My Story

Copyright Gabrielle, original location

Early beginnings

Cutting, for me, first started as an obsession about seeing blood and hurting myself. Any little thing would set me off and I could imagine slitting my wrists. I began to dig my nails into my skin and pinching myself so that there would be deep marks indented in them that I could see for days. I didn’t and still don’t think of this as SI, but I think it was the beginning. At first I wouldn’t let myself cross the line into cutting. I would see a knife and I could imagine myself drawing it over my skin, and I would imagine the blood that would come out. I knew that something was wrong with me so I told my parents that I was sometimes a little depressed, but I didn’t tell them that I wanted to hurt myself. They, of course, removed me from what they thought of as the thing that triggered me: School. But they didn’t take me to a psychologist even though they talked about it for a while.

When I went to the new school I thought my problems were over. But little by little the thoughts about hurting myself crept back into my mind. I restarted my habit of digging my nails into my skin and pinching myself.

Crossing the line

I crossed the line at a retreat I was required to go to. I hated it there. I hated the people who made me stay there for three days of nonstop speeches. But I wouldn’t allow myself to hate other people, it was wrong. So I stuck my hands into the long sleeves of my sweater and dug my nails deep into my skin and drew them over my arm. I did this over and over again. Feeling myself calm down, and happy with the angry red marks that were etched on my arm, I began to smile and enjoy myself at the retreat. I had a secret that no one else would know. After that anytime I felt stressed or just because I would scratch myself. Once, I told a priest a little about hurting myself and he called me a masochist and told me I should pray more. I knew from then on that nobody could ever understand me or would ever want to help me. If this religious man just brushed me off why would anyone else want to help me?

Months later the scratching started not to work. It wouldn’t calm me down as it used to. It didn’t hurt me enough as it should. So, I snuck into my parent’s room and looked through the medical cabinet until I found what I was looking for: A medical needle. I felt out of control as I stared at it, the self-hate was welling up within me, demanding to be let out. I went back into my room and sat on my bed. After removing the needle from its plastic packaging I began to prick myself. At first I barely penetrated the skin but soon I let my anger and sadness take over and the blood began to well up. I spent over an hour using the needle to hurt myself then I cleaned up my arm and hid the needle in a hiding spot next to my bed. After that day anytime I felt the need to hurt myself I would take the needle out and use it.

I remember the first time I cut myself. It was with a butcher knife. I went into the bathroom and placed the knife on my forearm. I remember feeling the cool metal, and the sharpness of the blade on my skin. Tentatively I scratched it over my arm, feeling the pain. At first there was no blood then I watched it fill the wound in a slow stream. I began to cut into my arm deeper and deeper. The blood would stream out and I would watch it’s crimson wetness; I was mesmerized by how red it was. I loved seeing my blood! This should have filled me with horror but instead all I felt was a calm satisfaction. When I was done I cleaned my arm and the knife up. One of the cuts needed stitches. But who could I ask for help? Cutting was my secret. From then on I began to cut every single day.

Getting help

Finally, I told my mom about cutting because at the time I was fanatically religious (ironically only towards myself), and the words ‘Honor thy father and thy mother’ would repeat in my head over and over again. When she saw my arm she began to cry hysterically (some of the cuts were still bleeding, stupid me). We talked and talked for hours, but I didn’t give up my knives and left out much of the story. That week she took me to a psychologist and I began therapy.

At the first meeting with my psychologist I had to show her my arms, and talk about what might have started me wanting to cut. I vehemently denied that my parents had anything to do with the reason I cut. She made gave me a no-cutting contract, which I reluctantly signed. Secretly I hated that she had made me stop the only thing that gave me comfort. In the sessions that followed I would not say anything of real significance, telling her only the little things that bothered me. I was making no progress and I felt too depressed to care about the contract anymore so I cut again with the butcher knife I had hidden in my room. When my parents asked me if I had cut I told them the truth for some reason. They called the police, for whatever reason which I don’t understand because I wasn’t bleeding or anything. The police came and looked at me as I were crazy, they told my parents to take me to a psychiatric facility. Then they left and my parents called my psychologist who told them to take me to College Hospital; a mental hospital.

College hospital

College Hospital was a nondescript building hidden on a backroad. Inside there was a lobby, where we waited for someone to help us admit me. Later a psychologist evaluated me and told me that I had to be admitted. I was led down a hall and into the adolescent ward. There I was told to sit in a chair by this guy, he took my vitals and made me take off my shoelaces (I wasn’t suicidal. But I guess it was normal procedure.) I was interviewed, then this nurse made me have a body check to make sure I didn’t have any more cuts. After that I said goodbye to my parents and was led to my room. I went to sleep on the hard plastic matress, not knowing what was in store for me.

