Where to start? I honestly do not know. I have written and rewritten this opening paragraph numerous times. I have stepped away from the computer, had a good think, came back, typed, deleted, stepped away again. There is no subtle introduction that springs to mind, no gentle easing in to the subject matter, because the subject matter is visible, in your face, as obvious as the scars on the people that it affects.
Prior to my own experiences, “self harm” was a behaviour to which I gave little thought. I had dealt with people who self harmed through my job and generally speaking, I just assumed that they must be desperately seeking attention. That is where my line of thought began and ended. So how did I end up becoming one of those “attention-seekers”?
It is only now, with my health in a better place, that I am able to stop and think about it. And I realise it started sooner than I had previously thought. The first time was in Gozo. I was bubbling up to my first full blown explosion and had disappeared off for a walk. I walked some considerable way and found myself in the picturesque bay of Marsalforn. I sat on a bench, staring out to sea, absent-mindedly scratching away at my hand with the broken cap from a tube of insect repellant. After a short time, absent-mindedly graduated to intentionally and I was actively scarring myself. It was a brief experience that I was able to put a stop to. The mark to my hand was minimal, as was the amount of thought I gave to the whole experience. The next time however, could not be ignored.
For just about the only time in the past 12 months, I was drunk. Unlike many people who suffer with depression, I had not turned to alcohol. Since my mid-twenties, getting drunk has been a rare occurrence reserved for stag dos and weddings. On this occasion, I had been out with my sister-in-law and her friends, who were visiting. For the first time in the longest time, I was enjoying myself. I was having a great night, until the short cab ride home when it became abundantly clear that I in actual fact, I wasn’t feeling great at all. As this was the first and only time I had drunk alcohol whilst on medication, I had not considered the effects of mixing the two.
Within 5 minutes of getting home I was providing an offering to the porcelain gods. Unbeknownst to my house guests, I absolutely chucked my guts up. I was in the bathroom so long that everybody else went to bed. Previously I have talked about loneliness and this was the first occasion where I truly felt it. My wife wasn’t home, she was away on a hen do, my sister in law was asleep and I was sat on my own in a bathroom. Despair and a great tiredness washed over me. Suddenly, I had reached my limit with life. So I reached for a razor.
My consideration was suicide and how to go about it. I elected to trial the razor for this purpose. Unsure as how to approach it, I figured I’d start on my forearm just to see how easy it would be to make a deep cut. It turns out it was very easy. And it didn’t hurt. Then very suddenly it hurt like hell. Maybe it was the sight of my own blood, maybe it was sobering up, but something certainly snapped me out of it. I cleaned up my wounds and the bathroom, and went to bed.
To be continued…