Tanzy’s scars from self-harming
Tanzy is a wife and mother of a 6 year old boy and 5 year old twins. Before she had her children, she suffered from depression; which resulted in her self-harming. And overdosing on antidepressants – was a regular occurrence.
Her parents separated when she was 7. They used drugs, were alcoholics and her father was a violent man. It was a traumatic time for Tanzy and her younger brother, their parents fought constantly and their dad used the court system to get back at their mum. “We were caught in the firing line.” This was the beginning of Tanzy’s struggle with her life.
“I remember when I was in Year 7, my mum moved, I started finding that I had a very depressed feeling, and I think that was when it all started. It triggered something. I saw a school psychologist, and they were quite worried. But my mum was more pre-occupied with my brother because he was always in trouble.”
At around the age of 12, Tanzy felt she couldn’t connect with her mum, and so she moved back in with her dad and his girlfriend. But it was then that she saw the violent streak in her dad. He was violent towards her, and always put her down. He would always either be at the pub or at work, which meant Tanzy would be left on her own for quite a lot of the time.
From Year 8 onwards, “I started spiraling out of control. I was left on my own a lot of the time, I had a lot of time on my own to think about things. I ended up cutting myself. It was more of a release because I wasn’t very good at expressing my emotions and the cutting was another way to release how I felt.” She was referred to a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a social worker. “At that point in time, my dad had no clue what was going on. He doesn’t quite understand about mental illness and why I was going through what I was going through. He put it down to just attention seeking behaviour.”
The stress from her parent’s constant arguing and not being to cope with her studies brought up a lot of anxiety and depression for her. Her psychiatrist at the time diagnosed her with clinical depression and prescribed her antidepressants. “At that point, I was sort of in the path of not coping at all, so I started overdosing. I was hospitalized over 20 times from the age of 14 until 18.” Even then, both Tanzy’s parents would still blame each other. Her dad would accuse her of being “an attention seeking teenager” and that it’s “all because of your mother”, while her mum would say things like “You’d never do that under my roof.” All this time, they were blaming each other. “No one really understood what was going on.” said Tanzy.
When she was about 16, Tanzy had had enough of her father’s violence. She moved out and lived with a friend and her family for about 18 months. Over the course of the next few years, Tanzy lived in a few different places. She only had the support of a few friends, her psychologist and her support workers. Her parents didn’t see her and her dad had cut ties with her. She felt alone and depressed, and was hospitalized often from overdosing on her medication.
She met a man and fell pregnant after 4 months. He was happy at first but changed his mind very quickly. He felt it was all too hard, he had another child from another relationship and didn’t want to have anything to do with her pregnancy. He wanted her to have an abortion but she refused, and so… he left her. “I was left on my own devices again, (I thought) what am I gonna do? I was distraught, everything was falling apart.” She had a friend who would take her to her appointments and that was when she began to feel more stable within herself. “I always say that my oldest child was really my saviour. It wasn’t just about me anymore. I had to think about my child. What am I gonna do for him? It wasn’t until I got pregnant with him that I thought I gotta change something. Something inside me said I had to keep going. I started improving. Getting through things a lot easier.” Shortly after her son was born, she started dating a friend (who is now her husband) she had met in high school. She soon fell pregnant again, this time, with twins.
Life after the twins was very hectic for Tanzy. Her older boy was only 18 months old, her newborn twins were in and out of hospital (one had contracted Cytomegalovirus while still in Tanzy’s womb), they were moving house and her husband had just started a new job working 10 hour shifts. Tanzy’s psychiatrist advised her to take sleeping medication as she needed adequate sleep in order to function with her daily life as a mum with three very young children.
But life got a lot harder again.
When her oldest son was 21 months old, he jumped off a treadmill and landed on one of the twins and broke her arm. Tanzy found that her daughter’s arm was limp and she rushed her to the GP. The GP did not order for any X-Rays to be done and was sent home, asking Tanzy to just watch for any swelling or redness. 2 days later, there was swelling and redness. She rushed her to the hospital where they checked on her and took X-rays.
