Shirley Manson Opens Up About Self-Harm In Essay

The Garbage frontwoman has written a personal essay sharing her journey through self-harm.

Content warning: This article contains descriptions of self-harm.

'90s icon and Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson has opened up about her history with self-harm in an essay for the New York Times' ongoing series "The First Time".

Beginning with a toxic relationship in the mid-'80s while living in Scotland, Manson writes: "I didn’t know I was a cutter until the first time I chose to cut. I didn’t even know it was a “thing.”

Noting the lack of mental health awareness and support groups available at the time, she says: "It was a secret. A secret that was mine to keep."

Manson goes on to write that she was "generally feeling pretty miserable" about her life at the time, as well as "experimenting with drugs and drinking copious, alarming amounts of alcohol".

Soon after, she met her then-boyfriend, described in the piece as someone "tall and handsome" who "harbored some serious, unresolved anger issues toward women".

"I should have run for the hills, but I didn’t," she adds.

"I had a desire to speak but could not find my voice," she says. "I wanted to change the world for girls like me, girls who didn’t fit in or want to conform, but I didn’t know how or where to start.

"And all of it drove me mad with rage."

Manson goes on to describe how this anger developed into self-harm, writing: "My fury was such that I knew intuitively if I directed it at any one person, I would more than likely land myself in jail. It was a natural, practical step to turn that rage inward, toward myself."

During a fight with her boyfriend "in a moment of utter exasperation", Manson recalls the moment when she "reached across for [her] little silver penknife", and "ran the tiny blade across the skin of one ankle".

"It didn't hurt," she writes.

Although Manson felt "comfort and relief" in the moment, she soon realised that "the problem of course with any practice of self-harm is once you choose to indulge in it, you get better, more efficient, at it".

Luckily, Manson's relationship soon ended, and shortly afterward, "the cutting stopped abruptly".

However, she still suffers from impulses to self-harm from time to time, which she manages to this day.

"I vow to hold my ground. I choose to speak up," she writes of her strategies for resisting those urges now. "I attempt to be kind, not only to myself but also to other people. I surround myself with those who treat me well."

"And then I force myself to breathe," she concludes.

"Breathe in. Breathe out. I breathe in. I breathe out.

"I leave the knife where it is.

"I breathe again."

Read the whole piece here.

If this article has affected you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.