My name is Sarah dale and I'm 22. Today is a very important day for me. Not only is it St David's day, it is also Self-Harm Awareness day. Every year I celebrate this day, and take the opportunity to talk about self-harm, as I have struggled with it for several years.
When I was 16 I was diagnosed as severely anorexic, this was linked to childhood trauma. I felt out of control, I hated myself, so the only thing that helped me feel better was losing weight. As I started to recover, I felt even more out of control. And I will always remember the day I first self-harmed.
I was at my local GP for my weekly weigh-in. The nurse that weighed me congratulated me for my weight gain. "Well done Sarah". I was angry, at the world and myself. I screamed at the nurse and my mum. I ran out of the surgery to the river to calm down. Only I didn't feel calm. This horrible dread came over me. A switch flipped in my head, it had never occurred to me before, to self-harm. So by the river bank I self-harmed for the first time. It wouldn't be the last.
Now the switch had been flipped I couldn't turn it off, I kept the self-harm secret for months, until my mother caught me. By this time I was self-harming to the extreme. There wasn't a day that went past that I didn't self-harm, this lasted 2 years. I also began overdosing on medications as a form of self-harm, and refused to get some of my wounds checked over by my GP or the Hospital.
I was ashamed of the scars that were littered all over my body; I was laughed at and joked about, and I felt very alone, isolated and trapped.
I began looking for help online. I found a website called recoveryourlife.com it is a fantastic site, I began to try and stop self-harming. However my eating began to deteriorate. I figured out that if my eating disorder worsened the self-harming lessened and so forth. I needed the control, I thought: "They can't hurt me, if I hurt me first". It was also to numb emotions or to stop dissociation, it helped regulate my erratic moods.
When I was 21, I finally received my diagnosis. Borderline Personality Disorder with episodic depression and anxiety and Anorexia (witch I was diagnosed with at 16). I was put on the correct medication and given Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. All of this has helped me to stay stable, meaning I can work on issues that desperately needed addressing.
I have always wanted to make a difference in the world, so I got in contact with Fixers, the charity that gives young people a voice, and together we created an informative presentation on Mental Health. This included discussing what mental health is, mental health problems, an in-depth look at the signs and symptoms of depression, self-harm, anxiety, eating disorders and psychosis. We also explained how to support a friend with mental health problems, how to open up about mental health and finally where to get help. The feedback I received was amazing. I made a real difference. One of the students who was in my presentation realised she had a problem and this encouraged her to seek help.
Fixers also helped me make a resource. We took the book I had written called Cara and we turned it into a radio play. The radio play is 7 minutes long and it looks at depression, eating disorders and self-harm. It is a very powerful and moving piece it helps the listener 'feel' the Cara's feelings.
You can listen to my Fixers resource here.
With fixers I was involved with the Feel Happy Eating Fix and the Feel Happy Fix, which brought young people together to discuss their experiences of eating disorders and ill mental-health. These experiences were then accumulated and used at the forefront in reports on these issues. You can take a look at these reports here. I represented Wales when presenting our 50 recommendations to improve mental health treatment to the government.
Although I still struggle, my unique experience and view of the world, will enable those who don't understand, to understand; those who are still struggling to see hope. Every opportunity I have to get my voice heard I grab with both hands, and speak for those who cannot at present.
Today I cope with self-harm urges by doing Zumba twice a week. I have a list of things to do before self-harming such as, knitting, painting, drawing, and writing, watch a film sleep etc. I use my DBT techniques to help me analyse my thoughts and behaviours. To deal with the control, I try to keep a routine, however sometimes it difficult to keep to that routine, which upsets me.
My message to others who self-harm is simple: things will get easier, it takes a lot of hard work but you will get there, so be kind to yourself. Reaching out is hard but is the way forward to get you the help you need to enable you to recover. Please don't suffer in silence. And when those dark thoughts begin to envelope you (for me it's usually at night time) look to the stars and know someone just like you is looking at that same sky and has made it through that darkness.