Surviving Self-Harm – Satveer’s story
THREE years ago Satveer found herself staring down at her arm. What she saw shocked her. More than 50 stitches were embedded in her arm – the result of self harming for a week.
Satveer is just one of many young Asian women who self-harm on a regular basis.
The statistics are worrying with a soon to be broadcast BBC Asian Network programme suggesting that doctors are now three times more likely to see an female Asian self-harm victim than their white counterparts.
So what is leading women like Satveer to self-harm? Do ‘Asian values and traditions’ play an important part or are Asian female’s just part of a growing problem?
Here is Satveer’s story…
“I started self harming in my early teens, but it was a different form of self harm than what I have been doing more recently. I began by taking small overdoses of paracetamol and ibuprofen, and I went through a stage of sticking pins into the skin just under my cuticles on my hands. I was doing the above to help me cope with life at home. I do not think that things were any worse than they were before – domestic violence, emotional and physical abuse – , I think that I was just at an age where I was no longer able to ‘pretend’ anymore. Reality had hit me. It was real.
A lot of people say self-harm is a release, and yes, for me at times it was and has been. At the times though I was doing it for varying reasons; control, anger, frustration. But, yes, as I got older and started cutting myself at 21, I found that I got this sense of release for a few moments during and after the actual cut had been done. This however was short lived, and very soon after, literally seconds after, the enormity of what I had done hit me. I had another cut, it would leave a scar, I would never be able to ‘take it back’. The pain was also horrendous afterwards, and that was true for the superficial cuts as well as those much deeper.
Many people have asked me what was going through my head the first time I self-harmed and whether I questioned what I was doing, and I have to truthfully answer by saying I can’t remember. I remember my first ‘episode’/’bout’ of self-harm at the age of 21. I remember feeling so low, lost, lonely, desperate, hurt and frustrated. I knew I had my daughter to think about and that I couldn’t ‘just kill myself’, but I need to release all the anger within me, allow others to see the pain I was going through. I did and still do question what I am doing, however for me, self-harm has ‘seen me through’ so much, and allowed me to still be breathing. It has prevented me from, in my opinion, committing suicide.
It’s always difficult to answer how often I self-harmed.
At one stage I was self-harming via superficial cuts everyday, this then reduced to every few days, then became further apart. I could go months without cutting. Then, all of a sudden something would happen in my life and ‘bang’ I was cutting again. My worst phase was probably three years ago when I ended up having over 50 stitches in my arms over a period of a week I think it was. I was so scared of myself, I never would have envisaged myself doing so much damage to my own body.
Those closest to me have also been affected.
I remember when I first began cutting and was living in a hostel. One of the workers there actually took time off as she was so distressed that I was hurting myself, this made me feel even worse and I ended up cutting again out of guilt. With my friends and those others who I am close to, I see the pain in their eyes. I can see how helpless they feel, how they do not know what they can do to help me stop. But, as they are such fantastic people, they have read up on things and learnt to support me to be safe, and not make remarks like ‘stop it’ or ‘sort yourself out’.
Most of all my daughter has suffered silently. I wish I could change things so the ugly scars on my arms were not visible to her innocent eyes, but I know they will be here forever. She has asked me numerous times what they are, and I have begun to tell her that they happened when I was ill. However, if anyone asks me in front of her what the scars are from on my arms, she is all to quick to say ‘mummy hurt herself playing football’, the story I initially fed her. I know one day I will have to explain to her what they really are, I think she does know, but right now is not the time to talk to her indepth about it.
The last time I self-harmed was in February, which for me is very good. It is not the length of time that I go without cutting, but knowing that I have got traumatic or stressful events in my life
and managed to refrain cutting that I consider a real achievement.
I look back on my period of self-harming with mixed emotions. There is sadness and disappointment that once again I could not find any other way to release the anger, frustration and pain. But I also look back and think that I am glad that I did it, because, at the time I could see no other way through that period. The worst thing is I am glad that I did it because it meant that I did not hurt anyone else, just myself. However I know that this is not true and those around me felt my pain.
Do I think self-harming is an ignored area in the Asian community? Well I don’t think that it is embraced, but then again it isn’t in any community. What I have found is that fewer older Asian’s want to listen to why I do it, they are more than willing to ask what the scars are, but don’t like hearing the answer and expect me to speak in an ushered tone.
For those reading this who are self-harming, all I want to say is You are not alone. You are not a bad, selfish, dirty person. You are not a freak. Talk to someone that you trust. There are many good websites out there, including the BBC’s with information on Self Harm. Talk to your G.P/School Nurse or teacher if you do not feel that you can talk to family members.
If you are the parent/friend/relative of a self-harmer then please remember not to panic. I know it is hard to watch someone do something that is so unnatural to themselves, however they are doing it to cope. If you can get to the bottom of what is causing them distress you will find that self-harm may decrease. It is important for them to know that you are there for them and will support them, even if that means allowing them to safely self-harm.”
Asian Network Report: ‘I Will Survive’
October 15th 2007 18.30-19.00
BBC Asian Network