Self-harm: Helena's story

Helena tells us how she started to self-harm after being bullied at school and abused by a teacher. Trigger warning: This page contains information about self-harm which may bring up difficult feelings.

"no point me telling anybody"

"I was badly bullied when I was at secondary school, and was then singled out by a teacher who initially started bullying me and then began to sexually abuse me. I tried to protest to my head of year, but they didn't believe me.

"This went on for more than a year. I was led to believe by the teacher that there was no point me telling anyone what he was doing because I was an 11-year-old child and he was a teacher.

"I finally persuaded my parents to send me to a different school but I was still very isolated and didn't really know how to relate to other children so I was really badly bullied at that school. I spent every lunch-time locked in the toilets crying, I stopped eating and didn't take part in sports.

Nobody asked me why I was doing it, they just told me to stop doing it.

"A year later I was moved to a new school where I slowly started to make friends. Once I was settled, and began to feel a little bit safe, the vulnerability turned into rage and I disintegrated. I wasn't eating and I was cutting myself and burning myself, taking pills, banging my head against the bed-head and doing various other things. I had become addicted to pain.

"After a year at the school my friends noticed something was wrong and went to the head-teacher to try and get some help for me. I had been hurting myself completely in secret - no one had ever seen it before.

"Nobody asked me why I was doing it, they just told me to stop doing it. Towards the end of the year I decided to go and see my GP and told her that I wanted to stop cutting myself and I didn't know how. I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital a few days after my 16th birthday.

"I had been there for about 3 months when I decided that I could tell someone about the sexual abuse. So I told them, and they believed me, and it was the most unbelievable thing.

"By the time I was 18 I'd started to settle down and was doing a little better in my life, but for some reason I decided to stop eating. I ended up being taken into hospital and put on a drip and it was really awful. After I came out of that, I just decided, 'right, I'm not going to be ill anymore, because it's not getting me anywhere'.

It was like suddenly I realised I could do what I wanted. From that point on it was just a very, very slow recovery.

"I decided I would simply take control. It was like a light switch flicking on in my head when I realised that actually if I wanted to stop cutting myself I could, if I wanted to eat I could. It was like suddenly I realised I could do what I wanted. From that point on it was just a very, very slow recovery.

"It took years of therapy and it was two steps forward one step back the whole way, but I reminded myself that I fought to get this far, and I just kept going. At 23 I went into full-time education, went on to do my degree and now work for a charity. I consider myself a healthy person now and I have been for many years, but the impact that it had on my life has been enormous.

"Sometimes I feel huge regret for all those years lost in the pain caused by the abuse. My advice to other young people is to tell someone. If they don't believe you, tell someone else, and tell someone else, until you get the help you need. If you feel you're not coping, keep asking for help.

"Please don't forget that you can contact Childline. You can even go online, which I think is fantastic – I know that had this option been available when I was in trouble that I would have used it. I could have written it all down and just pressed send, and I would have got the help I so desperately needed."

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