Bethany Murray has been known to SelfharmUK for a long time and is an inspirational young person who has overcome some challenging things in her life. She shares openly with us about her experiences of choosing to speak out about her self-harm.
Three months ago, I spoke about my 14-year battle with self-harm on national TV.
Learning to talk, to anyone at all, about my harming was probably the hardest thing I've ever learnt to do.
I think one of reasons I used harming as a coping strategy was because of how much I struggled to talk to people about the difficult things I was going through. I was unable to put my painful emotions and distressing thoughts into words. Self-harm became a way to express a pain that I could not reduce to something as simple as words.
Over the past two years I've written blogs, posted on social media, spoken at conferences and appeared on the news sharing my experience of self-harm and mental illness.
Reflecting on what I've achieved this year and remembering back to a time when I hadn’t opened up to anyone and was completely alone with this thing that controlled my life, I can now see how far I’ve come, and how much speaking about my self-harm has helped me.
I began self-harming at a young age, when I felt bad about myself or wanted to cry but couldn’t, biting or pinching myself relived the negative emotions. At 14 I started self-harming more seriously, but I still didn’t understand why I was doing it. I would listen to my classmates joke about the “emo kids” who cut themselves for attention I knew this was something I could not ever tell anyone.
I didn’t talk about my harming; I didn’t talk about my feelings; I didn’t talk about the things I was going through that led to me being unable to cope. I acted like I had it together. I tried to work hard. To achieve my best. To be a good friend, good daughter, good student. To do all I could to make people think I was just fine, but I was struggling more and having to work harder to keep up the image of “normal”.
When my mum found out about my self-harm it honestly felt like my whole world crumbled. At this point my mental health deteriorated. I saw counsellors, doctors, therapists, youth workers and nurses. I couldn’t talk about how I was feeling. It wasn’t even that I didn’t want to, I didn’t know how.
Gradually, with kind and patient people, I began to talk about my feelings, about my experiences and began to understand my self-harm and mental illnesses. I began to cope better and managed to reduce my harming.
Why does talking help? To me it still doesn’t really make sense that just because something is “out there” is doesn’t feel as hard or painful anymore – but it’s the way it is. When I manage to share how I’m feeling I feel better.
I also learnt that I was not alone. Other people struggle, other people self-harm, other people feel the way I do. Remembering back to the lost and lonely place I was in before learning to talk about my struggles, it breaks my heart that other people may feel that same way.
Sharing my story still to this day makes me scared or tempted to remain quiet, but I feel so strongly that my story could help people and that self-harm is something I want people to understand.
When I started blogging about my recovery it was a really scary decision to make. I was worried what people would think and whether I was explaining things well enough for people to understand, but I was overwhelmed with comments from people who had found it helpful. It just confirmed to me that I need to speak out about my self-harm and mental health. Speaking on the national news was scary, but I remember thinking that if one person hears what I have to say and is helped then I have done something worthwhile.
Sometimes people still do not understand. People still have misconceptions people still say things that sadden me, but together with a strong voice and with campaigns like Self-Harm Awareness Day we can break the stigma.