Hi, everyone. Glad you’re still here!
Today I want to start by saying, ‘thank you,’ to the ‘No More Self Harm’ Group who publishes an online paper through Paper.li. They’ve picked up nearly all of the blogs I’ve done in this series and published them in their paper, making our outreach even greater. I’m grateful.
The young lady I’m interviewing today is someone I connected with on Twitter. She tweeted a message about her recovery and I asked if I could interview her. She said yes and I’m thankful she did.
Bryony: I cut myself and it got very severe. I also burnt myself with cigarettes. Whilst in the hospital, I used to head bang, leaving my face heavily bruised. I also attempted suicide through cutting and overdoses.
Do you know what led you to begin self-harming?
I developed OCD at a young age. This anxiety began my self-harm. At around the age of fourteen, I developed depression which worsened it. When I was fifteen, I was put into a secure children’s home, which nine months later was deemed not suitable for a child with a mental illness and I was sent to an adolescent hospital where I was diagnosed with BPD (Bipolar Disorder).
Is whatever triggered the OCD identifiable? Maybe stress at home or school? Trauma? Or did it come out of nowhere?
It took a lot of exploring to try and understand what caused my ‘off’ at such a young age. We now believe that it was triggered by an accident my dad had when we were on holiday in France when I was around seven. He over-extended his spine whilst body boarding, leaving him paralysed in the water. My brother and strangers kept him afloat. He had to be in a neck brace and was taken away in an ambulance. It’s thought that I was too young to understand the concept of death, so I developed OCD as a way of having control over things I had no control of or couldn’t understand.
I’m sorry to hear about your father. That would definitely be a cause for PTSD. How did your placement in these facilities affect you and your family?
I became very withdrawn; a deep depression would overcome me. The worst bit was the effect it had on my family. It was very painful for them and they would have to travel two to three hundred miles to see me in some of my placements up and down the UK.
Though you’re now recovered, do you still have urges to repeat this behavior?
I do occasionally. I was in the hospital from the age of fifteen, until my eighteenth birthday when I was discharged. That was just under six months ago, so it’s still early days. But, I perceive myself as being recovered. Urges now are as a result of a trigger rather than the depression. If I have an argument, or if I suffer intrusive thoughts, the urges come back. But I am getting stronger every day, reinforcing my ability to not act upon these urges.
How long has it been since you’ve self-harmed?
January was my last relapse. I haven’t self-harmed regularly since November-December of 2014.
That’s wonderful! I’m glad you’re doing so well. What was the greatest hindrance in your journey to recovery?
The children’s home I was sent to when I was fifteen. It wasn’t a hospital and it wasn’t a care home. It was a place for adolescents with behavioural problems and almost all of them had been involved with gangs or crime. These kids were mostly lovely, but who had been caught up in some bad stuff. The staffs approach was to punish and correct behaviour. As you can imagine, this approach doesn’t work for someone with a self-harm problem… someone who is mentally ill. They would punish me and I would think I deserved to be hurt. It reinforced my self-harm massively, to the point I hurt myself so badly I needed surgery. This actually happened quite a few times. They once locked me in my room for 74-hours not allowing me to come out at all.
This makes me angry in ways I won’t even go into. I know there are many good people in the world who work in these facilities, but often times, we fail people miserably. It’s heart wrenching.
May I ask what it was you did and what type of surgery was necessary?
The first surgery I had was to remove foreign bodies. In a secure environment, I couldn’t get my hands on blades. I inserted one pencil, a broken up ruler, staples, pen, and screws into my upper arm. The worst incident I had, which required surgery, was a cut that went from my wrist to my elbow. This wasn’t just self-harm; this was a suicide attempt. Although it was impossible to actually have succeeded because the pain made me pass out, I needed surgery, inside and outside stitches, and a cast on my arm. I’ve had around seven operations in relation to self-harm and around 180ish stitches since I was fourteen. It was a crippling addiction like any other.
Yes, it is. Going through what you have and coming out a winner makes you a total rock star; I hope you know that. So there was more than one hospital in the three years from fifteen to eighteen? Is that right?
I was in three different secure homes and one open hospital. But my condition deteriorated and they couldn’t keep me safe in the last hospital I was in. It was just under two hundred miles away from home. It was a low-security hospital and I was there from September 2014 until March 2015.
What was your turning point… the greatest help in your journey?
The person that helped me the most, apart from my family, was my outreach nurse from the first adolescent psychiatric unit I was in. I worked with her for a year. She would take me out, away from the hospital, to the seaside to get tea or go for a drive. She knew me. She was able to calm me down and reassure me. She’d see me up to four times a week and was my main source of therapy, even though she wasn’t a therapist. She wasn’t just excellent at her job… she cared. And that was more helpful in my view than if she had a degree.
Absolutely. She is an amazing soul for sure. What did you get from her that was different than what you got from your family? I know sometimes I can take news or criticism/advice from others easier than I can from those I love the most. Know what I mean?
My family is great and I didn’t talk to them because I wanted to protect them from what I was experiencing. She (therapist) didn’t judge me, didn’t care about my scars… we had very similar personalities. She also didn’t talk down to me like other professionals did. I needed someone who would tell me the truth. She would tell me if I had stepped out of line. She would tell me if something I wanted to do wasn’t a good idea or achievable. She would be honest and she trusted me. It was a relationship based on respect. She didn’t just see me as another kid you can’t trust because ‘she is ill and will let me down.’ She put everything into helping me recover and I know she got upset when I relapsed and from June to September 2014 when my illness spiraled. Saying goodbye was extremely hard for both of us. We keep in touch and she’s very happy because I am happy. That’s the way she has always been. She wasn’t looking at me in writing notes; she sat next to me on the roller coaster… going through the ups and downs.
When I saw you on twitter, you had posted this pic. Can you tell me about it?
I decided to get this tattoo to mark the end of that chapter of my life. And also so that I can wear short sleeved shirts and know that anyone who sees my scars will know that they are my past and not my future.
Beautiful! What would you say to someone who is going through what you’ve been through?
I would say that you’re not alone and people aren’t judging you when you’re walking on the street, in school, in work. They are all caught up in their own minds with their own worries, their own problems. It’s hard to tell the ones you love you are ill. The truth is some of them won’t be there for you; but, the one’s that are, they are the ones worth keeping in your life. And it’s not as simple as it gets better, it’s more like you will learn ways to cope and be able to deal with your urges in a different way and in turn things will get better.
Bryony, thank you. That’s a difficult but empowering story. You’ve overcome so much and I wish you the best. I’m glad you’re a conqueror!
Peeps! If you’ve not been sharing these stories, please do. Go back and share them all. All the buttons you need to do it are right by each post. Bryony and all the other ladies I’ve spoken with have stories that will help someone right now who is suffering silently. Much love to all of you.
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