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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
'Cutting myself helped me cope'
Upset teenager
Childline reports a 30% rise in calls from young people about self-harming
Sophia Gill was 14 when she first started self-harming, cutting herself with a razor blade during a family gathering.

She found it helped reduce her mental pain and anger, and soon developed into an addiction.

Now aged 25, she told the BBC about the fist time she realised she could make herself feel better by inflicting physical injuries.

She said: "I locked myself in the bathroom - it was to get away from people - and while I was there I just noticed this sort of disposable razor.

"Without knowing why or the reasons for it, I just took this blade and I just cut the back of my hand and it actually was real relief.

"I don't know why but I just felt so calm from doing it and it was like all that, all the family and everything else around me didn't matter any more, I didn't even think about it."

Sophia believes she may have chosen to harm herself as she found it difficult to express her anger and pain in other ways.

She said: "Part of it I think was just that I'm a very shy and inward person anyway. I would never take my aggression out on anyone else so it was turning that anger in on myself.

I just felt so calm from doing it and it was like all that, all the family and everything else around me didn't matter any more
Sophia Gill
"Part of it was also turning this pain that was in my mind - that I couldn't really describe - into something physical, so that I could deal with it.

"I could patch up the cut or whatever and I could focus my attention on that rather than on focussing it on what was going on in my mind.

Cutting herself was also a way of tackling depression.

She said: "It's not really about the actual physical pain. When you're suffering a depression you feel like you don't exist.

"You feel like you could vanish and no-one would notice but when you cut yourself it's about seeing the blood and knowing that you're alive and that you're still physical. You're still there."

Years of cutting herself have left Sophia with scars all over her arms. But at the time, even this was not enough to stop her from self-harming.

She said: "You don't really think about that at the time. Once you've got one scar, you do unfortunately get into the sort of negative image of 'What does one more matter anyway?'

You've got one scar - you're going to hide that scar, you may as well have 10, 15, 100 - it doesn't matter
Sophia gill
"You've got one scar - you're going to hide that scar, you may as well have 10, 15, 100 - it doesn't matter."

She says self-harming was not a way of seeking attention or a cry for help.

"When I cut myself, I would hide away in my bedroom. I wouldn't show anyone. I'd wear long sleeves. If anything, it was the complete opposite of attention-seeking.

"I wasn't doing it because I wanted people to look at me, ask questions and try and help me. I was doing it because I had no other way of coping."

Addiction

She says figures suggesting an increase in the number of young people engaged in self-harm may be partly due to a rise in the number of people coming forward.

She said: " In the past, because it was a very taboo, subject no one ever heard of it - maybe less people actually came forward.

"So the increase in the number of people doing it, could actually be that they were doing it all along but they were just never coming forward."

And she refutes the idea that people would take up self-harming simply because it was receiving more publicity.

She said: "To actually cut yourself and do this to yourself takes quite a lot of inner pain. I don't think it's something about which you'd think 'Everyone else is doing it, I think I'll try.' It takes a lot to do something like this. "

While Sophia has come to terms with her self-harming, she admits she has not stopped completely.

She said: " I'd like to consider myself not a self-harmer, to say that that's very much part of my past but it is an addiction.

"I compare it to smoking. A lot of people who smoke do quit but occasionally they'll have a cigarette and that's not a bad thing.

"It doesn't mean they're a smoker, it just means the addiction occasionally does grasp control of you again."




SEE ALSO:
Upsurge in child self-harm calls
05 Sep 04  |  Health
'Cutting myself is how I cope'
27 Jul 04  |  Health
When coping means cutting
14 Feb 04  |  Health


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