I want to start out by saying that this post, while it might be uncomfortable, is not a cry for help. I do not need you to call the authorities, or my parents, or a paddy wagon. I do not need crisis hotline numbers, but if you do, I am more than happy to share them. I just want to start a conversation. I want to talk about self harm/self mutilation/cutting. Actually, I don’t want to talk about it, nobody does, which is why I’m going to do it anyway.
Cutting is a complex and uncomfortable issue that is hard to understand. I am a cutter, but I am not just a cutter. I physically hurt myself to cope with feelings that are deeper than I understand. I don’t do it for attention, in fact, up until recently, I haven’t told anyone that I do this. It has been my shameful secret that threatened to alienate everyone I know if I spilled it.
I did it when I was a teen, which is a common age for self harm. A lot of people grow out of it after the teen years, but some don’t. I had over ten years of freedom from cutting urges. Then I faced a depression storm like nothing I had ever faced before. I have had great support through the dark times, and about a year ago, I finally told my therapist and my husband (at the same time) about my cutting. My husband was scared shitless, understandably, but we worked through it. Eventually, we were all able to dissect the thoughts and feelings that lead to my urges to hurt myself. The most important parts was telling someone about the feeling before I act on it.
I hurt myself to legitimize my inner turmoil. My pain is not all in my head because I can see the blood and the bruises and the scars. I have cut both of my wrists (sterile, and just deep enough to bleed), my ankles. The deepest cuts were on my thigh, which are now covered by a large tattoo. I have kicked brick wall corners until my kneecap was bruised and swollen. I have punched concrete walls until my knuckles bled. I’m not usually a violent person…except against myself. The weirdest part is that I feel better after I do these things. I feel like I’ve done the right thing.
I know this is unhealthy, and I now have strategies for restructuring my thoughts so that when I have these urges I will not follow through with them. They don’t always work, though. Actually, they work well when I take the time to do them. But, as I learned yesterday, sometimes the urges take me over before I have time to recognize that I am having a self destructive thought.
I have been doing very well the past 3 months. I finally have a brain medication regimen that works well and allows me to be myself and enjoy life again. My therapists and psychiatrist want to see me less because I’m doing so well. My marriage is in good shape. I’m enjoying my job and my friends. I am pursuing hobbies that bring me joy. I smile every day. And then I got sick.
I missed a week of work, and I hate doing that. My body was falling apart and it was out of my control. So yesterday, I took my medicine, ate breakfast, then took a meat hammer and hit my fingers as hard as I could. I dared myself to try to break them. Then I put the hammer away and went back to the couch and watched TV for the rest of the day in a sick stupor. I didn’t break my fingers. They are swollen and bruised, which is satisfying. Which is fucked up.
I missed the opportunity to restructure my thought. I felt helpless to keep myself healthy, do my job, and be a functioning person. I felt worthless. I felt like I needed to punish myself for being in this condition. The pain and injury helped balance the scales in my head.
Which is fucked up.
I hadn’t hurt myself in 3 months. So now I am realizing that I will never be free from self harm. It is an old coping crutch. Sometimes I will be able to stop myself, sometimes I won’t. It goes against everything I feel to write about this part of my life so frankly, but I think there are more people like me out there. People who hurt themselves in secret, who have been the butts of casual jokes about cutting, who want to deal with this part of themselves but don’t want to speak up. You may look at me a little differently now that you know this about me, but that’s ok. I’m tired of carrying so much shame around.