With the X-Rays, they found that the twins both had fractured ribs. “I was on sleeping medication and my husband would get up. He was struggling as well with his new job, with 10 hour shifts. He couldn’t cope with the twins and got frustrated with them and they got injured. My husband got frustrated and didn’t say anything. I was in my own world, he hurt them without realizing. They had fractured ribs and he didn’t say anything. We had a health nurse come out weekly and she didn’t realize either.” The hospital informed her that they were going to contact the Department for Child Protection (DCP).
“I can’t believe this was happening. They ended up in foster care. I was down again. My whole reason for living is my children. All three were taken. They said it was more of a precautionary (measure). Because of my (mental health) background, it went down pretty quickly. They said you’ll get them back, you just have to jump through all these hoops…. Because of everything happening, I went downhill very quickly. My body went into overdrive of shutting down. I’d get viruses, the flu, even got the shingles because of the amount of stress I was under. I also got Fibromyalgia. I was struggling with everything. DCP wasn’t easy either. The supervisor was set in her ways, if we didn’t parent HER way, we would have a bad report. It took 4 years. I got my oldest son almost 2 years into it…. The twins came back after 4 years.”
“I was trying to keep my emotional feelings stable. Because of my history, they would say I’ve got mental illness. They always try and pick up on the mental health (issues). Thankfully I’ve always had my psychologist and my psychiatrist and support workers who have been there telling DCP she’s actually doing really well.”
During those 4 years, Tanzy and her husband had to fight hard to get their kids back, Tanzy’s dad and his wife intervened in a very negative manner but they eventually saved hard to hire a lawyer to assist them.
About 16 months ago, Tanzy went back to live with her mum for about 3 months to take care of her. Her mum had leukaemia. It was then when Tanzy finally started to bond with her mum again. After spending those 3 months with her, she realised what her mum had to live with when she was still with her dad. And it opened Tanzy’s eyes. And since she got her kids back, she has stopped all contact with her dad. “I’ve managed to say ‘Enough is enough, I don’t want to see you. I feel you’re a toxic influence, you don’t do any good.’ I don’t want anything to do with him. I’m learning to stand my ground and saying no, enough is enough.”
“How did it feel to cut yourself?” I asked.
“In the beginning, it’s like a rush. It’s like an over-feeling of intense, impulsive feeling. Almost like a kid with candy. It was like a feeling of “you need to”. It was hard to control it. I find that after the initial feeling, sometimes it would get full on and the impulse would kick it. During it, I can feel it but it wouldn’t hurt as such but it would just be seeing the blood and feeling just the blade, cutting your skin – is something that, sort of, was a release of all the feelings. After, I would feel a lot better. It’s a very intense moment. When I was in high school it started off with sharp sticks. Then I went to blades. I found that the blade cut deeper, that gave me some form of feeling of release.”
“Mental health is real. The fact that my dad didn’t understand it, it made me feel worse. If people know that it’s real, just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not real. That’s what I found a lot at school, you get teased a lot. I was always the quiet one in the corner that self-harms. You do get a stigma from that. If more people understood what mental illness is and that it’s not something you choose. You don’t choose it. That the world might actually be able to help younger people to get intervention to get through it (instead of struggling). A lot of my friends have struggled because a lot of people didn’t understand and I find that if people understood that mental illness is there, that it’s not something you choose. Anything can trigger things off. It’ll be a lot easier to get better quicker if we can recognise those triggers.”
If you suffer from depression, have suicidal thoughts or feel like you have a mental illness, PLEASE get help. If no one is listening, then SHOUT it out. Shout so loud until someone really hears you. Go speak to a counselor, speak to your GP, a family member or a friend. Whatever it is, don’t ever feel like you’re alone, or that you have to go through this on your own.
If you have people in your life that do not offer you any positivity, CUT them out. Maybe not forever, but if you’re down, you have to stay away from people who are negative NOW. Weed out the people that are harmful and toxic to you. Get some help and surround yourself with people who care. Don’t let anyone say that you’re just “attention seeking”.
It took immense strength and courage for Tanzy to invite me into her home and tell a complete stranger about her past. But in sharing her story, she hopes that others will know that they’re not alone, and with help, there’s always hope to recovery. I thank Tanzy for coming to me and I wish her and her family all the best!