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Bloodletting: A Memoir of Secrets, Self-Harm, and Survival

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On the outside, she appears to have it all. She's creative, beautiful, confident. But inside Victoria Leatham struggles with silent, secret, and unbearable pain. In her late teens, Leatham is struck with an undeniable urge to cut herself. Oddly, the wounds she inflicts on herself mute the pain she feels inside. This memoir, a darkly humorous and often chilling account, vivi On the outside, she appears to have it all. She's creative, beautiful, confident. But inside Victoria Leatham struggles with silent, secret, and unbearable pain. In her late teens, Leatham is struck with an undeniable urge to cut herself. Oddly, the wounds she inflicts on herself mute the pain she feels inside. This memoir, a darkly humorous and often chilling account, vividly details Leatham's ordeal and reveals her most intimate thoughts as she struggles with cutting and a range of other psychological problems including eating disorders, sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder. And finally, it describes her discovery of the psychological secret that helps her escape from this spiral of self-destruction.


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On the outside, she appears to have it all. She's creative, beautiful, confident. But inside Victoria Leatham struggles with silent, secret, and unbearable pain. In her late teens, Leatham is struck with an undeniable urge to cut herself. Oddly, the wounds she inflicts on herself mute the pain she feels inside. This memoir, a darkly humorous and often chilling account, vivi On the outside, she appears to have it all. She's creative, beautiful, confident. But inside Victoria Leatham struggles with silent, secret, and unbearable pain. In her late teens, Leatham is struck with an undeniable urge to cut herself. Oddly, the wounds she inflicts on herself mute the pain she feels inside. This memoir, a darkly humorous and often chilling account, vividly details Leatham's ordeal and reveals her most intimate thoughts as she struggles with cutting and a range of other psychological problems including eating disorders, sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder. And finally, it describes her discovery of the psychological secret that helps her escape from this spiral of self-destruction.

30 review for Bloodletting: A Memoir of Secrets, Self-Harm, and Survival

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ilze

    Taking into consideration the other comments on this book (on GR), one needs to understand that unless you've been there, the book will mean little to you. If anything, here's a lesson in keeping secrets: Just don't do it. Secrets are harmful. The book must've been hell to write, because it meant going back on old details which are often better forgotten - so hats off to Leatham! Another (related) aspect, is that although one might be aware of her thoughts, she does focus on the actions: the read Taking into consideration the other comments on this book (on GR), one needs to understand that unless you've been there, the book will mean little to you. If anything, here's a lesson in keeping secrets: Just don't do it. Secrets are harmful. The book must've been hell to write, because it meant going back on old details which are often better forgotten - so hats off to Leatham! Another (related) aspect, is that although one might be aware of her thoughts, she does focus on the actions: the reader knows (or maybe I was aware of it) that details have been omitted. For her to have moved and moved and moved and possibly been drunk or slept with someone, are details that are glossed over in order to focus on the self mutilation. I accept the possibility that "outsiders" to this phenomenon are horrified by the act and that Leatham really seems to have had a real go at herself (needing stitches, etc.). It's possible that this aspect had to be the focus in order for the publisher to be convinced to accept the manuscript. Self mutilation is not an act in and of itself. It's but one symptom in a web of others that make up depression (I believe anorexia is also a sub-category of depression, as is insomnia). So, Leatham might've chosen it as the "be all and end all" of her stay in mental institutions and seeing psychiatrists, but it flows from deeper things. Things that she only starts discussing in the final quarter of the book, i.e. the power of the mind and cognitive behaviour therapy. Let's face it: why did she take so many precautions during the act? We're talking clean blades, towels close at hand and she was also checking that there was a doctor, friend or other kind of help nearby. Suicide never entered her mind, nor that it was the clichéd 'cry for help'. This was an act in self protection because her thoughts were driving her up the wall. In order to end that torment and be more comfortable, she gave in. This is something that a lot of her psychiatrists seemed to have missed - she wanted to live happily and this was just a strange way of finding the answer. Once she realized that happiness is not equal to cutting, things changed. That said, depression is akin to diabetes in the sense that one needs an anti-depressant/insulin to function normally. As long as the individual is able to admit that it's self hurting self as opposed to "some force" invading the self (or as Leatham repeatedly states, "this 'thing' happening to me - no, it's you doing it actively), the road to recovery is short.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Stirrup

