The urge to self-harm is inexplicable and scary. I’ve tried to justify it but when I break it down to its most basic level, there is no sane explanation. It’s not attention seeking (I hide the cuts and bruises mostly) and it’s not as bad as some people’s – I’ve never been close to being hospitalised and rarely even needed a plaster – but it’s still probably the most insane thing I do. Even the panic attacks are more grounded in reality than these urges.

They come at my most angry and upset. When the crying isn’t enough of a release and a shock is needed. It isn’t a habit; I don’t use it as a “good luck” charm. It only happens at times of complete crisis and hopelessness. I haven’t shared my most extreme actions directly with anyone although a few people have seen the bare minimum of the effects.

Pinching and scratching: bizarrely I never registered that I did this until someone pointed it out to me. It’s a nervous response and the lack of cognition means that I’m not sure I can really count it as self-harm any more than I would count the way I bite and tear at the skin around my nails when I’m nervous or bored (and would bite my nails had I not been blessed with nails of steel that even scissors battle to get through).

Punching: the quickest way to release the panic or distress. It comes from pure anger at myself or at a situation and is sudden. Usually I strike the first knuckle of my right hand against the wall two or three times.There’s a more or less permanent bruise there these days – sometimes blue, sometimes old and yellow, sometimes with an angry red emanating outwards, darkening at the edges into a purple or a black. Occasionally, I catch it and there’s a small scratch or scrape to accompany the colours. Less often I punch myself, my face, my eyes, my cheekbones but I’m a coward and also aware of being noticed; I rarely punch hard and never enough to bruise.

Cutting: the frequency goes in waves. I can go weeks letting the marks fade into shiny white or pale pink scars or I can be covered in thin little lines, dark red with dried blood, sometimes slightly bruised or swollen. These days this is more conscious as I battle and lose the urge. I hold my little razor in my hand and fight myself. Sometimes the sane older half wins and the razor goes back on my bedside table. Sometimes the mental newer half wins and I patch up the blood spots and tracks with a tissue or a piece of clothing. It’s mostly my stomach. A few times my inner thighs and once my inner elbow. Once I was too angry and too quick. I didn’t have time to lift up the layers of winter clothes and struck four times across my forearm. The cuts were deep that time. I kept them covered but if you look closely, you can still see the scars, reminding and accusing and telling me what I am.


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