean that it is completely in the past, 2015 is never going to be a hard year to grab and pull to the front of memory and I hope to learn how to think about it in a healthy and productive way. I want to go into 2016 with several months of hard earned recovery under my belt and to feel strong enough to push myself and make the most of the life that I have worked so hard for. I owe it to myself to make 2016 a healthy year full of pride and love, I deserve to give myself that much.
I have spent a lot of time sitting with my addiction. Facing it, breathing it in. Thinking about how my life would be if I didn’t have it hanging over me constantly. How my life would be if I were ‘clean’. In basic terms being ‘clean’ is not participating in your addiction. At most times in the past 4 years living without self harm seemed a vague and distant prospect that I couldn’t get grips of, so I have never had the opportunity to have a life with the benefits of being ‘clean’. But this morning I was thinking about how I’m coming up to 3 months without self harm and being ‘clean’ is different to what I could have ever expected..
I was thinking the other day about what being ‘clean’ means to me. How I am over 2 months ‘clean’ from self harm. But when I was living side by side with cutting, going a day or at points mere hours without it couldn’t have made me feel anything further from ‘clean’. I felt extreme amounts of guilt for missed opportunities to hurt myself. I deemed a cut to not be ‘fresh’ any more after 5 hours, or practically when it had fully stopped bleeding. Self harm with something that I spent every hour of everyday thinking about. If I wasn’t hurting myself I would be thinking about it, planning it, scanning a room for things that I could potentially use to hurt myself with. I dreamt about it, followed out rituals around self harm. It was my everything and getting to the realisation that self harm was not what I thought it was, was crushing. I felt as though self harm was my best friend, it was something that I couldn’t live without, it was there for me and made me feel better like nothing else could. I could never feel ‘clean’ when I was free from it because I needed self harm and having any amount of time without it was too hard to live with. But now, I see self harm for what it really is; a lier. This is the first time I actually feel clean. For me being clean is more than not self harming. Because for the first time since I started self harming I am experiencing what it feels like to have my whole body free from dressings. To have a shower with no pain and while I’m having a shower I can use any bath product that I want to, because I don’t have any cuts to hold me back! For me being clean is being free. I don’t have to compromise with my body and daily activities and I can do what feels right for me everyday. I can have a bubble bath I can wear tight jeans and white tops without fear of healing cuts making visible marks on them. I can walk out into a crowd of people and not flinch away in pain when someone unknowingly nocks or bumps me, I can give and receive tight hugs with no fear or pain. There are so many things that I have the opportunity to enjoy now that I am ‘clean’ and sure I miss cutting but everyday I go without it helps for me to see the world in a clearer light. Everyday I discover more things that I can do now I am not constantly paired with self harm. It almost feels as though I’m learning to live again and I’m seeing how beautiful the world is for the very first time, and for me- that is what being ‘clean’ is all about.