Don’t tell me what to do…

In this world of self care & mindfulness it seems like everyone thinks they’re a therapist. Don’t get me wrong, sharing what works for you & talking about our mental health is great. It’s just that, to put it bluntly, some people talk crap. Others just regurgitate tired old advice that ain’t helping anyone. Man alive, I’m sick of it.

I want to talk specifically about the useless chatter surrounding self harm. I’ve been hearing & seeing the same patronising advice for YEARS. The most frustrating part is it often comes from people who really should know better. So, allow me to take you through why so much of the standard advice is just plain bad.

1/ Draw on your skin instead of cutting/burning etc.

This one usually takes two forms. The first opines that whatever relief/release a person may find in hurting themselves they can also attain by simply drawing on their skin. Now, let me ask you this, if drawing lines on yourself would make you feel better would you be causing physical trauma in the first place? The answer is of course, no. The components of self harm that serve a purpose vary, it may be pain, blood, disfiguring the skin or even a need to punish oneself. None of which needs are met by drawing.

The second part of the draw on your skin nonsense is the idea that you draw something pretty (often a butterfly) where you would normally self harm. The desire to preserve the ‘body art’ is then supposed to dissuade a person from ‘spoiling’ their skin. The stupidity of this idea is obvious. If actually scarring oneself will not prevent a person from harming themselves it seems very unlikely that spoiling a temporary drawing will. Even if by some miracle a biro butterfly were enough to assuage overwhelming distress, the body has a lot of flesh. Are people to cover every inch of themselves in rainbows & roses?

Butterfly drawn on skin

2/ Have a hot bath, cup of tea, blah, blah, blah…

Imagine the kind of agony you would have to be in to take a scalpel to yourself & cut for hours. Do you think a nice bath would magic that away? The answer is no. A bath helps you feel better at the end of tiring day. It does not release you from excruciating emotional pain.

3/ Distract yourself.

The need to self harm is powerful & persistent. For some reason lots of people (both professional & laymen) believe the urge is fleeting. I often see those struggling told to distract themselves until the urge passes. This advice betrays an ignorance regarding the workings of self harm. The need to hurt oneself does not easily wane. In fact, the longer a person self harms the stronger the compulsion becomes. Often it is impossible to focus on anything else. No sleeping or eating or thinking until the hunger to hurt is sated. It isn’t possible to distract oneself from that level of intrusion. When you cannot function on the most basic of levels watching a film or phoning friend are not options.

4/ Throw away your self harm tools.

The rationale here being that if one does not have the apparatus used to self harm, then self harm is impossible. WRONG.

As already discussed the compulsion to injure oneself is incredibly strong. Desperate people become ingenious. Trust me, when you really need to, you can hurt yourself with anything. Believe me again when I say those fraught & frenzied moments are when people make mistakes. As incomprehensible as it sounds self harm can be the very thing keeping someone alive. Asking or obligating an ill person to give up their lifeline is dangerous. It is also cruel.

5/ Ping your wrist with an elastic band/hols an ice cube in your hand etc.

My objections to this one are again two fold. To begin with it’s just ineffective. Self harm is both a habit firming & escalating problem. A person almost always experiences a need to increase the severity of their injurious behaviour. This takes us right back to the start. If the nip of an elastic band were sufficient, no one would be putting themselves in hospital via self harm.

A more serious objection, though, is the message this sends. Telling a vulnerable person that hurting themselves is ok, is a head fuck of massive proportions. Self harm is never the real problem, it is a symptom. In order to tackle self harm one must deal with the underlying issues. That is hard work, time consuming work. It’s much easier just to counsel harm minimisation. In doing so, you validate a sick person’s maladaptive thought process. That mental health professionals routinely tell patients that hurting themselves is ok is a disgrace. The basic premise of the hold an ice cube/ping an elastic band technique is that hurting yourself is a reasonable response to emotional turmoil. Just don’t do it badly enough to bother other people. By suggesting someone harm themselves in a small way you have shifted the conversation from, ‘let’s help you not hurt yourself’ to ‘hurt yourself in ways that do not draw attention to the act’. It is ignoring the root of the problem & allowing a person to believe that they are deserving of pain. It’s lazy, it counter productive & it is bullshit.

