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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
'Cutting myself is how I cope'
Man at window
Charlie's self harm started because he was abused by his parents
As guidelines are published urging better care of self-harmers, Charlie, 33, has decided to break his long silence and challenge the stigma attached to people who hurt themselves.

He has been cutting himself since he was six years old - but is also managing director of his own company, a regular at social events and a married father-of-two.

Basically it started off when I was six, with scratching between my fingers.

I would say I'm not typical because I don't do it day in, day out. I'm not covered in lots of little scars but I've got quite a few large ones.

My parents were the start of it. My father was very aggressive. He used his aggression to 'sort us out', me and my brother and sister.

I just put my cuts down to an accident at work
Charlie, self-harmer

We couldn't fight back, couldn't answer back. I just stored it up and stored it up and my relief was my self harm.

I felt so worthless. I couldn't come out. The shame element - why you can't speak to somebody about it - is so overwhelming.

None of my friends know about it. My wife only found out a couple of years ago because my therapist said I had to tell her.

I just put my cuts down to an accident at work - 'I cut myself doing this or that' - or once to being attacked in the street by someone with a knife.

Internal rage

I've hidden it well and a lot of people have believed me.

Two years ago there was no way I would have spoken about this. I've been seeing a psychotherapist and she's helped with my feelings - it's been a godsend really.

I always thought I was the only one, as a lot of people do. Having the confidence to say you are a self-harmer is difficult - even though I've done bungee jumping, abseiling, I can do anything.

Finally I went to the doctor and I just broke down in tears - I was cracking up. I just couldn't cope any more.

A&E sign
Charlie told hospital staff he had cut himself in accidents at work

All the internal rage was just coming out, the slightest thing triggered it. I was kicking doors, it was really scaring my family and I thought 'I have got to go to the doctor about this'.

It's a case of dealing with emotions properly, which I've never done before.

I've got two children myself, one eight and one five, and there comes a day when you realise 'there's no way I could hit my kids because I love them'.

Suicide has crossed my mind but I wouldn't because of the kids.

'Strong urge'

I've been to hospital but I always passed it off as injuries from work so I haven't been refused treatment - but I do know people who have had bad experiences.

One was told 'I'm not going to give you anaesthetic because you cut yourself without it'.

To be honest when you do cut yourself you don't feel it but if you shut your finger in the door it really hurts.

We are not total freaks. We are human beings who have different ways of coping with things
Charlie

You do feel pain but it blocks out because you are so focused on the self harm and you so want to do it - the urge is so strong. It hurts afterwards.

I'm better at dealing with it now, through therapy and as co-director of the National Self Harm Network website.

I'm not depressed. I have my lows as everybody does but I'm not on anti-depressants. I just have different ways of coping when I feel angry or controlled.

That's why I'm comfortable with speaking now - it's about time we got a positive vibe into the debate rather than people packing us off as 'mad'.

I'm trying to get the point through that we are not total freaks. We are human beings who have different ways of coping with things.



SEE ALSO:
Inquiry examines self-harm rates
30 Mar 04  |  Health
'I cut myself with knives'
26 Mar 03  |  Health
Girls 'more likely to self-harm'
22 Mar 04  |  Health
Teenage self-harm widespread
26 Mar 03  |  Health


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