The colorful strokes of a paintbrush ๐Ÿ–Œ๐Ÿ’›โœจ

In the writings of College Life When You’re 5″ Nothing I’ve been completely open about the fact that in my teenage years, at the height of my mental health difficulties I used self- harm as a coping mechanism. Right up until almost the end of my first year in college I self- harmed; although by then I was absolutely an expert at hiding it.

I remember the day I stopped so clearly. It had been the worst day in college and I was miserable by the time I got home. I was feeing sad and low and the urge to cut was almost too much. I’m not sure what made me stop and pause, but I did. I ended up taking my paints out and painting a picture of a beautiful woman that I’d seen in a magazine. I painted with my emotions that day and by the time I was finished I was so proud of the picture I had created. Something amazing had also happened. I felt a weight off my shoulders and so much lighter. Not only did I feel calmer but I was left with a picture I wasn’t ashamed of and could show people rather than hide away. This was the moment I realised that painting was my alternative coping mechanism.

After this, I began to paint on my arms anytime I felt the urge to cut, and since I have never looked back. Now, when my pals see pictures of my decorated arms they understand that I’ve been in distress but have dealt with the situation in a healthy, productive and creative way.

I’m not sure if this sounds strange or not, but I’m absolutely in love with the scars on my wrists. They’re much fainter now; but after years of shredding my skin if you look closely, my arms and legs are covered in scars. Particularly my arms. I also have some burn scars that are much more obvious. I sort of hope one way or another that my scars never fully fade away. I’m not sure why I love my scars so much.ย I understand for some people that their scars are constant reminders of painful memories but, I think for me they’re like healed battle wounds to remind me of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve been through. They’re hundreds of little stories etched into my skin to remind me that I am strong enough to get through anything and everything that comes my way. I guess I sort of view them as less visible tattoos that represent a happy ending. ๐Ÿ’›

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am under no circumstances glorifying self-harm! Self- harm can present its self in many ways but regardless of how it presents itself, ย it’s an unhealthy and dangerous coping mechanism that at the time was ruining my life even though it felt like it was the only way to stay alive.

Self-harm became somewhat of an addiction to me. Even now, the moment things begin to fall apart around me my immediate response is the urge to self-harm.

Itโ€™s been about three years, I think, since the last time I purposely injured myself, but sometimes the urge requires me to distance myself from whatever situation Iโ€™m in and sit and really think things through.

About a week ago I was having a really bad time of it and life was completely on top of me. I felt really, really low. Lower than Iโ€™ve felt in a very long time and my thoughts started to scare me a little. I went for a walk and just walked and walked until my thoughts felt a little less intense. I knew that this situation wasnโ€™t okay and considered who I should reach out to.

Then I was hit with a feeling of shame.

It seemed incomprehensible that the Welfare and Equality Officer, the girl who has eventually, after so long won against life, could be in fact losing so badly and in such a bad frame of mind. I felt embarrassed and like I couldnโ€™t turn to anyone about how bad I was feeling.

I painted when I got home. ๐ŸŽจ

Iโ€™m feeling much brighter again now. Life is just a little unsteady at the moment, but I know Iโ€™ll get through it all. I’m actually very okay. I just dipped a little, is all. I’m doing well again. ๐Ÿฅ๐Ÿ’›๐ŸŒผ๐ŸŒผ๐ŸŒผ

Earlier in the year I was sitting in the car with one of my pals when he brought up the topic of self- harm and started asking me about it. Heโ€™s known me for a long time and read my blogs so he somewhat knows my story.

He explained to me that he just didnโ€™t really understand why someone would go as far as to hurt themselves and explained that he had just been too afraid to ask before in case he offended anyone.

I am such a firm believer that if you donโ€™t understand you should always ask! We canโ€™t all understand everything weโ€™ve never experienced and thatโ€™s okay. But the only way to begin to understand is to ask. Once we talk openly about these sorts of things people become less afraid of them and more open to understanding. Thatโ€™s how we really get rid of stigma.

Iโ€™ve realised a lot in the last few months about how real the stigma surrounding mental health is. Weโ€™re all now absolutely fine with putting out the message that โ€˜Itโ€™s OKAY not to be okayโ€™; but once it comes to actually discussing what โ€˜not feeling okayโ€™ means, we panic.

Mental illnessโ€™ are real and sometimes scary topics but the more we all try to understand, the less intimidating they slowly become. ๐Ÿ’›

I think people are far more inclined to reach out and ask for help if they know they can be honest about their emotions without panicking whomever they’re trying to talk to.

I had a quote up on my Instagram a day or two after my bad night and a student that I know from my second year replied to me saying that if I ever needed to chat she was always there and never to bottle things up. I can’t tell you how much the message meant to me. She had no idea how I was feeling but from her message I understood that if I needed to talk about how really ‘not okay’ I was feeling that she would listen. That was all I needed. Just a wee reminder that I’m not on my own.

I know I’m never on my own. I know that if I picked up the phone and called any single one of my friends that night they would have answered. But that particular night I just felt a bit like a burden and chose to talk to my Sally instead.

That’s one of the many great things about puppers: they love unconditionally, listen always and never judge or talk back and finally, put a smile on our faces with just a little wag of the tail. ๐Ÿ˜‚โค๏ธ๐Ÿถ

I decided to write this blog post, not long after National Self Harm Awareness Day, as a reminder that it’s okay. That you’re not a freak and that it’s far more common than any of us realise. That sure, it’s not easy to talk about, but once we begin talking, slowly it gets easier.

It’s also a little reminder to anyone who might need to hear it that it’s going to be okay. That there are other coping mechanisms. That it does get better. But also, that it’s okay to relapse or, to slip into a down patch. It’s okay, and it will get better. You will find an alternative coping mechanism. โค๏ธ Just please do ask for help and don’t struggle on your own- that makes things so much more difficult to get through.

Take it from me, the Welfare Officer, who is an absolute shitshow too. ๐Ÿฅ

But as I always say, life is so, so much easier if we’re all honestly in it together, ready to pick one another up when we trip, because trip we do. ๐Ÿ˜ด

Happiness feels so much better when you’ve had to fight for it. Keep fighting, beautiful people. โค๏ธ๐Ÿฅฐโœจ

Smile always, talk always and reach out if you need to.

All my love,

Kimbo. X ๐ŸŒผโœจ๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿฅ๐ŸŒธ๐ŸŒป๐Ÿ’ซ

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