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My childhood experiences of self-harm

written by Sue Northcott 18/07/2017

Self-harm is portrayed as a new fashion. Something influenced by the internet. Something that didn’t happen ‘years ago’.

Let me tell you that it isn’t so. I know for a fact that it was definitely taking place in 1974, but I didn’t know then that it had a name.

Sue NorthcottI don’t know when it started for me, but it was a part of my life by the time I was 12 years old.

I’ve never been good at extreme emotions. I like to keep a lid on things. Keep in control. I discovered that those overwhelming feelings could be kept in control by pain. If I was careful I could kill the emotions and hide the solution. No-one knew.

I thought I was in control. In fact I was making the problem worse. I didn’t ever really deal with my feelings. I damaged myself physically. I kept dark secrets. Worst of all it fed my hatred of myself. Under the lid I so carefully constructed was a self-destructive vortex.

It eventually spun out of control and escaped in 1994. With a happy marriage, a good job and a beautiful baby, I tried to kill myself. Thank goodness, I failed completely. But it did frighten me enough to seek help.

Once my medication started to work, it was time to begin tackling my bad habits and building some healthier ones.

It took a while to find the things that work for me. I won’t tell you that sometimes the old methods don’t call out to me. But, usually, I can distract myself and find a better way. The feelings are still frightening but that’s OK. Sometimes you need to feel angry and upset just as much as you need to feel joy from time to time. Those feelings are what prompt you to change the world a little.

If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email


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Submitted by Bec on Jul 31st, 2017

Thank you for sharing your story Sue. It mirrored my own in many ways. The not knowing how to allow the extreme emotions to come out, the confusion, the fear of releasing that pain, anger, sadness. However, I've learned there is another way, a way to show my children that all of their emotions are valid. Mindfulness and DBT have changed my life forever, for the better, for my children and hopefully their children.

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