Have you ever cut yourself?
With razors, scissors, safety pins, knives, rocks?
Have you ever beaten yourself?
On the head, back, arms, legs, feet, hands?
With your fists, baseball bats, shoes, knives, books?
Have you poisoned yourself?
Felt your insides burn and twist as it eats at you?
Have you stopped eating for days at a time only to throw up anything you eat?
Have you thought about or attempted to kill yourself?
I have done all of these things…. and I would like to talk to you about…
Self Mutilation — My story
This isn’t an easy story to tell. No one wants to admit to the darker side of themselves. The side you hide from others the side you hide from yourself.
I don’t know what it is like for others, or what the experts have to say. All I know, all I can share with you is my own experience. I don’t know when it started.
It began long before the first time I cut myself. It began when I first started to doubt myself; to blame myself for the bad things around me. Nothing was beyond my control. In my little 4 year old mind any bad thoughts I had would come true. If I thought too much or too hard about something negative, I would punish myself. For each bad thought, I would have to recite my multiplication tables 10 times. Or something equally arbitrary.
The first time I cut myself was at 13, in church. I remember feeling completely worthless. I hated how out of place I felt, how different I was. I felt like I was going to cry. I took a safety pin out of my jacket pocket and started scraping my forearm. I immediately felt better. Somehow the pain inside was gone and I was able to concentrate on my arm. The physical pain made me very aware of my body and being alive. I took a deep breath and it was over.
I didn’t cut again for a long time.
The first time I couldn’t control my cutting was very traumatic. I was driving from Las Cruces to Farmington, about a 7 hour drive. I was extremely depressed and, two hours from home, pulled into a gas station for a razor blade. I was shaking. I needed it so bad. They didn’t have any blades, and neither did the next gas station. Finally, I found a grocery store and bought two packages of single edged blades. One I hid for later. The other I tore open right away. I didn’t want anyone to see me so I started driving. As I drove, I cut a line around my left arm between my elbow and shoulder. I almost went off the road trying to get the lines to match in the back. It was very important that the lines be straight. When the blood was running down my arm evenly the shaking stopped. I was OK.
Even then, the cutting didn’t really affect my life. It only happened once or twice a year and was easily hidden. But things didn’t stay that way. I left my first husband and moved to a new town. I still felt the old insecurity. Alone for the first time, I craved attention. I wanted to be accepted and loved for who I was. I wanted to get away from the old demons.
I went to work at a gas station. There I met Mike. I fell in love with him before I had ever even talked to him. There was just something about him, a charisma. A self assurance that I envied. We started talking and after a few weeks, dating. I was very happy. I loved being with him, it just felt right. But from the beginning there was a darker side to our relationship. Mike began to question everything I did.
After only a few weeks, he was pressuring me to quit my job and work for him. Although I felt it wasn’t right, I wanted to please him so I quit. This pattern continued during the entire relationship. Mike would ask me to do things or give up things that were important to me in order to prove my love for him. If I didn’t jump at every request, he would begin the accusations.
Although I never went anywhere without him, never made a decision, never stopped to think about what I wanted, he accused me of everything and anything. Even though I never looked at another man, he was constantly claiming that I was unfaithful.
As the suspicions and control grew, so did my self injury. I was unable to stand up for myself because, inside, I felt like I was a bad person. Even if I hadn’t done what he was accusing me of, surely somewhere or sometime I had done something to deserve what he was putting me through.
This became a vicious cycle. The more I hurt myself, the more he suspected me of other things and the more insecure he became.
During this time, I did a lot of things that I am not proud of. However, I truly believe that self injury saved my life. It was the only release I had… The only thing in my life that I controlled. The only thing that gave me any power, any sense of self… I am now recovering… I left Mike (the hardest thing I have ever had to do). Since the divorce, I haven’t cut myself once. I still feel like it sometimes but now I have the freedom to go for a walk, paint, write or find some other means to distract myself. I don’t think of myself as a bad person. I have two wonderful kids that fill my days with wonder and love. I am going back to school, making friends, painting.
It does get better! The only advice I can give is not to blame yourself. Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Make friends, get out. Do something you have always wanted to do.
There is life out there.