Trigger Warning: This post talks about self-harm
The first time I cut I don’t remember how old I was, but I was in high school. I don’t remember why I did it or how. I just remember cutting a thin pretty colored ribbon to the perfect size for my wrist, taping it closed with a tiny little piece of tape so that it barely covered the tiny little red line, and then checking it constantly through out the day to make sure it continued to keep my secret concealed.
It was the second half of the nineties. Emo wasn’t really a thing, much less a fashionable thing. The psychology books I read in college, almost 20 years later, said that cutting is a learned behavior. Did I read about it in one of the many fiction books I read as an adolescent girl? Where had I gotten the idea? I was too scared of getting caught then. So, I stopped. Eventually, I found new ways to calm the pain inside. I didn’t start again until I was deep in my drug addiction. Now I am 36 years old and twelve years clean off drugs. I am far too old to be “Emo”. You would think I would leave the cutting to teenage girls by now.
It has been over a year since my last cutting relapse. It had been six years before that. The red lines have all almost faded to white, but they never go away. For me, cutting is an addiction too. That is why self-harm can become fatal. Because every time I did it, I got braver, I tried harder, I went bigger. Please don’t ever tell a cutter that their cutting isn’t valid. I have heard it so many times. “If you really want to kill yourself just do it” or “You just want attention, you aren’t really suicidal”, and even “They’re just doing it because it’s trendy”. I always remembered those reactions the next time I went to cut. I often thought, irrationally, “This time I have to…” …”do it better”, …”cut deeper”, …”cut horizontally”,…”make it bleed more”, “so people will know how serious I am, how desperate I am to escape the pain.” Who cares if it’s for attention? If someone needs attention that badly and thinks that’s a good way to get it, then they must really need help. Get them help if you can.
Don’t mock them. Don’t give them special attention you weren’t willing to give before the incident. Get them a hot line phone number or help them set up an appointment with a therapist. My cutting is often manipulation to get back at a man I love, to get him to love me, mostly an irrational attempt to avoid abandonment. It never works. It only hurts me in the end. Just like with drugs, I am the only one with the power to make myself stop. And when I don’t have that, I take an Ativan. Because, yes it is also something I do when I am so overwhelmed, I don’t know what to do anymore. I get so anxious I can no longer come up with logical solutions to my problems. Sometimes, panic attacks don’t feel like panic attacks. All of the sudden the pain in my heart is too much and I get really calm. My mind is clear and I have the perfect solution. Reasons not to cut no longer have validity. I make a plan and I see myself carrying it out. I get excited. Once I do it the pain is released. The confusion gone. I become elated. I get high. I have escaped. Unfortunately, just like with drugs, it never lasts. And when I come down, i have only made everything worse. I am left with wounds and pain and healing. I am left with shame.
That’s why I prefer my physical pain delivered by a sadist with my consent. The marks are never permanent and the drop never as severe. It may not be the healthiest reason you ever heard for engaging in BDSM, but it works for me.