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I am a survivor of self-harm

I was one of the few lucky ones who got the opportunity to be part of the SAFE Central pilot program. I can honestly say that I have not self-harmed since finishing the program. It has now been 7 years and my life has changed so much. I moved away, got my first full-time job, met this amazing guy, a real honey that I am now married to and we have 2 beautiful children along with a menagerie of my dear animal friends. I still keep in touch with Annie from time to time just letting her know how effective the SAFE program was for me and my life.

I joined the program because I had been self-harming for many years since I was 11 years old. I wasn’t fussy what I did to myself so long as the physical pain was greater than the hell I felt inside. I tried overdoses, slashing, hanging myself a couple of times, tried the hose on the exhaust pipe, would spill pots of boiling water on me arms and legs or the boiling kettle would slip out of my hand, my arms and legs were often the ashtray and my physical body quite grotesque from all the horrendous acts of destruction I did to myself.

I was receiving support from my GP and a counselor but I still self-harmed daily and often multiple times too. This resulted in regular and often daily emergency visits to the hospital that would patch me up and send me home to the same devastating loneliness and guilt ridden thoughts that were like a horror movie, playing over and over in my mind 24/7. You soon learned to leave your dignity at the door and just get the stitches or treatment with or without anesthetic. Definitely zero understanding! I knew that if I didn’t do something soon, continuing these horrendous acts on me would result in damage that would be life threatening or permanent and death was a true reality to me. I have to state though that at no time did I ever want to die, death would have eventuated from accidental suicide, going just that bit to far! It’s like drugs, the more you take, the more you need! The more you hurt inside and can’t deal with it, the more you hurt and the more you have to hurt yourself physically to kill the sickening pain inside!

My then family, Mum, Dad, my brother and two sisters could not understand or deal with what I was doing to myself, so disowning me was the easiest way out for them. My few friends became more and more distant the harsher I became with my self-harming behaviours and my pets were the only ones who gave me any form of unconditional love or company.

So,why? Mum decided to have an affair with another man behind my Dad’s back.

Her boyfriend thought it would be good to have an affair with me too from the age of 7. He said if ever I told Mum or anyone he would kill my Mum and family. I was so frightened and scared but he would be so nice to me in front of Mum. Mum would drop me off there, even though I would almost beg her not to. She had no idea and didn’t want to know. When I was 11 he bought me my first kitten. Flossy became my dear friend and my protector until the night I tried to run away. My punishment the next day, while Mum was shopping, was to watch while he held Flossy by the neck and slit her open from her throat to her poor little bum. I simply cannot put into words the revulsion I felt towards this man. I wished it was him and not Flossy.

About 3 months later he and Mum split up and he kept trying to get me to leave school with him for the afternoon. Then one afternoon the teacher caught us and stopped him taking me. When Mum came to the school she told me I couldn’t say anything to anyone or Dad would leave us and I idolized my Dad. I tried to tell Mum but she just kept talking over me telling me I was being very silly and was more worried that I would say something to Dad.

By now I was past the scratching with the compass, pen and pencil points, I was using a knife I bought with my pocket money, a vegetable paring knife that had a pretty sharp end and it didn’t take much to make the blood flow. It was such a relief and something I had total control of. I definitely didn’t have any control over my life. I could let myself bleed until I felt the release and then with a small dressing and local pressure, I could make it stop as easy as I let it start!

Later, the burning and other nasty deeds I tried were partly done to punish myself as I definitely didn’t have as much control as I did with cutting.

I sometimes feel that I could write a book, SAFE taught me how to use my journal as a self-soothing tool and I still keep my daily journal now. At times of high levels of stress or trauma, the ideation of wanting to pick up the knife can sometimes be quite overwhelming, but I turn to my SAFE bible and life toolbox that was given to me in the program.

One thing I must point out is that we need to learn lots of self-soothing first before we try and deal with the demons within. This way we are much better able to stay safe as we work through the program and delve deep into the unknown. It helps us to feel more in control of our recovery and lives. However, it is very hard for us to be kind to ourselves so it takes workers a hell of a lot of patience, understanding and sheer grit!

I was able to learn through the SAFE program the triggers that caused me to self-harm, why I self-harmed and safer alternatives to deal with my internal pain instead of hurting myself. I was there with a group of individuals who were there for the same reason which was a very supportive environment. We were all treated with dignity and found the hope; we really thought would never exist in our lives. Everyone’s feelings, experiences and behaviours were treated with the utmost care and confidence. Peer support and education is a very powerful experience and tool in a person’s recovery.

I no longer self-harm and I know of 5 others from the group, who too have amazing true stories to share. It was a life saving experience and healing for me and I know for others too.

The best advice I could give to anyone who self-abuses is to get yourself into a SAFE program as soon as you possibly could. They don’t provide you with a magic wand, but they do provide you with a supportive, non-judgmental and safe environment in which to learn and change your behaviours. I’m not saying it will work for everyone, but it’s your best bet if you really want to stop what you are doing to yourself. It’s a lot of hard work, but the results ARE life-changing. I would hate to guess how many other self-abusing individuals there are out there, they need the same opportunity we were given, so get those SAFE in Oz programs happening and PLEASE keep them SAFE!!! I am now 26 thanks to SAFE.