Circles

Thursday Morning:

They search me, they trace their hands up my sleeves to ensure I’m not hiding anything. They ask what’s in my pockets before forcing me outside, into the back of their car. I feel eyes watching me from every window, the immovable sense that I’ll be some gossip for when their husbands and kids get home.

They take me to A&E. They follow me to the desk and again, everyone’s watching me, trying to work out what I’ve done to have police escorting me. They put me in the special room I’ve seen so many times before. For criminals, for people being abusive or violent, for drunks. We sit there for hours. On the hottest day of the year, no windows, the heat rising and I can’t remove my sweatshirt because they’ll see what I’ve done.

It’s a blur. They ignore me, they talk amongst themselves, listening to their radios and commenting on the accident that’s being reported and go on to talk about RTA’s they’ve been to where they’ve had to scrape people off of the road.

Thursday Afternoon:

It goes on for hours, and then they’re gone. More people come and eventually go again.

“What happened this morning before the police brought you in?”

“I don’t know, I don’t remember.”

Again, and again, the same forms, the same questions, the same cold, blank expression from the person asking me, the same tiny box of tissues being handed to me in an attempt to clean up the mass of tears, and the unshakeable feeling that this is never going to end.

The hours pass. They clear the A&E bed and room of all equipment so I don’t attempt to garrotte myself with a blood pressure pump, a nurse sits with me the entire time and closes the paper curtains so no one has to see me sobbing uncontrollably. I ask to go to the toilet, she follows me and tells me not to lock the door. I’m not allowed to use the phone. We return to the bed, she tells me I can sleep but I ignore her and sit bolt upright, watching the blue curtains for shadows approaching, waiting for someone to come along and tell me this was all a terrible, ugly dream.

Another doctor arrives. We go through the questions again and he asks what I want to do, I tell him I want to go home and he says that’s not possible, it’s not safe for me yet. He says I need to go to another hospital for the night, a secure mental health unit to be assessed properly before I can go home. I ask what the other option is, hoping there’s some way out and he answers simply –

“We’ll have to section you under the Mental Health Act.”

Thursday Evening:

I’m taken in the back of an ambulance to the other hospital. I can’t see where we’re going, I don’t know the hospital. I don’t know who I’m with and it all feels so, so wrong. We arrive at the hospital and start going through a series of locked doors, as many doors are locked behind me and the paramedics as are opened before us. All too soon, we’re there. Locked in.

They go through my bag, taking away my glasses and phone charger, they fill out more forms. The woman keeps telling me I’m really tearful when I’m sitting there still, completely numb and for the first time all day I don’t feel like crying.

The rest is a blur. I’m forced to sit with other patients in a lounge area because the dorms are locked. They offer pills I don’t know and I refuse them. I’m told I might be lucky enough to see a doctor for the assessment tomorrow. Eventually I’m allowed to sleep. In an empty room, with the lights on, and a opaque window that won’t open.

Friday Morning:

I’m allowed to see the doctor for my assessment. Except, it isn’t an assessment. They tell me I’m going to be OK, they nod enthusiastically as if I’m supposed to join in, they tell me my family’s supportive and that this was just a blip and that I can go home.

I leave the procession of locked doors to be the outside world, without any money, without my phone as it’s out of battery, without a single phone number or leaflet, or what I should do if it happens again and without the slightest clue as to what happened to me to cause the events of the previous morning.

Scars

TRIGGER WARNING.

People say that our scars tell a story. Some scars are funny anecdotes – the time I fell into a barbed wire fence, it WAS funny, honest, or when my pet hamster sank it’s evil little fangs into the fleshy pad of my thumb. Others are accidents; when the knife slipped, the grater grazed your knuckles, a burn from the oven. And then there’s the scars that you’re left with, that you gave yourself.

I call them my zebra stripes. All along my left arm, and down my thighs. I barely notice them anymore, but I know they’re there.

Self harm is never something I set out to do, it wasn’t a decision I made or planned. Y’know, “Right, I feel like cutting and gauging myself. I’ll do a bit of that after I’ve made dinner.” Nah. None of that. A good ten years ago or so, I’d find myself in so much pain, such a degree of completely blinding pain, which all seemed to be resonating somewhere deep within my chest. Nothing seemed real at that point, everything felt like a sickening monochrome nightmare in slow motion. The hurt was too unbearable, the tears so violent that without realising what I was doing, I’d claw at my arms, sink my nails into the backs of my hands and scour them desperately, maybe subconsciously trying to release whatever it was inside that I genuinely thought was killing me. I’d awake the next day, to discover these horribly crude scratches carved all over my hand and forearm, almost as if for the first time, as I was completely unaware of doing it at the night before. And they bloody hurt. Like, really bloody hurt. I’d find myself cradling my arm with the other, to protect it, I’d wince when I’d use it, my skin taut and paper-thin.

But I felt better.

Sounds awful. I know. But focusing on that physical pain and concentrating on my tender flesh, averted my thoughts from the stuff inside that was really fucking hurting.

And that’s where it began. I self-harmed for about 5 years, to varying degrees. From several times a day, to only occasionally. It wasn’t ever planned, but I knew when I had to do it. Under the cover of my phone, I’d carry a razor-sharp blade, just so I knew it was there. When I was still living at home with my family, all offending items were hidden from me; razors, scissors, knives, nail trimmers, whatever you can think of, was confiscated. The unadulterated panic that this brought, was unlike anything I’ve ever known, the fear that the dark, numbing pain would soon grasp its unbreakable hold around me and I’d never be able to be free of it again was horrifying.

So I’d smash lightbulbs, and use the glass. And when they too were taken I’d break mirrors and picture frames, I no longer cared, I just needed to feel that relief once more.

The need to self-harm seemed to die out by itself. It wasn’t ever a status symbol, to be in with the cool kids. The angry red lines were always hidden, I’d wear long sleeves and jeans on the hottest days of the year to disguise them.

But there were times, when someone caught a glimpse. When a flippant “Oh, my cat did it,” just wasn’t enough. I didn’t even HAVE a cat then FFS. And the anger and total bewilderment I’d see written all over my loved ones faces simply made me want to lock myself in the bathroom and do it again.

When your agony is beyond the point of comprehension, you’ll turn to anything to ease it somewhat, even if it’s just for a moment of peace. Drinking, drugs, screwing around, gambling, eating, not eating and indeed cutting yourself are all harmful in one way or another. Self-harm seems to carry a taboo as it’s seen as barbaric and even inhuman to want to hurt yourself, but it shouldn’t. It’s not always a “cry for help” as it’s often described, or attention seeking. It’s a need. A simple desperate need just to switch off that pain that’s numbing you within, with something more tangible and easier to understand.

I haven’t self-harmed for over 5 years. But the desire to do it remains with me every single day. Really and truly I hope that self-harm is soon recognised for what it’s for, and is no longer met with anger and disgust, or cast aside as a childish want for attention. In the majority of cases, it really isn’t. And like drinking to excess, drug abuse and eating disorders, the only way to stop it is to treat the catalyst; the mental illnesses, the depression and stress disorders, not keeping the scissors hidden from sight and keeping your fingers crossed that it won’t happen again.