Let's Start A Conversation: Self-Harm

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

I almost feel a bit of a fraud opening up this blank text post and organising my thoughts to resemble some sort of conclusion and aid, but I'm going to go ahead anyway - so please bear with me.

At the weekend a really lovely girl who reads my blog struck up conversation with me, she radiated this enviable confidence and threw out her words powerfully, a real force and energy to be ever so politely confronted with. We stood for a while, discussing this weird internet world that I'm currently typing to and I thought 'Wow, this girl is just like me three years ago, but a million times better!' so we exchanged numbers with the intent of coffee and late night discussions and as my eyes flickered down to the table to look at my phone I noticed her arms.

I felt mortified with my reaction when I almost instantly looked away, closing my eyes in a half gasp and a wince that was, by complete accident, probably a little bit vicious. From the crease of her elbow down to her wrist were white embossed marks, scars that protruded in swift neat lines that painted painful patterns so deep and angry that most of it didn't look much like flesh anymore.
My heart made a bursting pang and goosebumps covered the backs of my legs and suddenly I felt really stuck.
I couldn't say anything, I couldn't function coherent sentences and worst of all I felt like I couldn't help.

Six years ago in a Biology lesson I failed a test, this was the first time I'd ever failed anything academically and it awoke a pressure and disappointment that I didn't know how to deal with.
Fumbling in my pencil case with glassy eyes I found a protractor and instinctively without any thought or conscience I pressed it into my arm under the table until I bit my lip and drew blood.
I don't know why I did it, I don't know where I'd learnt that that was something you could do but I do know how it made me feel and sadly I grew to find some solace in it.
Soon whenever I felt sad or angry or anxious, I would search for the kitchen scissors or a broken piece of ruler and battled my ugly thoughts with uglier actions.
During my GCSE's I felt so undeserving of doing well that I scored down my finger tips with a knife so it hurt to hold a pen.
A coping mechanism that very quickly in the wrong mindset became self sabotage.

As the girl tapped in her number on my phone I was so bewildered, I wanted to reach out and pick her up and tell her that for such a beautiful, articulate and confident young lady she had no reason or purpose to be treating herself like a wooden meat board. That no thought her intelligent head or scene her big blue eyes had seen were worth furthering with the pain she'd inflicted on herself.
That she was made of strong stuff and should let her emotions fuel something proactive and productive instead of such self demeaning destruction.
I didn't say anything at all and I regret it more so than I ever knew I could.
She really was just like me 3 years ago and suddenly I wasn't sure if I wanted to say all of those things to her or if I wished I was brave enough to have said them to my 16 year old self.

I'd stop for months and go cold at the thought of metal on my skin, when I wasn't driven to do it I saw no sense behind it at all, I was completely at a loss with my actions and could never justify them until I was in the moment.
It was something I never spoke about or addressed, I'd wear long sleeves on summer days and feel the sweat seal into the scratches making them red and uncomfortable and would hate myself for having done it.
When I went on a big holiday this year with all of my now best friends, I tightly wrapped a sarong around my waist to hide the marks on my inner thighs and it was the first practice that cleared my head.
I was cutting myself because it made me feel in control, it was a release of adrenaline and a reflection of what I thought of my body, but instead of doing any of those things, it was not only dangerous but it was stripping me of EVERYTHING I thought it would give me.
It was making me embarrassed, uncomfortable, sad and antisocial, which I thought I was erasing with each mark. Physical pain was never going to conquer my emotional suffering and it took me far too many years to learn that you can't tangle psychological issues with physical ones in hope they counter balance.

I've now told my friends about it and they keep an eye out to see if I've self harmed recently, sitting me down to talk about why I feel to do it as opposed to just watching it happen.
This by far has been the best thing anyone could have ever done for me.
Instead of ignoring it, wincing like I did at this poor girl, they'd take me aside, tell me I was worth more than my actions and get me to spell out play by play what it was that was making me feel that way.
I've now not made an attempt to hurt myself in 5 months and I feel as though for the first time I can live my life with an overwhelming sense of relief.

As I've said in previous posts, I want to start a serious and compassionate conversation about health and the way we look at ourselves from in the inside and out.
If you've seen someone at school or a friend or a family member who's scarred, be compassionate.
Don't tell them their actions are stupid or what they're doing is ridiculous, but do sit them down privately and ask if it's something they'd feel comfortable talking to you about and assure them you're on hand if they want to seek help.
If you yourself are self harming, please please know that seeking help is brave and admirable.
Taking your issue seriously and speaking openly and honestly to a friend or a professional is the best gift you could give yourself.

This is to you, Summer in The City girl,
To YOU reading this from the comfort of your sitting room
and to you, 14 year old Charly Cox.
You're all worth the self love you'd treat others with.


  1. Although I have never self harmed myself I might have thought about it every now and again. But being in a strange place like intermission at the ballet your last sentence blew me away and gave me encouragement and somehow strength to keep pursuing my goals and giving me some credit for what I am achieving. Thank you a thousand times for your incredibly honest words. xx Paula

  2. Charly, thanks you for your ongoing honesty, courage and sincerity on issues of mental health. I means a lot to me personally, and I am sure also to many others. It really does give me hope that there are people our age starting and continuing this discussion, leading the way to destigmatisation.

