A recovery story of a self-harming girl

These few months have been filled with craziness for me. I am so busy with teaching and student activities. For example, this week I have missed my daily Olanzapine dose for three days. Now is the last day of the trimester before their examination season and I finally can take a 1/2-day break before looking back at my deserted research proposal to touch it up for submission. Frankly, I have self-harmed a few times and my skin complexion is laden with scars at certain areas. Crying is intermittent. For the past few days of this week, there were times when I stayed up past midnight to assess my students’ work for coursework marks compilation. During this tiring period, there have been random epiphanic flashbacks. Here are my flashbacks while feeling a bit suicidal yet not wanting to die…

I remember my favourite past-time as a kid was to sit on the most comfortable fold-able rest chair behind my Daddy’s shop and scratch open all the existing or recovering mosquito bite wounds. Since young, I have been known as having bad, unpleasant skin complexion, especially on my whole leg areas. Till this day, whether it is itchy or not, I still like to randomly reach out to my skin for episodes of scratching to feel a elusive sense of satisfaction, ending up with nails dirtied with blood and skin bits. On a side note, till this day, I love pulling my nails, especially those on my leg toes. I sometimes always keep pulling until they have been shortened while disregarding the occasional oozing blood. All the while, I have been telling myself that maybe I am just lazy to look for the nail clipper as it is always hidden at one of the different corners by the various owners in the house! It feels so natural to me that I can just start pulling them to little redness while sitting and chatting at the floor in my best friend’s house. As you can see obviously, all my leg toe nails are proportionally shorter.

Back in my school days, I had one highly admired and respected teacher. She always gave us dictation exercises, whether for newly learnt words or proverbs. Canning was our school culture, compared to these days where canning is prohibited mainly due to overprotective parents. Whenever each of us made a mistake for dictation of any words or proverbs, we would receive a few strokes of canning. I was okay with it as this always encouraged me to put in effort for the next dictation. Everyone got it so it was fair. What makes me feel flabbergasted is that I remember canning myself again when I reached home from school to double the corporeal punishment. It had become habitual for me while I always looked for my Mummy’s cane for this self-canning activity that my family members hardly noticed.

Not only that, I loved pulling my hair. And, till this day, pulling out a few strands of hair from my scalp feels so easy for me, despite the fact that I know this is normally painful for most people. When I was young, my hair sometimes acted like a multipurpose curved ruler. Since the time I had learned about measurement units like centimeter and inch, I loved to use my strands of hair for measuring short distances or lengths at my convenience when a ruler was not readily available. Whether it was for myself or others, my strands of hair pulled out on the spot always came in helpful. I celebrated that fact that one tall, well built sports teacher of mine once warned us in class that eating your own hair would bring you the bad fate of landing yourself in the surgery room for a hair extraction procedure.

There was an incident at my primary school when I had been assigned a permanent class seat beside a boy who seemed attractive in my eyes. He used to have cracked lips all the time due to dehydration. Since I discovered this lip feature, I picked up the weird, random habit of pulling the uppermost skin at my lips till they were bleeding with broken skin. Today, whenever I have dry lips, I will tend to pull the uppermost skin as well thinking that I can remove the unpleasant, dangling skin bits for better look and speedy recovery. And what has disgusted me the most is that I sometimes use my finger to “play” with my pimples and dry skin bits, only to make them worse at times.

And, I also experienced serious ear infection behind my earlobe for a few instances. And my “love” for scratching always made it worse. There was a time when I had a kind of skin infection on one part of my body (don’t remember the kind of infection or body part now). Since one of my occupations at the young age was to be a doctor, I was “courageous” enough to reach out for the sharpest scissors at home that my Mummy used for trimming my male family members’ hair. What I did next was to find a place where nobody was around and I would start cutting the dry, dead skin on the infected skin surface bit by bit day-to-day. I was so “proud” of myself that I thought I had some “inborn surgical knowledge.” Towards the end, my wound became seriously infected and I landed myself in the clinic for a minor surgery with my family. Bandage was all I got but not a praise for my “surgical knowledge.”

