Self harming – Where I’m at, healthier coping mechanisms and hope!

Mental Health

I’ve been in a constant turmoil against self harming. A behaviour I began engaging in years ago.

4 years ago, my Teacher voiced her concerns regarding myself and my behaviours. She checked my arms daily for evidence of self harm. As did my Mum, Therapist and everybody involved in my care. I felt hopeless and embarrassed and I wished for nothing more than to disappear. I shrugged things off at first, I denied allegations that I had engaged in hurting myself and often lied about how my injuries occurred. I hated lying, but lies become bigger lies and the truth eventually unfolds.

I now feel hopeful and motivated for a future free from self harm, whilst assisting those who struggle with the same.

The mental torment I endured left me feeling agitated and drained. My mindset encouraged destructive coping mechanisms to handle the things I struggled to express verbally, and to tolerate the torment occurring frequently inside my mind. I felt an epitome of sadness. The minds works in often surreal ways, and I believe that the negativity and hurt we face can only strengthen us for a brighter future.

“There can’t be a rainbow without a little rain”.

It’s essential to take things day by day. Accept the stage you’re at, regardless of how agonising, and reach out for support. Understand that you’re not a failure for slipping into old habits, and you can never be defined by your struggles. If you begin to feel overwhelmed or become flooded with urges, don’t be afraid to reach out.

Thankfully, after years of therapy with various teams and specialists, and many self help guides (some helpful, some questionable) I am well on my way with stopping self harming for good. I cannot remember the last time I hurt myself intentionally, and I’m proud of my progress. I’m doing well! It’s not an overnight process, healing takes time and lots of gruelling perseverance. But my episodes are occurring less frequently and I’m determined to replace my self harming behaviours for those that promote self care and land me closer to happiness.

“Laura, if you carry on this way you’ll have lifelong scars. Is that what you want?” Of course not. But when I feel compelled to hurt myself, future prospects are the last thing on my mind.

I may have lifelong scars, but I’m working on bettering myself with the strength I am constantly developing to override every destructive urge I face. I am not my thoughts, my experiences cannot define me.

Although I remain encouraged by those who speak up about their issues -past and present- I am also well aware of the stigma surrounding self harm. Unfortunately, the subject is still broadly misunderstood and this can make reaching out for support increasingly more difficult. People believe you can “just stop” hurting yourself, when the process becomes addictive and difficult to stop. Habituation has to occur, negative behaviours need to be replaced for positive ones. The behaviour enlisted as a coping mechanism and a way to release negative thoughts, feelings and emotions rather than a form of attention seeking.

I’ve touched upon self harm in precious blog posts, which can be reached here

The truth is, lots of people who self harm feel compelled to hide themselves away due to the fear of being judged, the worries over being questioned and ridiculed. This shouldn’t be the case, and we should be working towards a more accepting and understanding society. People cope in different ways, and although it can be upsetting to see, it’s important to stem away from judgement.

We cannot be certain of what a person is going through. Choose kindness. Instead of staring, share a smile. Instead of assuming, consider asking the person how they’re feeling. It takes a considerate level of strength to show your scars in public, believe me. I used to feel compelled to hide my scars away, but I’ve come to realise that my scars do not define me. They symbolise the battles I’ve won.

I believe that distractions are the key to refraining from self harming, but I cannot speak for everybody. I also appreciate that techniques may not always work as they often require focus and patience, which can be difficult to obtain with racing, loud thoughts. I’ve been in situations countless times where distractions have felt impossible to comprehend. I’ve lacked the concentration to settle with a book and recommended distractions often failed to work in my favour.

Self harming behaviours cannot be mended solely by holding ice or by the encouragement to paint our nails. The root of the problem must be dealt with in order for people to make sufficient progress.

Our minds can easily manipulate us into believing that harming ourselves is the only way out.

Honestly? Things WILL get better. It’s cliché, but it’s true.

To access support/guidance:

If you’re struggling with self harming, please seek support. In my experience, this can be reached through accessing your GP and asking for a referral to local services, such as The CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) or CAMHS.

MIND: 0300 123 3393 or text: 86463

The Samaritans: 116 123

Health & wellness – A discovery journey

Mental Health

For the past 5 years, I’ve been starting my day between 6 and 6:30am.

Crazy? No. Happiness inducing? Yes!

I’ve been a proud early riser from a young age, with my Mum claiming that I was “awake before the birds” as I rushed downstairs excitedly to view my favourite animated series – Arthur, whilst wrapped comfortably in my dressing gown. However, I began waking up earlier (involuntarily) following my battle with Anorexia Nervosa, because I struggled to maintain a substantial sleeping pattern and I found it near impossible to stay sleeping due to hunger pains and the physical symptoms I faced at the time.

Although this remains a struggle, I enjoy waking up earlier now and the process no longer feels forced or unnatural. I’m going to practice positive coping mechanisms until they take the place of the negative ones I currently abide by.

Additionally, I also wanted to make up for “lost” time. I wasted a significant amount of time in bed following my worst bouts of Depression since I had minimal motivation, or energy, to leave the comfort of my bed. I left my job as I battled panic attacks and self harming episodes and after I completed my Animal Management qualification and I had very little to focus on. I felt worthless and alone, I had no interactions with people my age and I spent most of my time socialising with my therapist(s).

Recently, I’ve gained collective benefits from starting my days early, I’ve added more productivity to my day-to-day schedule and the feeling of achievement and keeping busy boosts my mood significantly. It also reduces my feelings of low self esteem and issues me with a happy distraction. I find that it’s harder to dwell on my bad thoughts if I’m busy, so it’s beneficial all round!