    Lots of love from Australia xx

    1. This is everything I wanted to say but couldn't begin to articulate as well as you did. I get all frazzled when I start writing about something I feel strongly about! Thanks to both of you for reminding me that I'm not alone and that there ARE other people my age willing to open up and just start honestly talking.

      xx Caitlin

  3. thank you so much for this post, you are such an incredible human being for writing something like this. this topic is something very personal and you've shared it so honestly and for that i respect you. love megan x

  4. Thank you for sharing this, you're so incredibly brave! I love the fact that you gave an advice on how to help people seeking (or not) help :) x

  5. It is so important to talk about this so I'm glad you brought it up. I too saw the scars on my friends arms once and my mouth failed me. All I could do was look away and shift my eyes nervously as my mind raced. I didn't know how to address the issue. What if I embarrassed her or made her feel worse? I knew it was a conversation to be had but at 17 I said to myself how could I possibly help her? I hope this conversation keeps on in the public eye and we are shown how to help others going through this.

  6. Wow, Charly. Thank you so much for this post. It's incredibly honest and brave, and I now feel much more confident about how to help. You are a beautiful human being and deserve all the love and praise in the world. Thank you again! xxx

  7. Did you get permission from the woman to write about her? I hope it helped her in someway if she read this. I am not a self harmer but a compulsive masturbator. I do it as a way to escape myself, I'm not even turned on half the time. I've just started to see a physical therapist for the carpal tunnel I'm getting from it. There is help out there for each and everyone of us, Charly! Thanks for opening a window for us to air out our dirty laundry. I wish to remain anon because I'm ashamed still at what I do.

  8. Charly,
    Reading this I feel like someone understands.
    I'm 18 years old and find everyday a struggle.
    When I was 15 years old I took to self harm as a coping mechanism for many things, my dad had left us, I was starting my Gcse's and a boyfriend has just broke up with me. Although these things may seem sill now at the time it was all so real. I spent hours crying about if my dad had left and didn't love me then no one else would either. This one day I felt like I had no one and I ended up cutting myself regularly when I would bathe or shower because this is were I felt safe, in the shower were the door was locked and no one could get to me.
    At first I didn't think about anyone noticing them as I cut my wrists. Until someone at school pointed out what I had done and I just brushed it off, after that day I became sneaky wearing long sleeves to school or always wearing my jumper or Cardigan in class. If I would go out with friends I would wear bracelets and try and cover them with make up. It got to summer and I had to become more sneaky so I started cutting my thighs.
    This is when I knew it was a cry for help, everyone noticed I wasn't my bubbly self and knew I was coping with a lot at home as my mum was then diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour. I felt like the world was against me.
    I then met my now boyfriend Liam. Liam helped me as I went to him for support after I met him randomly one day after a party, I opened up to him like I had knew him for years to then be shocked to realise.. He was the same. For once I thought SOMEONE GETS IT! Typing this all now seems very real and I'm getting emotional because I never like to address the issues I've had and still have. As a person who has suffered for a while with depression, every day is a struggle.
    Self harm doesn't have to just be cutting yourself with 'x' object it can be down to just physically trying to hurt yourself, pulling at skin, scratching, basically trying to cause yourself any harm. I do urge anyone who is going through anything like this, seek help. Even if it is talking to someone like me who understands, it's still support and courage that you are not alone.
    Thank you Charly for giving me a place to open up about issues I struggle with and allow others to know they are never going to be alone.

  9. There is an undeniable courage and beauty in the way you write, Charly. It's something I always notice when I read your posts, something that I admire greatly. It's a feat very few people have, myself included. You have in incredible ability to ensure someone who is hurting themselves that they're brave enough to reach out to someone, and tell them. I can speak from a personal point of view when I say I wish someone had told me that a year ago. Luckily, life has blessed me with the ability to not only see the light at the end of the tunnel, but also reach it. Some people aren't like that. And i can promise you if anyone ever comes to me with issues about self-harm, I will give the advice you've given me. And I'll point them to this post.
    Thank you for being the bestest internet friend I could ask for.


  10. Hi, my girlfriend is a big reader of your blog and she sent this over to me.

    I have just written a blog about my own depression and I know how terrifying it is. What you have written is brave, eloquent and amazing. thank you very much!

  11. i was a cutter for 4 1/2 years and it took me three years to quit. i've been clean for three years now and i feel so amazing i'm actually stable and happy and i'm going to try with my psychiatrist going off of my medication soon. i was admitted into a youth psych hospital three times in half a year and it was undoubtedly the hardest time of my life. but something i say is you have to hit rock bottom before you can get back up. whenever there are people that i know are self harming or have an eating disorder i always go out of my way to talk to them because i feel like it's so important for people to know they're not alone. i do the things that i wish people did for me.

  12. Although I don't personally know Charly, or any of you in the comments, I have such an overwhelming amount of pride for you all after reading this post, and every single comment.
    For some reason a lot of people in this world think self harm and mental health are such controversial topics and stay way clear of them, and to see a fashion blogger speaking about self harm makes me feel so proud of my generation.
    All I can say is thank you to Charly and anyone who to the time to read the blog post, you're all worth a happiness and love! (Cringe! I know, I'm sorry...)

  13. Hi Charly,
    I've somehow found myself in the depths of your old blog posts and and I go down I find myself relating to each one more and more. With this post however, it is as though you've read my mind.
    I used to self harm, from the ages of 14-17, and I'm 18 now. I wholeheartedly agree with every single word you've written above and you've inspired me to open up about it myself.
    I write a blog too and until very recently, when I found myself trawling through your blog, I've kept things quite normal and boring. However recently I've opened up more on my blog and find myself writing about things like body confidence and contradiction.
    I hope to continue writing more passionately and hope you continue to do the same.
    Much love, Zoe x


  14. I have just installed iStripper, so I can have the hottest virtual strippers on my desktop.



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