    I just received this book today. I starting reading it at 11pm and finished it at about 2am. It was a truly gripping book that I could not put down. Leatham has really written the book amazingly. I connected with her and wished that all these horrible events didn't have to happen to her. As someone who suffers from self harm, I could really relate to her. Reading some of the reviews made me quite angry. The only thing stopping me from commenting on one of the ruder ones was the fact it was writt I just received this book today. I starting reading it at 11pm and finished it at about 2am. It was a truly gripping book that I could not put down. Leatham has really written the book amazingly. I connected with her and wished that all these horrible events didn't have to happen to her. As someone who suffers from self harm, I could really relate to her. Reading some of the reviews made me quite angry. The only thing stopping me from commenting on one of the ruder ones was the fact it was written almost four years ago. I feel this book is probably one of the best on this topic. You see so many American novels that make having depression cool. None of those delve deep into it, they all just say, I'm a sad teen, wah wah. "Bloodletting" delves deeper into the topic of mental illness and since it's a memoir, not a made-up novel, does pretty well at it. You know that Leatham had to go through tough times throughout most of her life and you don't think it's something cool. You know it's an illness. I wished the end of the book wasn't so unclear. I wanted everything to be amazing for her. Of course it can't be. It's a summary of her mental illness, and well, mental illnesses never really go away. This was a very well written book and a really clear insight into why she self harmed and why other people would. It's another book that pushes down the taboo of mental health, without making it sound like a 'cool' thing to have.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    I got interested in this topic while re-watching the movie Secretary. This was the only memoir I could find about it. The author mentions both of these things in the story and has interesting thoughts about them. Victoria Leatham is a pseudonym for the author, an Australian woman who struggled with Bipolar Disorder for years. As a teen she suffered from Anorexia which turned into cutting in her early 20's (despite all of this she managed to get her Masters in English.) I really like the way Leat I got interested in this topic while re-watching the movie Secretary. This was the only memoir I could find about it. The author mentions both of these things in the story and has interesting thoughts about them. Victoria Leatham is a pseudonym for the author, an Australian woman who struggled with Bipolar Disorder for years. As a teen she suffered from Anorexia which turned into cutting in her early 20's (despite all of this she managed to get her Masters in English.) I really like the way Leatham attempts to describe the reason for self-harm, acknowledging that it goes against our basest evolutionary instincts. Essentially, as I read it, the immediacy of physical pain and the physiological response to it distracts from more amorphous and difficult to tackle issues. Leatham also felt she should punish herself for imagined failures and faults. It took her over 10 years to find a doctor who could treat her problem and she was misdiagnosed at different points as a schizophrenic and religious hysteric. She also was prescribed an anti-psychotic for an off-label use which caused an episode of dystonia that put her in the emergency room. I really admire how honest the author was about her self mutilation, particularly since its a disorder that thrives on secrecy. What I did find disorienting is that she talks about her whole life up to the age of 18 in a 2 page prologue so most of her formative years remain elusive and when she references events and friends from her childhood in "Remember when" sort of way, you want to gently remind her that she never had mentioned these things the first time. Also, while she is exceedingly honest, she seems emotionally remote for much of the narrative. That changes near the end as she enters the mental hospital that will finally be successful in providing her with some relief and effective treatment. I'm not sure if the remoteness then is a stylistic choice or the only way that the author is able to re-examine that difficult time period. This book was a three star read for me until the last 50 pages where it got better. Which was not surprisingly where Leatham felt real and present in the narrative. At that point, her insights were so compassionate and practical for anyone dealing with a myriad of mental wellness issues and the story of why she chose to share her story so moving, I had to add another star. Prozac Nation is to me the best of this type of memoir but this book is quite good and insightful as well.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Candace

    I don't normally do reviews on here but I noticed that not many had been written, and this book affected me so much that I felt compelled to write one. If you're reading this, then you probably already have a pretty good idea of what the book is about so I won't bother with the background. The feeling I experienced while reading this that sticks out to me the most is "discomfort." Reading detailed information about her cutting herself caused a sick and panicky feeling; I've always had difficulty I don't normally do reviews on here but I noticed that not many had been written, and this book affected me so much that I felt compelled to write one. If you're reading this, then you probably already have a pretty good idea of what the book is about so I won't bother with the background. The feeling I experienced while reading this that sticks out to me the most is "discomfort." Reading detailed information about her cutting herself caused a sick and panicky feeling; I've always had difficulty hearing or reading about people's experiences with needles or self-harm. Overall, however, the book was well worth the read. She points out at the end that there are not many memoirs written by people who self-harm, which makes this an important book for people having similar thoughts, feelings, actions, as well as family members and people who work in the mental health field.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sumayyah

