Hey everyone, so its been a while since I lasted blogged. Today I watched a short video sent to me from someone I am supporting and it got me thinking. so I’ve decided to share my thoughts with you.
As many of you will know, I suffered from self harm for a long time and I have been in recovery now for almost 4 years. It is a subject very close to my heart and I will try anything i think i can help end the stigma towards it or support others that may be going through it.
Although I have been very open in the past about what I went through, I’ve always found it easier to leave bits out, especially the bits that may sound like I’m having a go at others. In this post I hope to explore some avenues that people may not be aware of and things that have happened to me throughout my experience that would have been a real set back at the time.
So many of my stories that I will tell you are based in my time at school, I have to state though that some of my best support came from some people at my school and this is not a dig at the people involved only me sharing a little insight into how sometimes people can get it wrong whilst trying to be supportive.
Firstly I want to tell you about the time I was excluded. I was in my first week of fourth year, at of change of timetable before summer. I had been having a rough time and to be completely honest, my behaviour and state of mind was all over the place. I had received an exclusion warning for swearing at a member of staff. This was something that I probably did deserve at the time but my behaviour was not questioned only disciplined. Although I had previous for acting up in school, I had never verbally or physically attacked a teacher until this day. The school provided no additional support after this incident, only issued me with the warning and informed my mum of the situation. My behaviour had continued to be a challenge and still I was never approached about it, only given punishments for it. On the day of the incident that caused me to finally be excluded I had been pretty out of sort and not one member of staff seemed to have noticed. I went through the day as usual, causing a little bit of mischief and then I got to the afternoon where I had PE.Having to take part in PE was not an issue for me, but the fact that we were meant to wear a PE kit and generally expected to be in short sleeves or to change in front of others was a major issue for me. It had been arranged with guidance staff and my regular PE teacher that I would not change for PE to save any extra stress for me. This day we had a substitute teacher, who knew nothing about me or my situation. This guy decided that because he was the teacher for the day he could make up the rules for me. Even with a note in my planner sating what happened with and PE, he still insisted on shouting at me to get changed into a PE kit. As the lesson went on the situation got worse, he had let the kit issue go a little but said I wasn’t allowed to take part in the lesson. PE was a huge part of my stability in school as it was a place where I could totally emerge myself in the lesson and let everything go for that short while. I was stopped from doing this and on a day where I was already feeling down this was not a good thing. I started to join in even though I had been told I wasn’t allowed to. This teacher did not like this, he decided that he would snatch the basketball out of my hands. I went and took another one and he tried to snatch that one from me too. He then told me to stop swearing at him, I hadn’t said anything other than no to him. He insisted that I had sworn and him and continued to shout at me about it, so I ended up responding with “I didn’t f***ing swear at you till now”. I then handed over my time out card and then walked out and went to my guidance teachers office, I was so angry, I had tears running down my face. I bumped into my year head who asked what was up, I told her the whole story and she said that she would sort it out for me. Two days later I was called to her office and when I arrived there she was sat with my guidance teacher and they asked me to sit down with them, this was when I was issued with my weeks exclusion.
On return to the school from this exclusion I had to sign a sheet to say I agreed to the behaviour policy and that I would not act the way I had again. I was offered no other support and was put straight back into class that day. At this point the school were well aware of my mental state and felt that the decision they had made for me was best at the time. Coming from my point of view, at the time they couldn’t have gotten it any more wrong if they tried. My routine was everything and school was a safety net in my life. It was a place where I knew nothing what I was doing each day and a place I knew I always had people around if I needed them. In reflection now I still think that they made the wrong decision and feel that due to lack of training on mental health the staff don’t know how to deal with the real issue so use the behaviour as an excuse to get rid of you for a little while. I do like to hope that as time goes on, this will get better and school will be more educated on the issue and be able to provide the correct support. This may be a long process but I’m hoping that I may play a part in this process in my local area.
On another occasion I had been in trouble whilst in german and my year head was called for, she took me out of class and said I had to work outside her office for the rest of the day so that I would not be a distraction to others. Whilst I was sat out there by myself, my mind was working over time and I was in a very vulnerable position. As the day passed I was becoming more and more worked up and my mind was really racing going through everything I thought that was bad in my life and how much better off I would be if I was dead. I was in a total state and I took the opportunity of being alone to self harm openly whilst in school. Although I had self harmed in school, I had never done it in a place where I could be caught easily. Just as I had stopped and was sat watching the blood trickle down my arm, my year head appeared. I had no warning, no time to hide it and no time to come up with an excuse. She asked me what was going on, I couldn’t lie to her, she had seen it all. I broke down, I could no longer control my emotions. I told her everything. She said that although she knew I hadn’t been in a great place, she hadn’t realised just how bad things really were. She called for my guidance teacher and informed her about what had happened. They made a mutual decision that it would be best for me to go home for the rest of the day. This was possibly the worse decision that could have been made as I needed to be around people not in a situation where I had no one and the freedom to slide even further into this awful place I was at. As my guidance teacher walked me down the stairs she stopped half way down, put her arm around me and told me that she would rather I smoked than self harmed, as she believed that this would be easier to deal with. Just what I needed to hear when I already felt like I was burden on people and that I felt like I was better of being dead. Again I think this situation happened because of a lack of training and in some parts a lack of communication between staff. Maybe if my year head known the whole story, maybe she would have done something different and maybe I wouldn’t have ended up in the mess that I did.