I start my day off lightly, I scroll through social media briskly and then listen to my favourite podcasts to assist the maintenance of positivity throughout my day. It’s important to me that I regularly listen to positive, motivational speakers and read uplifting and relatable quotes, I believe it assists me in releasing negative energy and encourages me to let go of the past, to move forward and focus my energies towards healing. Social media can be an excellent resource if it’s used in the correct way, I recommend eliminating all forms of toxicity from your accounts and unfollowing anybody who makes you unhappy.

I also wish to add more self care to my day, as it’s something I’m prone to neglecting lots, especially when things are tough or when I’m busy. And this often leads to an overload. Prioritising self care is essential, I will rest up, take myself on walks in nature and to coffee shops. I will learn to heal.

Throughout my mental health journey, I’ve attempted to work with a range of different processionals and services and I struggled to reap any benefits from the implemented methods, which has made me feel like a lost cause, unfortunately. I’ve recently been focusing incredibly on mindfulness and I aim to create a spirituality journey in order to help the healing of my body and my mind. After years of self destruction and self doubt, I desperately wish to view myself in a positive light.

Up until recently, I haven’t been motivated to change my mindset, but now I’m working hard because I want to find happiness and a balance in life. I’ve been thinking increasingly about my future, and I tear up picturing myself being an adult crying over food and still struggling with self harm. It’s not a future I want, however scary the recovery process shall be. I’m constantly being told that I should care for myself in the same way I care for others, while listening to my own advice, and I’m beginning to realise why that is so important.

I used to believe that recovering from Anorexia solely required reestablishing a “healthy” relationship with food and my body, but that’s only part of it, since Eating Disorders are incredibly more complex than just food and weight restoration. Though, my battle has widened my eyes into the other life aspects I struggle with and I now realise I have a long road ahead of me.

I’m now more determined than ever to begin a positive journey towards healing not just my body, but also my mind. For processes to change, you have to want to change, nobody can force recovery on you. Believe me, I’ve waited. The mental and physical aspects of my health both stand as equal as each other, and it’s time I began to acknowledge that by putting my words into practice and listening to my body.

Saturday farm day

Little Owl Farm

14-07-2018

Waking up at 6am, I was stoked for what was set to be another fun filled day at the farm. Though, I wasn’t due to set off for a couple of hours afterwards! I never have been one for lying in…

It wasn’t long until I was up, washed and dressed for the day. Appropriately choosing my very well suited “crazy goat lady” t-shirt in preparation of being surrounded with my very best Goat friends. A second home.

Firstly reaching Manchester, after a short wait at the bus stop, and then Oldham, I was soon to be setting foot on my last bus ready to approach the farm. A very pleasant journey filled with picturesque countryside views and clear blue skies as the sun beamed down, strongly. I also petted a very friendly, brown eyed, Jack Russell upon choosing a seat.

Greeting John and Izaak, I then went on to cleaning out the Rabbit’s hutches. Simply removing the old substrate and replacing it for new – it’s always a pleasure seeing it fresh whilst my furry friends are hopping around my feet. Replacing their waters and ensuring to keep a regular check on them, especially in staggering 24°c heat.

  • It’s vital that animals always have access to fresh drinking water. A simple, basic requirement.
  • Rabbits (and other animals) are extremely sensitive to warmer weather conditions. Taking steps to keep them cool and comfortable is vital.
  • Providing Rabbits with frozen water bottles, vegetables and fruits helps to keep them cool, alongside cool mats and shaded areas.

We fed the Pigs whilst adding new bedding. The full clean was undertaken, looking immaculate, by the time I arrived at the farm so it was just a case of changing the bedding and filling the troughs with water with the help of the extended hosepipe. I was very particular in ensuring the straw was fluffed up to their hearts content, wanting them to be in for a very comfortable sleep!

The ducks were next. Entering the enclosure armed with my trusty wheelbarrow and brushes as they happily quacked away simultaneously whilst I worked. Many filled wheelbarrows and walks up the hill later, I was well on my way to a fresh enclosure for the curious ducks. Ready to change their waters after adding fresh substrate.

I then went onto cleaning out the Goat enclosure. My favourite part of the day! (Alongside all the hugs I receive) Armed with brushes and shovels, it was a job that may have been quicker without the (many) additional Goat cuddles. Something I deem impossible! We even sunbathed together at some point. Admittedly, hay makes a very comfortable bed. Accompanied with three curious Goats and covered in…all sorts but with much joy in my heart. I refilled the enclosure with fresh straw, after it was clear, which made for very happy Goats and a very happy Laur!

During this time, I was also pleasantly surprised to see Cindy at the farm. With it also being the quickest I’ve ever jumped out of the Goat enclosure out of excitement. My day was made!

Following my animal packed day, I went on to spending some quality time with my animal friends (yay!) with my much needed hugs from Poppy and Mary-Jane, and chatting to some lovely visitors about my volunteering at the farm and giving a demonstration of how to hand feed the Donkeys – the friendly giants. And chatting about Goats (of course) Going onto giving Jay his favoured chin rub as he tilted his head, delicately placing his head on my hand.

I also helped the companionable Sarah with bathing her gorgeous Shetland pony, Dolly. Filling the bucket and carrying it together, it wasn’t long before Dolly was coated in shampoo and rinsed ready for a whole new, cleaner look.

I then headed off home. Backpack at the ready and a hug from John, until my next return. It was another excellent day!