I grew up convinced that I was living the good life. My parents weren’t divorced, we were well off, I was spoilt materialistically but at seventeen years old I don’t know how to talk.
My brother attempted suicide when I was seven, and I was the one to find the body. Ten years later, no one has asked me how I felt about that. No one has said, My god, that must have been awful, do you want to talk about it? When my Mom was diagnosed with cancer the same year, it was brushed off. I listened to her cry and scream in her sleep, watched her vomit everything she ate and the only thing I heard was that, it’s a part of life. Shit happens. You don’t whine about it. You get over it. Over time, my mom became physically abusive. I personally became ill with an early form of leukaemia. My brother continued to ruin our family. And no one did or said anything about any of it.
So it went on. The harder things got, the less I complained. I just bottled it up, with no idea how to release it. Before I knew it, I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t express an ounce of true emotion with words. I was a blank chalkboard.
Until I found the ultimate poisonous cure.
I remember now that it started in about 5th grade. Over something small, like being stressed over school, I would go into the bathroom with a lead pencil and dig it across my arm over and over until I couldn’t feel it anymore. But never brought blood. I reached a low in my freshman year, and cutting happened by accident. Fussing with a switchblade, it hit my leg. There was a flash of adrenaline, every inch of my body pulsed with heat, and as the blood trickled, my body relaxed. I remembered this feeling a week later when my boyfriend and I split up. I became so addicted to the feeling that no problem was resolved without a blade ever again. I needed to be perfect, and when I wasn’t, I added a scar to the reasons why I’m not. Three years later, I can’t wear shorts, and have lost the pride in my scars. I needed a reason, and needed to learn how to stop.
I have not cut since February 2005. But I need to write this so that I can remember why exactly it is that I stopped.
The razor I had been using had finally gotten dull. It had been a good month since I’d done it this time, and I wanted it badly. So I sharpened it. Just barely. I ran it over the metal thing in the cabinet only a few times. I came to this chair, and cut a good five new slits. But it was different this time. It wasn’t a good release of pain. In fact, it barely hurt. Scratching hurts more than it did. I didn’t feel it, it was so disappointing. And then the ocean came. Blood started pouring out like I had never seen it before. It was draining, dripping all over the chair, the floor, and my favourite pants. I stared in awe, disbelief. I ran to the closet and held a rag over the marks so tightly. An hour later, it had only barely stopped bleeding. When they finally did, I looked closer. They were too deep. They were the deepest I had ever been. And I sat trying to type an instant message and I realised that my hand was numb. And it stayed numb. To this day. There is no feeling. And the scars that normally fade after a month or two? Still there. Perfectly outlined. Strawberry red and a constant reminder of something I no longer deal with. I hate them. But if the last time hadn’t happened that way, it probably wouldn’t have been the last time.
I am now on medication for anxiety disorder. My boyfriend is the only useful therapist. He has taught me to open up, and we find things to do to distract me. (Rough intimacy works.)
Bottom line: Self-injury is perfect in the moment. It sets the world back on its axis. But thirty years down the road, I can’t imagine being proud of myself. I don’t entirely regret what cutting has taught me, but I regret not finding a stronger way to deal with emotion. I control my life, I don’t let it control me. Tomorrow really is my choice, and life really is worthwhile when you don’t take it so seriously.
And today I talk.