Hi my name is Perdi, I am a 32 year old person. [I say person because I don’t know who I really am – I have the body of a disfigured woman and the mind of a dead soul.]
Self- harming for me is a physical manifestation of the extreme internal distress and trauma I feel each day of my life. The feelings of guilt, shame and self-hatred for what I allowed to happen in the past. It is my punishment, yet release from this intense inner pain.
Unfortunately I still torture myself with the horrific injuries I do to myself each day, so although I am an active self-harmer, I still see myself as a survivor, of many things but especially suicide.
I am a survivor because if I truly acted upon the desperate emotional pain and trauma I feel within [the self-hatred, guilt and anger I feel within myself] for not being able to take control of the past, present or future to change my life, I would kill myself. It may seem a total contradiction but I do not want to die! I pray that I will recover one day, just like people who get caught early with cancer. I am still young and while I am still alive there is hope! How can I expect anyone to ever be able to understand me, let alone be able to actively help me? How can I ever trust anyone again?
I was 10 when I partook in my first attempt to self-harm. A deep scratch to my thigh was I thought all the pain I could take, but it didn’t hurt compared to how much I hurt inside. It had been a regular occurrence for my father to help himself to my bodily orifices from a very young age for me, as long as I could remember and that was young. The man who I trusted over anyone else, my knight in shining armour, he hurt me but was always sorry – I was his blue eyed, golden girl, and his little princess – how could he ever mean to hurt me? Could he really kill my kitty and make me eat her? Something I didn’t ever want to find out!
So, what triggered my first attempt at self-harm I think was the fact that suddenly I was realizing with age that maybe what we did wasn’t ‘normal’ and maybe wrong. The older I got the deeper the physical wounds became and the deeper the internal trauma. I learned very quickly to dissociate from what was happening to me and patch myself up after I had brought myself back from hell. Most surgeons would be proud of my stitch work and most quilters would see it as a work of art!
I felt powerless and much too scared to try and stop it; Mum was a drunk and didn’t care so long as father kept feeding her the grog. She never heard the crying, screams and begging for him to stop and the fearful whimpering that went on for often hours. The physical pain of cutting up or burning myself was nothing compared to the sheer hopelessness and feeling that my soul was dead.
I was ashamed of, and hated my body for what he did to it. Self-harming was a way of controlling the situation and punishing myself for what I allowed to happen and he always said how much I enjoyed it – I can’t remember if I did or not – I do remember feeling sick with guilt and seeing the flowing blood bring me back to life – well, life as I knew it!
The affects of self-harming actions on me are physical deformation which is extremely ugly and there’s no plastic surgeon in the world that would ever be able to take the scars away. Much uglier are the flashbacks, the night and day mares that haunt me, the fear of everyone and everything around me. The absolute and sheer terror that he will return from his grave and that he still lives out there somewhere lurking in the shadows of my life! It was also an act of defiance, an assertion of the right to do as I pleased with my body.
Self-harming was a way of punishing my father too – those soft and subtle breasts and silken soft thighs soon became less soft after many a slashing, in fact, they became extremely deformed and very ugly and still are. Long sleeves, high necks, trousers and substantial material are the order of every day for me, so as not to disclose my long kept secret. The physical ugliness that, for short intervals, I can façade with merriment and ‘normality’! Oh and definitely NO mirrors!
Well, I didn’t have any family; Mum was an only child as was Father and so was I [Thank goodness]. I wasn’t allowed friends and most kids at school were afraid of me because they thought I was weird and so was my family. Through their eyes, they were probably right! I have talked to very few people because if you do they think you have two heads and belong in a zoo. They suddenly start keeping their distance afraid of what to or not to say.
It is very hard to find a partner or someone to love such a pathetic excuse of a human being. Most people simply just don’t understand and can’t get their heads around the concept. Then there’s the sympathizer who just basically feels sorry for you and it’s not pity I want, it’s understanding and help to try and stop these physically demeaning and destructive behaviours. I frighten most counselors away if I ever get to see the same one for long enough – some feel they have a magic wand that will heal everything once you fully spill the beans! Except all it does is open a can of worms that keeps oozing and oozing until they become totally consumed and asphyxiated by them and can’t cope anymore. The Beatles put counseling in a nutshell for me “I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say Hello!” But my Hello is too late and it’s back to scratch, well slashing anyway!