Winding back the clock to a younger age, I used to enjoy my hobby of catching insects like ladybirds and dragon flies, and even young birds. There were numerous of these near my house so it wasn’t difficult to find them those days with my sharp observation and agile hand movement. What is perplexing for me is that I remember dissecting the insects on an ad-hoc surgical platform made of unused cardboard boxes using my school ruler in front of the neighbourhood kids. I proudly declared to them that I was doing my out-of-school science experiments but the kids just backed off with harsh criticisms towards my cruelty deeds on insects. One unforgettable incident is whereby I ran my bicycle wheel over a small bird intentionally till it was crushed to death flatly. Little did they know that I would grow up to be a animal lover who has completed a linguistics research on animal rights literature as well as started practising her meatless diet on a daily basis for more than four months after almost ten years of being flexitarian. (This flashback was prompted by my student’s persuasive speech to do with childhood, animal cruelty and mental health.) On the contrary, my childhood nightmare about a decapitated cat head is still remembered till this day. Yes, I loved to play or “play” in the cruel sense with the cats and dogs in my neighbourhood.

Scrolling my life film to the recent years, I remember punching at the wall hardly with my unprotected fists till they were bruised when I was stressed with academic study. For a couple times, I went to school the next day feeling unsure and blurred about the right answer for my classmates’ questions about my unexplained, mysterious bruised skin appearance. When I reached home and saw that piece of wall, a penny dropped and I finally understood, not to mention about banging my head on the wall. What’s more is that I used to sometimes grab my sharpest pen and start poking my upper thighs with it to keep myself awake for the lecturer’s sharing. Olanzapine always makes me good in bed. For the recent three days without Olanzapine, I felt so much ease in getting myself out of bed though literally didn’t sleep throughout the night. There was once I watched a movie depicting a skilful boy who had the peculiar ability of tapping his penknife at the quickest speed at the spaces of his palm with all fingers spreading out on a table surface. And guess what…I started to learn this risky skill myself as well.

About my self-harming behaviour in these two years, you may only know by reading my other blog posts. I have only opened up with a few best friends, especially Sun, besides a psychiatrist and a clinic doctor. If I were to talk about my schizophrenic episodes, I would tell you about one of the most bizarre instances whereby I made a few attempts to poke my temple with a sewing needle thinking that I was breaking the next Guinness World Records by being the first to make a hole on one’s human skull while staying alive. This happened around the time when I watched Guinness World Records on TV regularly with my siblings. At other times, I would be sitting at the open window at the second floor of my family home without any known reasons. And sometimes I “played” with the rope from our traditional baby cradle which had been left dangling for years in our bedroom. I did various dangerous stunts when everybody was busy with life. And I would never forget once I really almost choked myself to death but nobody knew. Luckily, my parents found out my bizarre behavior one day and removed the rope completely.

Now, my past seems to be clearer out of a sudden. It is no longer what it seems. It is mind-boggling to be bombarded with all these realisations without obviously known triggers. However, I guess this is a good sign? Now that I know well how my story has begun and continue till now, I should know better how to live the coming days to the fullest.

I would like to share that I am resigning from my full-time lecturing job from 31 October onward. Most probably, I will start my part-time job in a kindy I used to work in before starting my Master’s study. As you know, I really love kids, besides animals. At the same time, I will be working on my PhD and let’s see if I can work it out. I am quite looking forward to this short break before getting into full momentum again. Let’s hope for the best to happen on all of us.

In the meantime, I will try out some self-help worksheets to understand my deepest needs and desire better to move on to the next chapter in my life. I have found this helpful website that contains a rich supply of such worksheets which I am excited to try them out. Here is the link for your reference: https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk//freedownloads2.htm

Happy trying! And you might want to try some helpful mobile apps for coping with self-harming too. They are Calm Harm, distrACT, Self-Heal and What’s Up?. All these can be downloaded at a free rate via your Play Store.

Some helpful contact details for the mental health warriors:

Online forum: http://depression-understood.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=6&sid=a90aa4711e2a56027c0eda30d4ade785
E-counselling: https://www.betterhelp.com/start/?modal=1&go=true&utm_source=Bing&utm_medium=Search_PPCc&utm_term=ecounseling_p&utm_content=3972357161&network=o&placement=%7Bplacement%7D&target=%7Btarget%7D&matchtype=p&utm_campaign=262343649&ad_type=text&adposition=%7Badposition%7D&msclkid=188e64f7938b135eab8b3fe84771c835&not_found=1&gor=start
Suicide prevention lines: https://www.befrienders.org/

Thank you:) Stay safe!

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

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