I’m not as okay as I pretend to be.
Welcome to the tenth interview in the Self-Harm Series. I want to thank you for sticking around because I know this is a hard topic to revisit over and over again. The easy thing to do would be to bury your head in the sand and pretend you don’t know anyone with struggles like we’ve covered in the last couple of months. But the truth is… you do know someone. God has sent me ten brave souls so far. Ten people who are willing to lay it all out there so we can see what this looks like and so that others who are struggling know they’re not alone in their battles.
Today, I was with a friend and she needed a ride to work. We stopped at McDonald’s on the way and I noticed the arms of the young lady at the first window who collected the payment. First I saw a long scar on the outside of her forearm and wondered if it was a self-harm scar. Then I noticed a tattoo that moved around to the inside. For a moment, I wanted to just go hug her. But I’m sure she would have thought I was nuts and called the police. Just a couple of years ago, I might not have even known what I was looking at. People get tattoos all the time after all, but now I’m a little more awake. More aware.
But even with all these interviews, I know very little. All I can do is help folks tell their story and hope that telling it is therapeutic for them, and for others dealing with similar issues.
Welcome, Haley. Thanks so much for your willingness to speak with me. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Haley Payne. I’m from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I cut, punch, burn, starve myself, and pull my hair out. I started self-harming when I was eight-years-old.
How did the self-harming begin?
I remember trying to shave my legs and I cut myself. It felt like pure happiness. That, right there, began my addiction to self-harm. I had no father and I was a child who walked around by herself at recess. By the time I was nine, I was overweight and started seeing a nutritionalist. I started skipping meals and purging. Hello, eating disorder! I was put in therapy, but I just could not stop cutting.
Why do you think that is?
Something about it made me feel in control. I hid it from everyone. My first suicide attempt was when I was eleven. From there, I progressively worsened. When I was fifteen I developed schizoaffective disorder and later was hospitalized four times. My mother was always wanting me to get better but did all the wrong things. I have a wonderful psychologist who has helped me through every struggle I have.
I love hearing about psychologists, therapists, etc in the field who truly make a difference. Was the self-harm possibly related to the schizophrenia?
My self-harm wasn’t just from the schizophrenia, though it did have a big impact.
Is there anything from your childhood that you think made you prone to self-harm? You said you walked around alone at recess… Were you bullied?
I was bullied. My first suicide attempt was from a girl who used to call me fat and throw things at me. She was three years older than me.
And when was your latest suicide attempt?
My last suicide attempt was four months ago. I’d planned to kill myself on my 18th birthday.
If you’re willing, please tell me about it.
My last attempt was in April. I was in a state called psychosis and having delusions. I was home alone. I kept trying to reach my ex fiance and friends, but no one was answering. So I cut my wrists and downed a bottle of pills. I don’t remember much but I didn’t go to the hospital or anything.
I’m glad it wasn’t your time to go. What has your recovery process been like?
I have been trying to get clean for over a year. My longest time clean in eleven years was two months and twenty-two days.
Who are you outside of the self-harm? What are your goals and interests?
I love reading and dancing and that helps a lot. I write poetry and I love listening to people’s stories. I want to be a psychologist.
So you’re going to college?
Yes! I am extremely excited to start. Since my high school experience was cut short I’m happy to be going out into the new world and getting a fresh start!
Awesome! What advice would you offer others who are dealing with similar struggles?
If I had any advice I’d tell them to get help because it is an addiction just like drugs and alcohol and that you are not in control.
Thank you, Haley. I wish you all the best in your recovery. I know you’ll be able to help many people before you even finish your degree. Get the best grades you can anyway!
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