Holly Nicholls- Life is Worth Living
By Holly Nicholls
This article is a testimony about self-harm. It features lyrics from the band Twenty One Pilots, lyrics that mean so much to Holly.
In the beginning
I remember the first time I cut myself when I was 14 or 15, in my bedroom. At the time, the reason why was serious. My boyfriend at the time was saying all these things online, saying that I was clingy and all these horrible things. He was saying that no one likes me and they would just hang out with me because they feel sorry for me, this whole ordeal. It made me feel really down.
Before this, I had heard about mental illnesses at school and different things that people did to cope. There was a pair of scissors on my bedside table and I cut my wrist. It wasn’t anything deep, like a cat scratch. I freaked out ‘oh God, what have I done?’. I ran out to my parents and told them what I had done. They told me it would be okay. I swore to them I wouldn’t do it again.
At that point, I didn’t think I had depression or anxiety. It didn’t really hit until year 12 and university. The stress was really getting to me. That’s when I started actively cutting myself, scarring myself with anything I could find- scissors and knives. Being in a health profession, I’d always have those things on me and they were sterile and no one would question why I had them.
[caption id="attachment_749" align="aligncenter" width="209"] Lyrics from 'Holding Onto You' Photo: Whisper[/caption]
Why I self-harm
To me, self-harming isn’t an attention-seeking thing. When I first started, it was in spots I could easily hide like my thighs or on my wrist in the same spot where I could put a bandaid over it. No one would question it because I have cats who could’ve scratched me. It’s very much my only coping mechanism; I’ve tried everything like walking, dancing, reading and writing. They work at the time, but not long term. It all comes back after a little while. Which is why I started cutting myself because it gave me relief. It hurts but opens up the pressure and then offers a release. You know it’s bad but it offers that relief.
I don’t want to call someone when I’m that headspace and say that I want to slice my wrists open because at that point in time you’re ashamed of it. Everyone has problems so you don’t want to go and put your problems on someone else’s shoulders because it’s not fair when you’re in such a deep hole.
It starts as a passing thought of self-harm and when you start asking yourself questions like ‘why?’ you get into the mindset of the situation and what you can’t cope with. It all starts piling up like someone is putting box after box on top of your arms. You’re being crushed so I feel this internal pressure like I can’t breathe.
[caption id="attachment_750" align="aligncenter" width="180"] Lyrics: Truce[/caption]
From bad to worse
Things got really bad so I went to a doctor. I did a mental health assessment and got a 25 which is a moderate rating of mental health disorder. So I went on the anti-depressant Lovan. It worked for a while for nearly a year. Then it stopped working. I fell back into the dark place and wasn’t coping very well. I stopped the medication a couple years ago without telling anyone. With my training, I know that I shouldn’t have stopped cold turkey, but I did. I did restart the medication but it wasn’t doing anything for me, wasn’t fixing anything.
For 18 months, I didn’t self-harm. I was proud of myself because it was the longest time I’d ever not cut myself and I was in my last year of uni and my first year of work. When I was working on a ward where the manager wasn’t particularly supportive, the stress started coming back and so did my self-harm. I had relapsed. It’s like a drug, getting that hit again and experiencing that feeling again. I started seeing a therapist and went back to my GP.
Around the same time, my partner and I were physically assaulted down the road from my parent’s house, by a group of youths. That naturally had an effect on my anxiety and depression, it went through the roof. I didn’t sleep for a week, I didn’t leave my room for 2 weeks because that’s where I felt safe. I saw a hypnotherapist. He made me relive the assault over and over again, to desensitize me to the situation. It was a wrong approach for me but I lied to everyone saying that it was working but it wasn’t. Then I would have a shower and slice my leg open because I was so traumatized. I stopped seeing him and my GP referred me to another therapist who was lovely. I saw her for awhile and I got better, going 6 months without self-harm.
[caption id="attachment_751" align="aligncenter" width="183"] Lyrics from Goner[/caption]
Once I moved out with my partner into my own place, and the stress that came with that, I got really bad and relapsed again. The worse thing was that in my mind I was telling myself that it was okay, that no one would know. Then my partner and I had a big issue in our relationship and the guilt I faced with that caused me to really cut my thigh. This left big scars that I’ll never get rid of. That scared me, but I still kept putting it off. I didn’t want to admit that I had a problem.
Eventually, I found a way to cope by filtering into anger. That was my go-to. Everything made me angry- a fight with my partner would leave me throwing things and yelling. I figured out that anger wasn’t a good thing. My partner and I figured things out and he became my support and kept me strong. We were good.
When I started my second degree, the stress of juggling work with uni really got to me. I was also diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. That was a major low for me. Everyone started treating me like I would break and I couldn’t make my own decisions without someone saying something. I knew they meant well but mentally it made me so much worse.
I started the self-harm again very recently so I went back to my GP and did the test again. This time I was diagnosed with a severe illness and I wanted medication but the GP didn’t want to put me on it. She wanted to send me to a therapist but the only issue with that now is I have to wait a month to see the therapist. Meanwhile, everything is still piling up.
[caption id="attachment_752" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Lyrics from 'The Judge'[/caption]
When nothing seems to work
I am in that spot now where I find that nothing helps me in these low moments. I’ve had this for seven or eight years which is a long time and I still haven’t found it. You start to give up because at this point what’s going to work? What is working now is reasoning with myself and asking myself 'what’s the point of this self-harm'? It only causes my leg or arm to hurt and makes people ask questions about the cuts or why I’m limping. Then I have to come up with a quick lie that seems feasible. When it gets to this point, you don’t want people asking what’s wrong because you’ve dealt with it for so long.
I’m afraid of the judgement and in the profession I’m in, there’s an expectation that you can look after yourself. It puts pressure back on you. I know what I need to do but having someone who knows what you’re going through still say “You should be doing this” really pushes me back. If I’m willing to talk to someone about my problem and then they tell me I should do something it kind of makes me feel like it’s my fault.
With my anxiety, every time someone criticizes me I sit on that criticism for a long time. I sit there and think about it and think I’m stupid. It’s very self-destructive. You get to a place where you start contemplating suicide and start asking what the point to everything is. I start thinking about overdosing on Panadol; cutting myself one too many times and bleeding out or hanging myself in the closet. When I get to that point, I freak myself out, scaring myself out of it. I think how everyone else would feel if I died. My partner is terrified about finding me dead somewhere in the house. It pushes me back to reality.
[caption id="attachment_753" align="aligncenter" width="209"] Lyrics- from Screen[/caption]
What keeps me going
What keeps me going is knowing that I have people to support me. I have parents that love me. My partner loves me to the end of the Earth and would do anything for me. I’m doing what I love but some days I question if I’m actually doing what I want to be doing.
It’s hard knowing that I have people to support me but there are people out there who don’t. There’s homeless people, people who have no one to support them, people in worse situations that I am. There is someone and something supportive for everyone- you just have to find it. You have your share of the bad but it will come good eventually. A bow and arrow before it’s shot have to be pulled back before it’s launched. You have to be pulled back and deal with hard things before you can be let go and do what you need to do. Studying was hard and pushed me back at times but now being a mid-wife and bringing new life into the world makes me realise that life is worth living.
If this article has caused distress in anyway, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For information on mental illness, visit: http://www.beyondblue.org.au
Last week, Aimee spoke about her struggles with mental illness. You can read that article here: https://creativecollectionsblog.com/2018/07/02/mental-illness-is-so-frustrating/