    I saw so much of myself in this book that it was very disturbing to me. I applaud Victoria Leatham for coming forward to discuss her problems openly. When people around you can only say "cheer up!" without realizing that there is a serious issue, where can you go and what can you do?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anastasia Marie

    Some of the reviews are triggering in and of themselves. I will say this: you will never like a book like this or understand a book such as this if you don't suffer from depression, bipolar, or self harm (or all three combined). I've rated it five stars for obvious reasons given my review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Johnston

    This was a GREAT book.... I would only recommend it to people who have a mental illness/disorder thought for they are the only people who would truly understand this sort of book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Suge

    This book tells an interesting story, a story that people rarely want to discuss. This memoir discusses a lady's journey's through mental illness and self harm and how she came out above it. It's an interesting read but for those who engage in self harm (myself included) some of the images talked about might act as a trigger. It's helpful to try to work through that while reading this, as I have. I enjoyed the story telling but towards the end, I got bored and started to lose interest in her sto This book tells an interesting story, a story that people rarely want to discuss. This memoir discusses a lady's journey's through mental illness and self harm and how she came out above it. It's an interesting read but for those who engage in self harm (myself included) some of the images talked about might act as a trigger. It's helpful to try to work through that while reading this, as I have. I enjoyed the story telling but towards the end, I got bored and started to lose interest in her story. It's not that the story lost flavor, I was intrigued on how she came through it, I just think the writing got a little stale. Otherwise, this book is a source of inspiration to those who have encountered self harm and suffer with mental illness. It doesn't have to be the kind of taboo that society has us think it is. If people can openly talk about drug and alcohol addiction, then there's no reason why we can't talk about our addictions to pain, bleeding or needing to feel something different.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is an autobiography, and let's you inside the mind of a self-injurer. While every story is different, Victoria writes candidly, with dry humor, and in such a way that I can literally not put this book down, even though it was my second time reading it. Even though Victoria can't see how her thoughts are affecting her behaviour (and the graphic images that overwhelm her), as an outsider you can pick up on it. You can see other coping mechanisms as well.... like moving every time something ge This is an autobiography, and let's you inside the mind of a self-injurer. While every story is different, Victoria writes candidly, with dry humor, and in such a way that I can literally not put this book down, even though it was my second time reading it. Even though Victoria can't see how her thoughts are affecting her behaviour (and the graphic images that overwhelm her), as an outsider you can pick up on it. You can see other coping mechanisms as well.... like moving every time something gets bad. You can watch as Victoria finally finds sensible treatment, finally wants to get better, and finally begins to change how she thinks through cognitive behavioural therapy. A compelling read! Want to read it again.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Renie

    This bio about a woman who is a cutter, read more like a repetitive diary of an adolescent: I hate my life, cut, cut, move to a new place because that's the answer to everything, life is good, I hate my life, wanna cut, wanna cut, move to a new place, life is good, life sucks, wanna cut, wanna cut, cut, cut, impose on someone by moving in with them, etc. etc. IF you read this book, keep track of the multiple changes of residence/moods/plans. At least then this book might hold your attention.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Naddie

    I think that overall there need to be more books about this subject. This book was not anything special to read once I got halfway through because I realized that the author's experiences seemed recycled. She handled things more or less the same the entire way through so I didn't find myself rooting for her progress or even expecting any.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I enjoyed this book for what it was, a woman's struggle with self harm. I really think that anyone struggling with this issue should try this book, it does its job in making you feel like you are not alone.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Effie

    This is one of the better books Ive read of this type. Raw, honest and not overly dramatic in style. You can tell it comes from the real deal and not someone who thinks they understand and feels like telling an extravagant story. For sure my top recommendation for someone whos lived it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leila Hulsey

    Very interesting story. Personal and at times deep, although it was very "journal like" reading. Felt repetitive without climax. Felt terrible for what she went through but this is not something I would read again.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Erika Nerdypants

