It was my darkest secret, not because I was ashamed but because I never believed anyone would understand. I didn’t understand, I only knew the need I felt and the relief it gave me.
For as long as I can remember I had my walls up, slowly over time I built them higher and made them stronger, determined no one would ever penetrate them. I put on a good face to the world - but I was dying inside. My self-esteem at rock bottom.
I don’t know where the urge to cut myself came from, I just one day felt compelled to do it, something inside told me it would make me feel better and it did. It made existing bearable, it didn’t allow me to live, in fact it made living harder because I was having to hide myself away. Initially I did it to let the emotions pour out, the cut was my cry and the blood was my tears, it was easier to wear my pain on the outside. As the act of cutting myself became more familiar I used it as punishment, I hated myself and I deserved to feel pain- so I put that pain on me.
My cuts looked like the usual childhood bumps and scrapes, I think people think of repeated slash marks when they hear the words self-harm and because I don’t have these I think people would be surprised by my confession. This is the trouble, people expect a certain personality, sign, characteristic or behaviour and without them they dismiss the problem, not everyone with the same label behaves in the same way. I smiled a lot, but I just became good at wearing a mask and hiding my feelings, terrified of anyone finding out.
It became an addiction, a need, a ritual and I feared how I would cope without it. I changed my methods repeatedly, I tried different things to hurt myself as I battled with the desire to do it and the aftermath of doing so. I felt in a constant battle with myself and I had no energy for friendships, so I withdrew myself from the world, only doing the very bare minimum needed to get by. I was a teenager, no one thought anything of it. I knew how to fake a smile and I could do it well, knowing however much torment I had to suffer I had the answer to make it all better when I got home.
I wish I could say one day it all stopped, and this was how, but I can’t because there was no quick fix, it was a slow process, years drifted by and looking back its more years than I care to remember but one day a few hours had gone by and I realised I hadn’t felt the urge to seek relief, those few hours turned into a few days and then a few weeks and eventually a few years. Life went on by and I sort of learned to accept myself. I think acceptance was the biggest thing, when I stopped trying to be someone else a weight lifted from me and life sort of fell into place, not perfectly but good enough that I could focus on my state of mind.
It’s not perfect, the young girl with her walls up lost in the world still exists, she is hiding in a corner of my mind and when life gets all too much she makes an appearance and I have to fight hard to resist the urge, but I know deep down that the relief I would be seeking would never come, not now. It stopped working long before I stopped cutting, I just never admitted it to myself because I needed it, I needed it to work and I tried everything, but even as I cut deeper I did not find release.
No one ever did find out, my secret wasn’t suddenly discovered, I chose to reveal it. I wrote about it in my Hometown Tale memoir because I came to realise that I was not ashamed and I had survived. I also remembered how alone I felt, how isolated like I was the only one who felt that way, the only one suffering with it and life has taught me that many people hide things because they feel like they are the only ones going through it.
It is still very raw to talk about, but it is getting easier, talking helps and it does not define me, I am who I am whether you know my secret or not that does not change. I am not the girl I once was.
Of course I do still remember that almost euphoric feeling and sometimes I long for it so no, I am not over it, I don’t think I ever will be. I think I have learned to live with it, there are good days and bad days- the darkness will never be gone completely however much I might want it to be.
Victoria is a writer living in Yorkshire with her husband and children. Author of the memoir ‘The Island Upon the Moor’ Hometown Tales Yorkshire – it is her story of a carefree childhood and battles with depression. Victoria writes from the heart about personal experiences.
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