The nearest thing to real assistance is the woman I am writing this for as she gives me – unconditional acceptance of what I do to myself and of me as a special person, is an excellent listener who hears, offers honesty, practical coping strategies, mutual respect and belief in the fact that there is hope and that I can do things to slowly improve and take control of my life. My life has been made better for knowing this woman through harm reduction techniques, long talks to gradually uncover and resolve the roots of my internal distress, selfsoothing techniques [something that was extremely alien to me] and someone who is trying very hard to understand this woman behind the scars – me! Annie walks with you, at your side, at your pace, and works with you when you are ready to confront the demons.
I haven’t overcome my self-abusive behaviours yet. However, I have reduced the frequency and intensity of my self-harming. I don’t burn myself anymore though. Annie does work with me in her own time and I so appreciate her commitment of time, honesty and her passion is real contagious! But if I could get into a SAFE Program where I could get some intensive treatment, I know I could give my all to try and overcome this consumption of my life.
Ways I have learned to help myself are by; trying to vent my anger or frustration to relieve the internal tension I am feeling through other means than harming myself. I have a soft pillow that gets bashed at times or thrown around a bit. I sometimes manage a brisk walk if it’s in the day. I have a small tape recorder that I verbalise my frustrations to.
I try to reach out to someone instead of the razor blades. I have a small support network now so I will either call them or ask them if I can visit or they can visit just until the ideation and urge to want to slash has gone. I have rang Lifeline too – but most still don’t know what to say or patronize you and that can make things worse by increasing the level of anger or frustration. Have a couple of little angels there now if I can get them on duty!
I try some self-soothing by listening to happy music, cuddling Kitty [all my cats are Kitty – she got me through so much in my life and often kept me alive!], burn some oils, have a soak with lots of candles burning and relaxing music playing [often too hard to do on the deserve scale] read a book, watch a comedy.
I always have a texta in every room now, in a very obvious place and try to use that to draw on my body instead of cutting it. Doesn’t always work but I would say I manage it about 3 – 5 times a day now, the rest are still cuts though! But they are not as harsh as they have been for so long.
I’ve tried to do the ‘tell yourself in the mirror’ shit, but it just don’t work for me! The meditation is scary too as often it can bring on flashbacks that re-incarnate Father. So until I am able to feel better about myself and look in a mirror, let alone talk to it, and control the mediation experience, I think I will keep practicing what can or sometimes works for me. But Annie has made me realize that you do have to actively participate and practice to make the new behaviours part of your everyday life that will replace the old ones as second nature.
As to what advice I would give to someone else that really is a hard one. What may work for me may not work for someone else as we are all very different and unique. I would strongly suggest you try to seek help as soon as possible and a SAFE program is the specialist program for people who self-abuse, but we have to get a network of consumer programs up and happening soon.
It needs professional workers to be trained in the SAFE program and to lobby the government for $’s for the programs because we, the self-harmers, are seen as attention seeking individuals suffering from Borderline Personality Disorders who need to pull their socks up or die at their own hands!
I know I’m definitely not the only one and it seems that self-harming is becoming the in thing for youngsters who are not coping with their lives or environments. There are even the Emo cults that use self-harming as a ritual type of practice – now that’s frightening! Children and youth need somewhere to go where others understand, others who do what they do and want to stop – peer support and knowing you’re not alone really does help.
I have not given my true name as I do not want your sympathy; this is a very brief encounter and miniscule snapshot of my life. I would like your empathy and the unconditional acceptance of individuals who live with such internally devastating and emotional pain each day. Pain that finds them torturing themselves physically to try and overcome it and survive another day.
Thank you for the opportunity to try and educate you in what self-harming is all about! From a ‘real’ perspective!