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Self Harm In Sport

Hi Sam, I have struggled with self harm since November 2016. I do a lot of gymnastics and we have a very strict dress code. We have to wear a leotard, shorts optional or just a sports bra and shorts. I train 9 hours a week, multiple times a week and really enjoy it. It is one thing that has kept me going. My self harm cuts aren't deep, but are very obvious and cover my arms. I cant cover them and recently have missed training because I don't want my arms and sometimes leg to be seen. One of my coaches (the assistant) I am quite close with (she knows and has seen my self harm) said that I need to keep my arms covered because of younger children around, and also that it is very obvious. I was quite hurt that she basically said I needed to go home because I cant have my arms out. She said I could wear a long sleeved jumper, but that doesn't work because Id get far too hot, and also I think it makes it even more obvious to people around me who I train with. I love gymnastics, and its a great distraction for me. Ive tried covering them with concealer and makeup. i cant wear jumpers and cant have my arms out, but I don't want to quit and let my mental health win. So I am quite stuck.

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Sam

Hi there,

Self-harm can be difficult to cope with, particularly because there are outward signs that other people can see. It's almost always better for those around you to know when you're struggling but some people in your life may not understand. Normally you would get to choose whether to share things with those people but with self-harm you may not get that choice. You may need to help those people understand what you're going through or accept that not everyone will understand what it's like for you.

Lots of people tell me that they want to hide any injuries or scars they have from their self-harm. Sometimes people say they're ashamed of them, while others just don't want to have to explain them to anyone who asks. Whatever your reasons it's good to be prepared for when you do have to talk about what's happening as it's likely to happen eventually. If you never have to talk about self-harm to someone else it can still be good to think about this as it helps you to understand yourself better.

With your situation at gymnastics it's important to remember that you haven't done anything wrong. Your coach may have no experience with someone who's harmed themselves before and so doesn't fully understand what it's like. Telling you to cover up so that other people can't see can make it seem like you are to blame and that your scars are something to be ashamed of, but this isn't true. You should be the one who decides how you feel about your scars.

Your struggle with self-harm is part of who you are and it's okay to be open about it. This doesn't mean sharing your story with everyone - like the younger people in the group - but it shouldn't mean you have to cover up because of it. A good idea would be to speak to all of the coaches at your gymnastics club and talk about how it affects you when you're told to cover up your scars. There's a time and a place to talk about something like this so perhaps together you can think of a way of explaining the scars to anyone who asks about it, without going into lots of detail.

If you feel that your coaches aren't being helpful then it would be okay to have someone with you to help explain it, like an adult you trust. If they still aren't helping then they could help you to talk to someone higher up, like the manager of the club or even someone like the British Amateur Gymnastics Association.

Remember that there's always someone here to listen at Childline. Thanks for sending me this letter, it's really important that people talk about things like this.

Take care.

Sam

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