Today I went work with the evidence of recent self harm on my wrist.
Small diagonal cuts to the side of my arm.
Long, straight cuts across my wrist.
A large, obvious cross carved into the pale, delicate skin over the surface of the veins and arteries.
Livid, red lines too uniform to have been made by anything other than a human hand.
I tried to cover the marks with plasters but I couldn’t make them stick.
The edges peeled back from the endless hand washing required by all nurses, the repeated application of soap and water revealing the marks that I tried so hard to hide.
I kept pressing the plasters back down, mentally begging them to help me hide the evidence of what I had done.
I tried to tell myself that the cuts weren’t that obvious; that they weren’t as bright, that the contrast between the red lines and white skin wasn’t as pronounced as I thought.
But I couldn’t convince myself.
Couldn’t make myself believe the lies that formed on my lips.
All I felt was shame.
Shame at myself for having put myself in this situation.
For what I had done
For who I am
Wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend.
All roles that I desperately want to fulfil and yet feel as though I fail at every day.
The same feelings of failure that lead me to slice at my own skin in search of relief that passes almost as soon as it is found.
And so it goes on
Round and round.
Over and over.
Again and again.
I want to curl up in a corner, rocking backwards and forwards, banging my head against the wall as though I can somehow physically beat the thoughts and feelings out of my head and have them shatter harmlessly on the floor.
The urge to run, to hide is so strong.
But I am still at work
I still have a job to do and so I have to force myself out of my own head and back into the present.
As much as I despise myself I cannot let it get in the way now.
There is plenty of time later to be alone with my thoughts.
I go to the stock room and find some dressings to properly cover my arm.
Maybe if I can’t see the marks then I’ll forget about them for a little while.
I stick the dressing over the cuts and press it down hard.
This time it sticks and the marks vanish.
For a while I do forget.
The one of my colleagues notices the dressing and asks if I’ve hurt myself.
I have hurt myself.
But probably not in the way she thinks.
I try to make up some sort of explanation but I stumble over the words and even to me my excuse sounds feeble.
I wonder if she believes me
Or does she know what I’ve done?
If she’s noticed then who else has?
Colleagues, parents, relatives?
Maybe everyone knows
I just don’t know.
The dressing comes off when I get in the shower after the shift is finished and I am home.
The marks stand out as bright as ever but at least now there is only me to see them.
I could try to hide from myself but it would take more energy than I actually posses and so I don’t bother.
Instead I curl up under the duvet, alone in the dark with my thoughts.
The Northern One sleeps beside me but I don’t want to wake him, not so that I can repeat things to him that I’ve said hundreds of times before.
Instead I stop fighting
Stop trying to keep my thoughts at bay
Instead allow them to flow freely through my mind, twisting and tangling with the dark threads already there until they too are lodged so firmly that they never leave.
All for myself
All mine too
Around and around
Over and over
Again and again.
Louise is a full time mum, a part time neonatal nurse and award nominated blogger who has battled depression for many years but was particularly ill during her pregnancy. She lives with her husband (the Northern One) their little boy (Squidge) and their three guinea pigs who live in the kitchen.
Louise blogs at 23weeksocks (http://23weeksocks.com) about lots of different (and seemingly unconnected) topics that she’s passionate about, including mental health, antenatal depression, neonatal care and baby loss. She’s also involved in #MatExp (https://www.facebook.com/groups/MatExp/); an online maternity experience campaign that was formed to help improve maternity services in the UK. As part of this she hosts the #MatExpHour Twitter chat every Friday and would love to see you there.