A new study by BBC radio programme, File on 4, revealed the rising prevalence of self-injury among young children in the UK. The alarming trend has doubled over the last six years, equating to an average of 10 hospital admissions every week of children aged 9-12. This behaviour is a coping mechanism or reaction to many different issues and today, Olanike Caulker shares her experience.
“My earliest memory at around three years old was of my mother being beaten and dragged across the floor by my father, and me trying my level best to stay out of the way so I wouldn’t become the next target.
“At night, my eyes and ears wouldn’t miss much. While I soaked in the sight and sounds, the anticipation grew as I never knew when the next episode would begin. But I was also torn between whether I should try to rescue my mother by deflecting my father’s attention, or get help somehow.
“I felt confused and was constantly scared. I would concentrate intently on something else to take my mind off things. That ‘something else’ would be self-injury.
“I felt I couldn’t confide in anyone at home so, this became the norm. This was the only way I knew how to release what I felt inside.
“I had one friend, Albert, who I had known since primary school, but he was just a youth like me with his own issues. I was comforted knowing he was there, although I knew he couldn’t really help me.
“I plucked up the courage to speak to my teacher. I told her how I felt about myself, my family, and life in general and she even saw the scars too. However, as she felt that my arms weren’t that bad, I was not taken seriously.
“As a last cry for help, I booked an appointment to see my doctor. I left with a prescription for anti-depressants and still nothing was resolved. The tablets didn’t do anything apart from make me sleepy, so every time I couldn’t sleep, I took one. I felt like everywhere I turned, I was let down and disappointed. I figured that no one could help me and didn’t see the point in living. I suffered with these feelings and thoughts for years.
“What gave me a glimmer of hope that things would change was when I applied to study nursing at a university in Cambridge. When the time came to leave home, I could not contain my excitement. I honestly thought that being far away from my parents, I would now be able to live ‘my best life.’’
“I started going to parties, wearing provocative clothing, smoking weed. I turned into this flamboyant party girl who was the life and soul of any party, but this wasn’t my true nature. I was actually a very shy person who was trying to mask the anguish in my soul.
“During this time, I was still in contact with Albert, but I could no longer just go and see him as before because he was also at university all the way in Southampton. Life was unbearable.
“Studying nursing should have given me the joy I was looking for, as I was supposedly meant to be helping others. Yet I couldn’t even help myself.
“Twice, I attempted to end it all. I thought the only way out was to overdose on pills and tie a rope around my neck. Both times, I blacked out and cannot recall what happened after that. All I knew was that it didn’t work.
“Shortly after, Albert told me a friend invited him to the Universal Church and he asked if I wanted to come along too. Was this a lifeline after all these years to finally turn my life around? To be honest, I didn’t know how God could help me, but I accepted the invitation anyway.
“In all my life, I had never seen so many youths that were truly happy. This intrigued me. I wanted to know how I could be happy too. I kept hearing the word ‘faith’ being mentioned in the meetings.
“I took every service as an opportunity to learn how to use my faith and to build a relationship with God. When I began to see results, I couldn’t believe it! The first thing I noticed was that the unfathomable sadness had gone and I was genuinely laughing and smiling – not just on the outside, but it came from within.
“As I lost trust in almost everyone, I did not think the advisors on hand would even care yet alone be able to help me. However, opening up made me realise that holding resentment towards my parents, my father in particular, was doing me more harm than good. It was like drinking poison, hoping the other person would die. It wasn’t easy, but I chose to forgive them. In doing so, I felt lighter, like a weight had been lifted off me.
“I never would have thought my life could be transformed from the inside out. I am at peace with myself; intentionally injuring myself and ending my life couldn’t be further from my mind.
“Albert proposed to me and we have been happily married for two years now. We are both at a stage where we can actually help each other and I couldn’t be more excited about our future together. Today I can truly say I am living my best life.”