Hand holding ice

If you are struggling with self harm or you know someone who is, don’t feel helpless. When you are searching for help & find only these sort of suggestions it can feel like there are no answers. Whilst there are no quick fixes, there is hope.

See your Gp. If they don’t listen or offer help, see another Gp. I know this is exhausting at a time when you can least afford a fight, but please, don’t give up. If you have a friend or family member who can be your advocate, take them with you. You deserve treatment. You deserve care.

If you have badly injured yourself please seek medical advice. Again, if you have a friend or family member who can support you, take them along. If you do not & are worried about how you will be treated taking a copy of NHS NICE GUIDELINES can be helpful. You are entitled to be treated with the same compassion & respect as any other patient. Most emergency personnel will do this, but a few may need reminding of their duty. Being able to quote these guidelines helps in such situations. As scary as this may sound, do not put yourself at risk by avoiding treatment. You are worthy of diligent medical care.

If you are not yet ready or able to see a Dr, you can contact The Samaritans 24/7.

Call – 116 123 (uk)

Email –

Try to control me boy you’ll get dismissed…

It’s a beautiful day, but I’m crazy sore. I have hospital & Dr appointments that I can’t miss. What I really need is some motivation. I require some banging female voices to spur me on. With my favourite feminist anthems blasting in my ears I can conquer today. I thought perhaps some of you might like an extra spring on your step too.Enjoy.

I’ll start with Not my name by the Ting Tings. It was a huge hit a few years ago & is a great summer tune. For me the stand out line has to be the slow, exasperated ‘ are you calling me darling’. When I listen to that lyric i get the feeling she’s ready to call bullshit. We’ve all been there, it’s cool to hear the feeling expressed in such a funky way. 

No list of feminist songs would be complete without you You don’t own me. I prefer the original by Lesley Gore. This song is so deliciously ahead of it’s time. It’s lyrics are an absolute declaration of female empowerment. This chick will do what she pleases & anyone who doesn’t approve can suck it. 

I’ve always had a fondness for Madonna’s Music album. I think this song is the reason. What it feels like for a girl is an oft overlooked feminist classic. The premise of the song being that it’s acceptable for girls to dress or act like boys because society deems being male a prize. However, it’s humiliating for men to look or be called girlie because being a women is deemed inferior. Message aside the song itself is beautiful. Somber & sultry; Madge at her best. 

My next choices earned a place in my heart for similar reasons. Firstly it should be said that everything by Salt N Pepa is awesome, but this track is particularly dear to me. None of your business is a blistering attack on slut shaming before the phenomena even had a name. I was 13 or 14 when this hit the charts. I attended a catholic school & was surrounded by numerous gender double standards. That a woman should have sexual agency was not a concept I had come across. That females could enjoy fucking for fuckings sake was an idea that was just about dawning on me. Salt n Pepa did me a huge service with their blatant message. In a world where slag banded about by my piers & sex was deemed sinful by educators None of your business was a revelation.

Female sexual pleasure is key in my next anthem too. Charli XCX’s Body of my own is an ode to masturbation. It’s a rare topic in pop, even rarer in relation to women. At 34, I’ve long since discovered the joys of having a wank. I know it’s natural. I know it’s healthy. I know it’s the best the way to work out which buttons you really want pressing. For me this is a catchy pop piece confirming what I’m already sure if. However, I suspect for many teenage girls a song like this will offer much needed reassurance & encouragement. Sadly we still live in a society that makes girls feels embarrassed about enjoying their own bodies. I’m all for a song that says, Hey, you don’t need anyone else. You own your body. Explore it. Love it. 

Destiny’s Child’s Independent women has always been one of those songs that will get my arse on the dance floor. I love everything about it. When it was released I was a student struggling to make ends meet, but doing it all on my own.Three women jubilantly declaring themselves self sufficient was exactly what I needed. Having my hard work affirmed every time I went to a club was bliss. 16yrs later I still depend on me & i wouldn’t have it any other way.

These are just a few songs that make me feel proud to be woman in charge of my life. I’d love to know which tunes make you feel like you can rule the world.