One finally story I will tell you is about the time when my year head changed, the one I had moved on to be head and the music teacher replaced her as my year head. One afternoon whilst in school I was chucked out my class and I retreated to my usual spot in the school. It was one of the corridors that I knew hardly anyone would be going about in and also a place that I knew I may bump into one of the teachers I felt I could speak to. I had actually gone to look to see if she was in class as I was feeling rather rubbish, this was almost a daily thing at the time but when I was on my own it was an even stronger feeling. She wasn’t in her room so I decided to just hang around outside for a while and near the end of the period she came along. I opened up to her and told her that I was trying really hard not to cut but I was finding it very difficult. She asked me to give her my blade, as she felt that if I gave her it then I would be safe, but what she didn’t realise what that it was like my safety blanket. I didn’t want to know how bad I would feel without so refused to hand it over. She had a class come in at the bell so I had to leave. I went back to just hovering in the corridor as now I felt guilty for not doing what she asked but also felt as though I was a huge failure for not being able to just give up my blade for a little while. About five minutes after leaving her class I cut, I felt awful but I just couldn’t control the emotions any more. I sat on the windowsill, looking out wishing I no longer existed. I must have been there for almost 15 minutes when my year head appeared, he told me that the teacher I had been talking to had called him concerned about me. He asked what had been going on that would make her concerned, I sat there in complete silence. he wasn’t someone I got along with very well and he was the last person I really wanted to speak to at the point. He went and knocked for the teacher, she came out and explained to him how I had been feeling, he then asked me to come to his office with him, I did this but was a little resilient at the start. Whilst there he sat me down and said that he thought that I needed sometime to calm down before talking, at this point he didn’t know I had used my blade to harm myself, he only knew I had one on me. I sat there in complete silence and the questions came flooding in thick and fast, I had no answers or not the ones he would have wanted to hear. So I just decided to pull up my sleeves revealing all the fresh and all cuts on my arms. He went silent and then started to ask more questions, none of which I answered. He kept me in his office until the end of day and then watched me leave the school with my friends. I returned to school the next day and I was called to his office during registration, he told he that if I didn’t stop bringing “harmful weapons” top school then he would have no option but to expel me due to me “being a risk to the safety of others” If only he realised that I was intact harming myself with something that almost every pupil in the school brings with them. I let him give me the big spell and then walked out his office. After this day, I was asked on random days at different times to empty my pockets and bag to show him I was not carrying a “harmful weapon”. Never once did he find something on me, well not something he would class as a weapon but little did he know everything I used to harm myself whilst in school was either in my pocket and was in fact classed as school stationary or in my locker because I knew I would get in trouble for having it in school, the only thing in my locker that would have ever gotten me in trouble was lighter. This issue was again a cause of no training, information and lack of communication.
All of these above situations could have been handled very differently and could have all been far less stressful for me and the school had the staff had the correct training in metal health issues and also had much better communication between each other. I came away from school still in a very mixed up place and feeling that all along the school felt I was just a nuisance and that the best solution for them would have been to kick me out as then I was no longer their problem. Having now overcome all of my issues and now helping others, I can see that it was all due to lack of training, and even now after almost five years of me leaving school, there is still very little training being given to the staff in schools. Having hidden my self harming for so long and having no on questioning me, telling me to stop or thinking they have the right solution for me I really now understand why people feel that it would be easier just to keep it a secret forever. These stories I have spoken about are only a few from my past, I have many more that are just as bad and some even worse. I am glad I spoke out eventually but I now have the difficult task ahead of me of making speaking out easier for others. Everyone suffering from a mental illness deserves the right to having support from people who have training on how to deal with these sorts of issues. One day I’m sure that society will have changed as a whole and mental illness will no longer come with a stigma and therefore people will be able to ask for help a lot easier! It took me six years to ask for help and I dread to think others are waiting that long.
I hope this blog has given you an insight into how lack of knowledge and understanding can cause so many difficult situations to happen that could have been easily avoided. If your reading this and are suffering, please don’t think you can’t speak out for the risk of these things happening to you. There are many people out there who would be very helpful and will know enough of what to say and do to make a difference. I for one will be willing to support anyone who feels they have no one else to go to. Having also worked in a few schools since leaving school myself I know that many of the staff in schools are fighting for more training or are trying to seek help from outside agencies regarding this issues.