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Story of Hope: Ruby (19)

By sharing stories of others, my hope is that the reader will see aspects of themselves in the story.


When we identify with the struggle of another human, we can recognise that we are not alone. We can also recognise things may not be as hopeless as we fear- that healing can & does occur.


The names & identifying features in this story have been changed to protect privacy.

Please enjoy :)




Ruby (19)


*Ruby was 19- years- old when she first came to see me. In her first session she was anxious & unsure if seeing a therapist was a good idea.


Ruby started self harming when she was 12. She had a difficult relationship with her parents growing up. They were emotionally distant & at times emotionally abusive. Ruby moved out as soon as she could & had as little contact as possible with them.


Self harm was something Ruby did throughout her teens, & it always helped her feel better in difficult times. However, Ruby’s girlfriend had found out she was self harming, & was really concerned. She suggested Ruby see a counsellor. Ruby agreed, but was not confident it would make any difference.


At first, Ruby told me she wasn’t sure if she wanted to stop self-harming. She did worry about the scars, & what others would think (especially her girlfriend), but she also didn’t want to give up the one thing that was helping her cope.


When we talked more about the self harm, Ruby acknowledged that her self harming had gotten more severe & frequent over the years. Ruby also admitted she had thoughts about ending her life at times, & that sometimes she felt like the self harm wasn’t helping enough anymore.


Ruby said she felt like if something really bad happened in the future she might end her life. She didn’t see herself living into old age- she didn’t think she could last through life that long. Life was just too hard.


Ruby had support from her girlfriend & a few friends, but she didn’t have anyone she felt like she could talk to about everything. She always had to be careful about what she did & said, in case people got upset with her. She avoided talking about her childhood.


My impression of Ruby when we met was that she was a very smart young woman. She had strong values of compassion for others & wanting to contribute to the world. She loved animals & wanted to work with animals in some way.


However Ruby had a lot of negative self beliefs. She believed she couldn’t ask too much of others, because then she would be a burden. She believed she needed to pretend she was okay as much as possible, because otherwise others found her ‘too much’.


Ruby also believed that other people have had worse upbringings than her, yet they seemed to cope- there must be something wrong with her that she was struggling with life.


Ruby clearly had a dilemma on her hands. She had things in life she wanted to pursue & achieve. She wanted her life to have purpose. But she couldn’t break out of the self-destructive cycle of self harm & self-loathing.


When I met Ruby I could see she was stuck in this dilemma. And I could see how scared she was that nothing would help.


So Ruby & I started working together & taking things step-by-step.


First, Ruby & I explored how being in ‘2-minds’ about change is really normal- & okay! This allowed Ruby to explore, without judgement, the pros & cons of changing her self harming behaviours.


Ruby & I worked through dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) skills, & she was able to learn alternative things to do in times of distress. For the first time, Ruby found she had options other than to self harm when she felt really distressed.


Ruby was also able to change her relationship with her emotions. She went from feeling unable to cope with strong, unpleasant emotions, to feeling confident she could get through tough times without becoming overwhelmed.


Ruby learnt that her emotions were not big, scary things trying to ruin her life- they were actually trying to help her! But she needed to figure out how to get in the driver’s seat & take some control, rather than letting her emotions drive the car!


By gaining control over how she RESPONDED to emotions, Ruby could then start talking about her experiences as a child without becoming overwhelmed. This helped her to process her past & start to heal those old hurts.


The work Ruby has done has not been easy. At times, she’s had to sit with some really difficult emotions. However, she hasn’t had to do this alone. And when Ruby was struggling to validate anything for herself, I was able to step in as that compassionate voice & remind her of her value & worth.


A couple of years on now, Ruby sees me every couple of months. We check in & review DBT skills when needed. For me, it’s so lovely to see Ruby as she is now- a confident & compassionate young woman. She is working as a vet assistant & sees a full future for herself that she’s excited about.


I look forward to continuing to see Ruby’s growth & how she is now recognising how worthy she truly is.


Alex.


*Names & identifying information has been altered to protect privacy.

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