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Last Christmas I was working at a department store; I was on the gift counter which was the busiest in the entire store. So whenever I got to help out on another department it felt like I’d broken the water and I could breathe again.

One day my travels took me to the Home & Electrical department; fridges, washing machines and kettles - all of the good stuff. However, as much as I was enjoying my reprieve, customers always had this "nasty" habit of asking me for help and in a nutshell, I hadn’t got a clue.

So I asked a girl for help. I’d seen her a few times before but I’d never spoken to her. She was nice, helpful. She was wearing a dress which left her arms uncovered and as we chatted I noticed that all up her arms were scars. I didn’t mention it. As far as I’m aware I didn’t even acknowledge that I’d noticed, although I’m sure she noticed the flicker of my eyes better than I did. I just spoke to her. It wasn’t shock I felt, it wasn’t horror. What I felt was peace. I felt uplifted, like everything was going to be alright.

To understand my response to seeing that girl’s scars you have to understand how I was feeling at the time. I’d graduated from University the summer previous and University had been the unhappiest three years of my life. I approached the entire thing as a chance to ‘put myself right’. After coasting at University I thought University would give me an opportunity to prove what I could be. Sounds reasonable enough. But I just got so deep into it that it stopped being about self-actualisation and it turned very sharply into self-flagellation.

I overthought everything, so I didn’t do very well, so I wasn’t smart, so I was arrogant for thinking I should be doing better, so I was a bad person. Instead of turning to others I sunk deeper and deeper into a circle of one and as those around me were going out, having fun, being together, I was in my room, watching it on a two-day lapse via Facebook. I didn’t fit in, I was weird, no one wanted me around.

But as all of this was going on, would you like to know exactly how many people I confided in? None. I told no one, even one tiny detail of how I was feeling. By the third year I honestly believed I was a bad person. When I thought about who I was, the word that always, without fail, came to mind was ‘pathetic’. And I didn’t tell a soul.

Mid way through the second year I broke up with my girlfriend and it took me 18 months to cry about it. Seriously. For three years I had repressed my emotions with an iron grip. It’s impressive in a twisted way because no one ever asked me if I was okay. Not my girlfriend, not my friends, not my parents.

But by the time it came to Christmas I couldn’t cope anymore. I’d bottled it up and my bottle was full. One night I left work and as I got off the train and into my car, I started crying. I drove all the way home crying and it felt so, so good. But even then I wasn’t ready to talk to anyone. Had someone knocked on my window as I bawled away I know for a fact I could have played it off, brushed them off and left them feeling a little bit concerned, but not enough to concern me anymore.

And the longer I thought about it, the more that terrified me. The things that were going on in my mind were awful, I was crucifying myself on a daily basis but I still went out with my friends, I still sat and had dinner with my family and no one asked me if I was okay.

Did I look okay? I must have and looking back now, that really scares me. It scares me because I couldn’t stop thinking. Who else is feeling like this? How many people, people I see every day, that I smile at, laugh with, underneath it all really truly and honestly hate themselves. Think people are better off without them. Think they’re a dead weight to their friends, a let down to their parents, fat and ugly, stupid, pathetic.

And how many of them are suffering in silence, as skilled as I was at putting just enough of a brave face on it to keep everyone off their backs? The biggest killer of men under 45 is suicide. I guess it’s a lot.

So when I saw that girl, with scars, healed, but there, not hidden, not flaunted, just a part of life. I just felt proud, of her and I felt like I might be alright too. Even though no one had ever seen the cuts I’d been inflicting.

If you can relate to this blog post and would like to speak with someone the help lines below are ready to talk -

Whatever You're Going Through, Call Us Free Any Time on 116 123

If you're under 18, you may feel more comfortable calling ChildLine

Call us free on 0800 1111

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