    This was a tough one. Both to read and empathize with. Halfway through I was tempted to give up on it. It read a bit like a cross between self-indulgent Bildungsroman and Girl Interrupted. Somewhere at the midpoint, Leatham gets more honest with her readers. She lets us into the real struggle, which is desperately trying to appear normal while being deeply and pathologically dysfunctional. This is when empathy kicked in for me, and I started rooting for and relating to Leatham’s experiences. Onc This was a tough one. Both to read and empathize with. Halfway through I was tempted to give up on it. It read a bit like a cross between self-indulgent Bildungsroman and Girl Interrupted. Somewhere at the midpoint, Leatham gets more honest with her readers. She lets us into the real struggle, which is desperately trying to appear normal while being deeply and pathologically dysfunctional. This is when empathy kicked in for me, and I started rooting for and relating to Leatham’s experiences. Once she got that trying to pretend you’re fine actually makes things much more difficult, I knew she would be ok. And I’m glad she was. There is still so much stigma around mental health and illness even 13 years after this book was published. I hope Leatham is well today, and I’m glad I stuck with the story to the end. And thanks for the reminder that pretending will never work. I needed that.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lizzie

    I wanted to read this because my sister was a cutter when we were young and she had another bout with it when she got divorced. Also because both my daughters have been cutters. it's not an easy read. But it was worth the read. Raw and honest. CBT, mentioned in the book as the thing that helped the writer, has been suggested for my youngest and we're still in the process of finding someone for her. So that was also encouraging. I don't know that I have a better grasp of cutting after reading thi I wanted to read this because my sister was a cutter when we were young and she had another bout with it when she got divorced. Also because both my daughters have been cutters. it's not an easy read. But it was worth the read. Raw and honest. CBT, mentioned in the book as the thing that helped the writer, has been suggested for my youngest and we're still in the process of finding someone for her. So that was also encouraging. I don't know that I have a better grasp of cutting after reading this, but I'm grateful she shared her story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shy

    as some of the other reviews have said, this is a very repetitive book. but that is EXACTLY the way it is dealing with selfharm. for someone who has been dealing with the progression of selfharm and bipolar disorder- i completely relate. a lot of other reviews also say how if you have never been through any of this, you probably will have no fun reading this book. that being said, i read 50% of the book and skimmed the last half. not super surprised with how the book turned out but definitely did as some of the other reviews have said, this is a very repetitive book. but that is EXACTLY the way it is dealing with selfharm. for someone who has been dealing with the progression of selfharm and bipolar disorder- i completely relate. a lot of other reviews also say how if you have never been through any of this, you probably will have no fun reading this book. that being said, i read 50% of the book and skimmed the last half. not super surprised with how the book turned out but definitely didn't expect it to be so spot on in the mind of a cutter.

  18. 5 out of 5

    ☘ Lily ☘

    How do you rate someone's memoir? I can't. I have been reading this book for 3 weeks. It was hard. I had to stop periodically because I got myself triggered by them too much. Struggling with the same issue (?) for almost my whole life, I felt the sense of camaraderie when I read this book. Weirdly though, I tend to gravitate towards this book when I was at my lowest. Even writing this review is hard.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Makayla Barrows

    This was a good book, however it was very repetitive. I don't think that someone who has not battled with self harm or depression could get a full understanding of her mentality during this book but if you have had that battle, from my personal experiences, this memoir is relative and interesting.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I was interested in seeing a book written about self harm since there is so little written. Perhaps because I have discussed and read about this topic I found it did not have as many insightful points as I would have liked. A good beginning though

  21. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    this was so much better than I thought it would be!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A powerful and honest story about mental illness and recovery. Might be triggering to some people who cut, though. I applaud the author for her openness in telling her story.

  23. 4 out of 5

    King

    Well done in its simplicity. Doesn't try to be glamorously tragic to the point that its just pathetic. I found it interesting that the very same behavior that the protagonist used to be successful, overly-critical and having high standards for herself, was the very thing that caused her to be self-destructive. I liked how it showed that even when we think we aren't doing someone any harm we still do. There's a tendency for people when dealing with the storms of their lives to retreat and sulk in Well done in its simplicity. Doesn't try to be glamorously tragic to the point that its just pathetic. I found it interesting that the very same behavior that the protagonist used to be successful, overly-critical and having high standards for herself, was the very thing that caused her to be self-destructive. I liked how it showed that even when we think we aren't doing someone any harm we still do. There's a tendency for people when dealing with the storms of their lives to retreat and sulk in a corner. They limit or stop interacting with others thinking that this spares them some pain. But sometimes silence is a sharper blade. It shows that self-image and worth is key, for if there is a distortion in this aspect of a person's life it carries on to other aspects of their life. And the fundamental building blocks of self image and worth is derived from the interaction with ones parents. It reminded me of a quote from John Steinbeck's "East of Eden:" "For when a boy suffers rejection, he will seek out rejection even when it is not there." Parents/primary caregivers should be mindful of how they express "positive criticism."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shainna

