My daughter the self-harmer: “I’ve stopped having any life of my own”

It is estimated that more than one in five girls self-harm in the UK. One parent details the journey from the realisation that her teen was self-harming, through the maze of bureaucracy to try and get help. 

Links to organisations that can offer help and support are listed at the bottom of this post.

Chapter four: “I stopped having any life of my own”

My daughter has been self-harming for a while. This and her violent episodes are having such a major impact on the whole family in many different ways.

My son is scared. He can’t sleep at night as that’s when the majority of the issues happen. He hears her hurting herself and throwing her belongings around. During the day, chairs and other objects will get thrown, doors will get slammed, other items will be destroyed or damaged and he gets upset. He cries and runs away to a safer part of the house.

I have stopped having any life of my own. She sleeps in our room next to me, or I end up sleeping on her floor, as by the end of the evening she is so distraught she cannot get herself to sleep. I’ve tried waiting up until she’s asleep, but then I’m awake most of the night and she’ll wake up in the middle of the night and still be distraught. So we’ve just got into a pattern of me sleeping near her.

I can’t go out. Whenever I do, she threatens to hurt or kill herself. At times she has run away saying she is going to kill herself, so I’ve stopped even planning to go out. I can’t tell my friends because she doesn’t want anyone to know so I’ve just been making excuse after excuse as to why I can’t meet up. My partner and I have not had a night off in over nine months.

I stopped working. One day I was travelling to a meeting and had a mini panic attack. I was so scared that she was going to hurt herself whilst I was away for the day, and I just couldn’t cope any more. There had been a couple of times when I was away with work and received phone calls from her telling me she had cut herself. It was awful. Being hundreds of miles away from home when you receive a phone call like that hits you in the stomach and the heart. I don’t actually have the words to describe how it feels.

Work were great. I told them what was happening at home and they gave me time off, which was great in some ways. It meant I could actually take some time out in the day for me – I’d go for a walk along the seafront or go to the gym, and I could spend some quality time with my son who was so clearly upset by it all. It also meant I could spend some more time with my daughter. At first this was really helpful as I had more patience and was able to deal with her outbursts and self-harming with more calmness as I wasn’t so tired and stressed. She started to confide in me, but I also think she became too dependent on me and I became the focus of all her anger and outbursts.

My partner withdrew a bit. I guess as I was dealing with everything at home, he threw himself into work as a distraction. It has had a massive impact on our relationship. The dynamic has changed so much as I had all of a sudden changed from being the major breadwinner to stay at home mum. I was doing all the household chores, and everything to do with my daughter was left to me. There were so many appointments and meetings which I attended on my own or with my daughter. I spent many hours each day researching mental health and self-harming. I felt like I had lost all sense of my own identity. I had simply become my daughter’s mother.

Next post: “My daughter is addicted to social media”

Read previous chapters from our blogger mum’s story:

Where to get help and advice