Trigger Warning: Graphic Descriptions of Self Harm
I’d like to apologize in advance for harshing on your holiday groove because this is not a happy post. I debated for quite some time about even sharing this post, and I’ve looked at it a number of times and considered scrapping the whole fucking thing. My partners have encouraged me to post it, as they feel (and so do I) that the topic is not something that is discussed enough, and ought to be given more attention. I’m posting this over the holidays because for me, the holidays are often marked with anxiety, family arguments, stress, and sometimes loneliness, all of which triggers for my self harm.
You see, at various parts of my life, I’ve caused myself some sort of harm. Much of the time I recognize (now anyway) that it is simply anxiety overflowing, and that I’m looking for some sort of control. I’d like to tell you four stories that stuck with me about it. Those of us who cut… We don’t always get to tell our stories, whether out of shame or fear. These stories are pretty graphic in terms of self harm They’ll likely make you uncomfortable. I’m sorry about that.
The first time was when I was a kid, probably 13 or so. I had gotten into a fight with my parents in a house that we rented, and the fight was so bad, so intense, so painful that I could no longer keep my feelings inside of me. I slammed the jalousie door on the back porch so hard that one of the glass slats fell out and shattered. I remember crying hot tears and taking one of the pieces of glass and cutting the inside arch of my foot. I remember how I laughed through my tears that I’d also be able to get out of gym class, and wouldn’t get in trouble for breaking the door. I remember how scared I was later when I thought it was infected. I made a deal with God that if he made sure it healed like it was supposed to, I’d never do it again. My body is a temple and all.
I remember the first time I used an actual blade to cut my skin. I found a packet of single edged razor blades that my grandmother had left out on her counter one summer. I think we were cleaning out her trailer after she was moved to an assisted care home because of her Alzheimer’s. I pocketed blades and hid them away. They always smelled faintly of baby powder and Clinique. I remember an argument with my family that left me feeling completely unable to breathe. The scratches I left on the top of my arm I decided I would curve, so I could blame on my cat if asked about them. No one ever asked about them. You can still faintly see the scars.
I remember the first time I nearly killed myself. I had the razor blade over my wrist. I had made a deep line up my wrist, high up and worked down. It was easier that time to do it again. I had already made 4 smaller cuts. I was furious and hurting and no one could hear my crying so hard for help. I was trying to keep my shit together for my mom, for my siblings, for myself. I should’ve been getting some fucking help. It was deeper by the end of the cut, and I remember thinking that it was harder to cut human skin than they make it look on TV. My sister walked in and startled me. She asked me what was for dinner. I remember five bright red lines seeping through the bandages. I was so angry at my sister for walking in and reminding me of the responsibility I would be leaving behind. I remember that was the first time I told someone I was cutting myself. I was told that I was just doing it for attention.
I remember the last time I cut my skin. It was a sharp red knife that I had used to cut an apple slice with. The loneliness I was feeling was overflowing inside of me like a new scar to add to the lattice on the inside of my arm. The complete and utter lack of control I felt in my life throbbing in my veins and reminding me how everything I love could disappear in a second. I felt so overwhelmed that my head was going to explode, and so ashamed that I had gone for years without letting the pot boil over, only to have it ruined by a stupid red knife and some paranoia. I was so embarassed to tell my partners, so frustrated by my inability to just be a person who could function in society. I was, and still am, ashamed that I had a relapse after so very long.
I don’t tell you these stories because I want your pity. I don’t need to hear anyone tell me “I’m there for you”. This isn’t a scare tactic. But I do need you to listen. I need you to understand that at a certain point self harming behavior like this becomes addictive. These small cuts add up to larger ones. These stories of little outbursts of pain turn into novels that we write on the insides of our arms and the sides of our thighs. By the time I sought treatment for the first time, I was cutting every time I was even a little upset. The insides of my arms looked like a checkerboard.
They still do.
The inability to manage my emotions turned into me nearly killing myself because I felt like everything was spinning so wildly out of my control and I couldn’t do anything about it. I felt like my paranoia was so out of control that I couldn’t breathe. Even now, every time I get overwhelmed or to a point where I feel like my anxiety or life is out of control I consider the possibility of taking a knife to my skin. When I’m feeling anxious, I often cross my arms. It’s not because I’m trying to change my body language, it’s because I’m trying not to look at the scars on my arm while they mock me and tempt me into a shitty behavior. It’s not something that happens daily anymore. It’s something that I’ve worked so hard on every day for years to not think about, not contemplate. It’s like wrestling a demon every time I get scared or hurt to not harm myself again.
The last time I cut my skin was so recent it still scares me. It was a temptation, and I took it. I didn’t cut again for attention, I relapsed into an addictive behavior that is incredibly dangerous. I did so with barely a thought. Not 10 minutes prior I was smiling with a friend. I cut my arm in a house full of people where I was feeling so alone that I couldn’t think straight until after I did it.
So why didn’t I reach out to a friend? I know I have so many out there that would get it. I had talked to my boyfriend earlier in the day, and I could have messaged any of my partners about it because they were all online. Hell, my boyfriend was on the way to my house that night. What the hell was wrong with me?
I think it’s that I’m still dealing with the fact that people make jokes all the time about cutters. As though we don’t all exist here. As though we haven’t dealt with the thoughts about why we’re so fucked up that we don’t want to cut “down the road, not across the street”. Why we feel the want to express our overabundance of pain, or anxiety, or emotions through self harm instead of through safe ways like “normal” people do.
Simply for me, I didn’t reach out to a friend because of three very simple reasons.
- I’m not suicidal. I didn’t want to kill myself, I just wanted to feel something again, because I was feeling so overwhelmed that I was no longer feeling anything at all. I needed something to ground me.
- I didn’t want to bother my friends with my petty anxieties. Because I truly think they’re petty.
- I didn’t want to feel like I was just seeking attention because I was lonely.
It is hard for me to admit that I fell off the bandwagon. But fuck, the second I did it, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt and shame. As though I unraveled every single second of progress I had made over the past few years. It is hard for me to sit here and tell you that if you are feeling like there is a hole, or an overwhelming sense of emotion, or you just need to feel something, that you should seek help. It is hard for me to sit here as someone who can still see the red, angry mark on their arm and tell you that you should seek help.
But you should.
Self harm is addictive. It’s dangerous. It’s called harm for a reason.
If you’re in the middle of a crisis, If you’re feeling suicidal and need help right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. at (800) 273-8255
For referrals and support for cutting and self harm, call the S.A.F.E. Alternatives information line (US) at (800) 366-8288
For those who aren’t sure if their friend is self-harming, Here are some signs from Helpguide
- Unexplained wounds or scars from cuts, bruises, or burns, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs, or chest.
- Blood stains on clothing, towels, or bedding; blood-soaked tissues.
- Sharp objects or cutting instruments, such as razors, knives, needles, glass shards, or bottle caps, in the person’s belongings.
- Frequent “accidents.” Someone who self-harms may claim to be clumsy or have many mishaps, in order to explain away injuries.
- Covering up. A person who self-injures may insist on wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather.
- Needing to be alone for long periods of time, especially in the bedroom or bathroom.
- Isolation and irritability.
Reach out to your loved ones. You can’t always promise that you wont have a relapse, but you can learn different coping mechanisms that can help. Check out this awesome guide from Helpguide.com about self harm, and ways to get past it. And know that you are loved.
Until Next Time.
-The Frisky Fairy