    While sometimes confusing (I had trouble tracking who people were) this book was an excellent read. Rather than being the tell-all book that cites a thousand reasons here and there as to why someone feels the way s/he does, it presented the truth that sometimes it just happens. Sometimes there is no "event" that brings it about, sometimes it's just the way people cope with what's in life. She had some really excellent statements that summed up a lot of feelings about self-harm: that the physical While sometimes confusing (I had trouble tracking who people were) this book was an excellent read. Rather than being the tell-all book that cites a thousand reasons here and there as to why someone feels the way s/he does, it presented the truth that sometimes it just happens. Sometimes there is no "event" that brings it about, sometimes it's just the way people cope with what's in life. She had some really excellent statements that summed up a lot of feelings about self-harm: that the physical pain numbs the mental pain and while people may claim to know that, the truth is they don't. It also brought up the issue of people thinking it's not a big problem because it isn't a suicide attempt. Looking at the reviews it's easy to see that self-harm is still a taboo/borderline taboo subject and not understood at all.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Suki

    This book was interesting because when I first saw the book, it was in the psychology section of the book shelf. I picked this book up and started reading it because I never thought that cutting oneself was related to psychology. This book talks about Victoria who was really stressed and sad that she started cutting herself and had to go talk to many doctors about her issue. She was depressed and the doctors thought the only solution was to give her medicine and make her take pills. She struggle This book was interesting because when I first saw the book, it was in the psychology section of the book shelf. I picked this book up and started reading it because I never thought that cutting oneself was related to psychology. This book talks about Victoria who was really stressed and sad that she started cutting herself and had to go talk to many doctors about her issue. She was depressed and the doctors thought the only solution was to give her medicine and make her take pills. She struggles through life because her boyfriend had broke up with her and she feels that life was pointless. In the back of the book, it says Victoria got better and she is doing fine in her life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Werner

    at points its difficult to read. I got a sense of not holding back with added nothing to lose...i think its written really well...it just seems like brutal honesty in parts and theres definitley no sugar-coating,its her story,its how she felt and its what she went through...you cant really ask more of a memoir really. I enjoyed the little quips and kwerky comments thrown in lightly to the book,it gives it a sense of hope and makes you realise just cos she feels like shit doesnt mean its a 24/7 t at points its difficult to read. I got a sense of not holding back with added nothing to lose...i think its written really well...it just seems like brutal honesty in parts and theres definitley no sugar-coating,its her story,its how she felt and its what she went through...you cant really ask more of a memoir really. I enjoyed the little quips and kwerky comments thrown in lightly to the book,it gives it a sense of hope and makes you realise just cos she feels like shit doesnt mean its a 24/7 thing,everyone can have there moments. It's a book you should read,if youve bothered to look this far into it!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nicolette Froelicher

    I thought it was an ok book. interesting book but her story was repetitive I guess I would say. It was the same story pretty much in every chapter. I got exhausted reading about how many times she moved. It was like every chapter was her can't taking her life and her geographical cures. It was just a little to boring of a read for me. Interesting look into self-harm though. I would say if you are interested in the mind of someone who self-harms and the way they look at the world and live in this I thought it was an ok book. interesting book but her story was repetitive I guess I would say. It was the same story pretty much in every chapter. I got exhausted reading about how many times she moved. It was like every chapter was her can't taking her life and her geographical cures. It was just a little to boring of a read for me. Interesting look into self-harm though. I would say if you are interested in the mind of someone who self-harms and the way they look at the world and live in this world this would be a book to read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    An affective first hand account of suffering from 'cutting' and the process of one woman's struggle to maintain stability. Written with courage and honesty. The author was at sometimes in her journey, ignorant towards herself and submitted to learned-helplessness, but at other times, was rational about her symptoms and took responsibility at getting herself the help she needed. I really appreciated her sharing of her story and recommend it!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    I have read so many memoirs about self-imjury these days. I think this was my least favorite. I am not exactly sure why. Leatham has a whole host of other psychological problems (eating disorder, sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder). Leatham is raw and honest, but still I was not wowed by the book. But I did like it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Bloodletting is a memoir concerning what a person goes through when taking part in self-harm and the whys and hows. I somehow felt annoyed while reading this book because it just seemed like the author was simply begging for attention and promoting it in a book. Self-hard is a very controversial topic and I think this book downplayed that. It's an okay read overall, though.

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