by Sonia

“She’s looking for attention”.

“She’s manipulative”.

Just some of the things my Psychiatrist told my parents about my self harm among other things, alongside forcing me to sign a contract that meant that if I hurt myself or tried to end my life, I would be discharged (this included talking to the team about urges to hurt myself).

I tried hard to hide it from my family, but they knew I did it and in the beginning, I did tell my care team about it – that’s how naïve I was. I thought that being honest was the right thing to do and that by being honest, they would be able to help me. I was wrong. I soon realised that hurting myself in a way no one could see was the only way forward. If they couldn’t see it, then they couldn’t accuse me of being the person they described me as; as the person I must be.

The problem was how sick it made me – at least at first and that was hard to hide, but I managed to pass it off as a hangover or a bug or flu. Looking back now, I don’t think I was believed but I still don’t think anyone knows exactly what was happening and certainly not the extent of it. Eventually I had to admit it to mental health services and while I don’t think they fully understood what I was doing (they couldn’t get their heads around it not being suicidal behaviour), they certainly understood the risk.

I managed to stop for a while but the urge to hurt myself never went away and because of work, seeing people etc., I knew I could only go back to hurting myself in a way no one could see. So that’s what I did. I convinced myself that I was in control, that I could manage it, not let it get to a point where I would need help.  I was wrong. It took a while but I spiralled out of control.

The more I did it and didn’t cause any damage, the more risks I took – pushing my body to its limits. I stopped caring about anything except where I could find what I needed without raising suspicions, how much I could hurt myself without being so ill that I’d need time off work. I found a way to control the side effects of what I was doing so while I wasn’t feeling physically ill, I still knew that I was causing damage. When I eventually told the professionals this time around; actually wanting help, for a long time, I felt that they didn’t believe what I was telling them; how could I be doing what I was, to the extent I was, yet presenting as perfectly fine? Why wasn’t I sick if I was really hurting myself in the way I said I was, when the results of the blood tests I occasionally agreed to came back normal.

Professionals felt the need to tell me, constantly, the risk of what I was doing and I understand that but what they didn’t understand was that I didn’t care. While what I was doing was most definitely self harm, I was absolutely not trying to kill myself, I just didn’t care if that happened to be the outcome of my actions. It took a very long time for services to get to grips with it. They thought I was trying to kill myself and I had to explain over and over that I wouldn’t be doing it this way – every day, multiple times a day over many, many years – all they had to do was to look back at my history and see the times I had tried to kill myself, to see the difference in my behaviour.

Over time however, they did come to understand, although, it felt to me, only when things became even riskier, when tests could prove the damage I was doing, when they could no longer ignore the risk I was taking and that I was playing russian roulette my life. At that point, limits were set. We had bizarre conversations where my CPN and I would agree boundaries and if I pushed those boundaries, I knew what the consequences would be. But I couldn’t stop myself and ultimately it was my GP as the prescriber who made the decision. I was devastated and angry at her, at all of them for taking away this way of coping, but I didn’t and don’t blame her.

While every day, I regret making the decision to self harm in the way that I do, the fact that no one in my personal life can accuse me of attention seeking or being manipulative or the many other things they have in the past comforts me.

Sonia tweets on @soniamaya81