Maroon 5 was playing in our living room. Middle school me was trying on some shirt I didn’t like, but didn’t have the courage to say I didn’t like. You were trying to help, thinking I’d feel more comfortable in it if the cleavage-showing part was sewed up a little. The bathroom had a mirror, so I kept going back to see if I suddenly felt less hideous in the shirt that progressively got less feminine and more blocky.
My Accutane-stained mind was more fragile at the time. Each trip I contemplated death, running away, saving up for a complete body switch into a perfect being. Each trip to re-try on the peasant-style shirt I threw up a little. A handy calming technique mastered in our pink middle school bathroom. It wasn’t enough. I had heard of a new anti-anxiety from the questionnaires in therapist’s office. Do I put a check mark next to “self harm”? I don’t think so. At least not yet. There were things in magazines about girls in clinics finding and hiding sharp things.
Was that a thing people did? Could I do that? Time to try. I was so stuck, and it was pathetic. What a stupid story, but I found some manicure scissors and I tested the act out. A few scratches here and there. What happens if I go really fast? What if I go a little more slowly but with more pressure? What if I hold the very point down and suddenly jerk back? I decided a scratching motion was best. This must be what all the professionals do. It works! After a few short moments, tiny pinpricks of blood from a pale line turned into “oops clean it off the counter.” I still remember the pattern of the first ‘cuts’ and where exactly they were in relation to the freckle on my left forearm. (I copied it onto my right forearm later.)
It felt so magical going back out after my first time. I felt strong. This huge, even BIGGER secret and no one would ever find out. I didn’t care about the shirt anymore. I won’t wear it tomorrow, but I’ll hide it in the closet and claim I had forgotten it down the road.
Next thing I know I’m keeping a safety pin on my keychain (scratches were easier to lie about, I thought). I graduated to buying knives when I was 16 and discovered stealing. Then the real big issues began.
I don’t know how long I went on with it at first before I was found out the first time. My mom once asked what time it was and pulled my sleeve all the way up and passed my watch. Really? How obvious and antidramatic. Stepmom just asked me straight up. I had an emergency therapy session. At the beginning I didn’t bother hiding them because I wanted to be found out. Less of a cry for help and more of a social experiment, really. No one found out. The only friend I confided in told on me.
It’s okay because I quit after that. I was better and ready to take on high school and ditch the medicines. But wait. Wow a LOT of girls showed off their great scars and cuts! I was a real amateur. I need to improve. Not to show off… but to feel better. So I started again. I had a knife collection and an impulsive personality.
It wasn’t sad enough to make me feel sick to my stomach like it was during the Accutane days. Now it was exciting and dirty. I got a little bit of a rush. Plus, I thought the cuts look cool.
Scars looked like giving up unless they were next to fresh cuts.
I would cut at work (Target’s bathroom), both homes, friends’ houses, and school. I had cut in my car, and in the psych ward. They don’t always seem to know what they’re doing in the psych ward. Sure, they took away my spiral notebook but I got to keep my #2 pencil. And rubber bands. And I can’t count how many times I threw up in that bathroom. But that’s a different subject.
I couldn’t quit. My fiance (then friend turned boyfriend) begged me to stop. He didn’t understand why I thought they were so great. I thought they made my stupid figure look better; more evened out. Less blobby. I liked the colors with different stages of healing. He hated how scared it made him. *He had to pick me up from the train tracks once because one wouldn’t stop bleeding. I went to the hospital that night.
When I fought with my parents I’d panic and cut. When I wanted to give in to my agoraphobia, I cut. When I ate too much, I cut. It was the best coping skill and also one of my worst. Eventually, I started to try hiding them better because people close to me would ask more. I started using other means of self harming, going so far as to staple my skin. This was very handy in the stock room at work. It’s actually the reason I have the stapler on my desk now, but its pain-inflicting days are over.
One of my sets of parents confiscated a good number of my knives when I was about 18, and when I got them back last summer, I cut one last time. It wasn’t deep. It showed for maybe a week and there’s no scar. For now, I feel confident saying that was and will be my last time.
I still get urges. Really really strong urges. Sometimes Matt is the only thing stopping me, because I know he’ll be sad and hurt and it will bring up all the shit he had to deal with in the early days of our relationship. Plus then I wouldn’t feel so inspired by myself. Many days I’m empowered by how far I have come. I think I almost bought some razorblades a few months ago, but that was new job stress, and I’m pretty sure I learned how to handle that. I may be a new job pro by now. Unrelated, sorry.
Many humans don’t understand this problem. I had read books about it and felt FURIOUS because they had it all wrong. Everyone’s different. If someone you know is self-harming don’t approach them like you know why. I think that’s what stopped me from taking advantage of the help originally. I don’t always know why I did it, but it sure as hell wasn’t the “release” crap all the doctors and nurses and books spewed at me. Be loving, be understanding.
If you don’t understand, well, sorry. Try reading a book, because I can’t explain it. It’s unfortunately very common, it’s very addictive, and it’s easy to hide.
I have scars that I’m no longer proud of in very obvious places and that makes me sad.
*Matt deserves a ridiculous amount of credit for all the help he was during my breakdown and the times before and after. It’s amazing he stuck with me. I wouldn’t have, and a lot of people wouldn’t have. He didn’t encourage my bad behavior, but he didn’t make me feel bad about it. He helped me through it and I literally owe him my life several times over. Now I’m mostly mind-healthy with him to thank! Thanks Mattaroo! Love ya! Sorry if this post is sad. I’ve been meaning to undraft it for a while now. See you after work.