When I woke up I met the two girls that shared the room with me: Irene and Sarah, both were in for attempted suicides. The rest of the day was a whirlwind of activity. All the adolescents were gathered into the “day room” where they sat on the couches and had groups where they talked about different things. So I sat in group after group, wearing my sweaters and scratching my arms up under them.

In more detail my day went like this

I woke up in a small room on the “children’s” side of the ward because there wasn’t any more room on the adolescent side. The only clothes I had were the ones I had worn when I was checked in. A doctor entered the room, it was at about six thirty in the morning, and told me that he was going to draw some blood. He jabbed a syringe in my arm and took the blood, my eyes were glued to the syringe as blood quickly filled it. If only I had thought of using a syringe! After taping some cotton on the puncture site the doctor abruptly left. To my annoyance about fifteen minutes later someone rudely knocked on the room’s door and called out “staff!” Then they opened the door and informed me and my roommates that we had to get ready for breakfast. I told them that since I had checked in late I had the privilege to sleep in late. So, I closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep. Even after my roommates had left I was unable to go back to sleep. Some annoying voice was calling “Joanna! Joanna!” over and over again. I decided that I might as well wake up, there was no use in sleeping in this noisy place.

I walked out of my room and down the hall into a big room filled with couches that were arranged in a square, two table in the back corners, and one big table near the entrance where I was to eat. The “Day Room” as it’s called was already crowded with lots of kids about my age. I didn’t know what to expect of them. Were they crazy? was the question that came to mind. I didn’t see anyone running around or talking to themselves. Basically they looked like a bunch of normal teenagers, except for the fact that almost everyone was dressed in hosital clothes, clothes that they had slept in, or pj’s.

There was a big metal cart filled with trays of food. Breakfast. I searched through the trays for the one that had my name taped to it. Picking up my tray I headed for the table and sat down in the only empty chair. I studied my breakfast, which looked rather unsavory. Breakfast consisted of eggs (I swear that they looked as if they came out of a can, all yellow and slimy), two gray sausages, cereal (the only thing that would fit my picky tastes), and other horrible items. Suddenly a girl with blond hair asked me, “What are you here for?” I told her my story and she asked to see my arms. I hate it when people ask to see my cuts. After I grudgingly showed her my arms she told me that I didn’t have as many as the girl on the other side of the room. Since when does how many cuts you have matter? At that time I made deep cuts that required stitches (which I never got). But that didn’t make my problems any lesser or greater than anyone else in the room.

After breakfast was over (they keep you in for half an hour) we were allowed to return to our rooms to get ready for the morning “goals” group. After I went to the front desk and got some cheap bag with a brush and toothpaste I went back to my room. After my roommates got ready and returned to the “day room” I stayed and stood looking at myself in the bathroom mirror. I hated my ugly wornout appearance. I hated this hospital. So, I drew back my hand, forming it into a fist, and punched myself over and over again. After I had calmed down I casually walked back to the “day room” and sat down on one of the couches. No one noticed my red cheeks and dazed appearance.

After I sat down the guy next to me introduced himself to me as Will. We talked for several moments then group started. The group leader, one of the staff, told us that the “goals” group was a group where we made our goal for the day, which would help us stay “focused.” Everyone was to state their name, age, and goal. There were about fifteen or sixteen teenagers in the group and it turned out they were there for a large variety of reasons: Anger, depression, a suicide attempt, self-injury, hearing voices, etc. When it was my turn I said, “My name is Gabrielle. I’m 15. I’m here because, uh, I hurt myself by cutting with knives and razors.” The group leader asked me questions about myself, then I stated my goal for the day as “thinking of positive things about myself.” Of course, I never even attempted this because I didn’t think that there were any good things about me. So, why bother?

The rest of the morning I had to attend different groups, some were on “chemical dependency,” others were on suicide. We were finally blessed with the privilege of going outside for half an hour. Even though I usually didn’t go outside it was different at the hospital. You could only go outside when the staff allowed you to, at home you could go outside whenever you want (usually). Even though it was like a billion degrees because I had my sweater on I enjoyed myself. Lunch was another horrible meal that made cafeteria food superior in all ways. More groups followed, and at about two we had “rest time” where we could go back to our rooms to sleep. Me and my roommates talked for a while, then we all fell asleep. Later, I woke up and stared off into space. I missed my razors. I wished I had only thought to hide the one I had brought in a safe place!


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