I was home alone, able to relax and not worry about judgmental comments about my eating habits for a few days. It was going to be a welcomed respite.
But when the deadlines drew nearer and the clock hands spun too quickly around their center, the all-too-familiar panic began to rise like floodwaters. I wouldn’t finish on time. I couldn’t. The dam broke. But I had no choice, I had to get everything done. I had to. How do people deal with this? I wondered exasperatedly. How can ANYONE deal with all this?
I had to do something.
I had this exacto knife that I used for cutting pictures for my scrapbooks. And I saw it, gleaming there, reflecting the afternoon sunlight as if heaven itself cast the beam onto it. There was no other answer, no other conceivable escape or release from the painful, clutching anxiety, so I grabbed it hastily. I walked into the bathroom. Uncovered the knife. And sliced through the skin on my left forearm. Five times I pressed down the blade and dragged it across my wrist. I took the rubbing alcohol from the cabinet. Poured it over my bloodied arm. Wiped myself clean. And walked out of the bathroom.
Aside from my heart palpitating rapidly, I didn’t feel anything abnormal. Cutting myself did not feel wrong. It didn’t register that anyone would have a different opinion about it.
In fact, I could think clearly again (for a short while).
Days later I was sitting in my ninth period English class. We were in the library and I was trying, really trying, to work on the assignment. But I had a day’s worth of terrible feelings behind me. I couldn’t get anything done. All I had thought about for over a week was tearing open my wounds, and my mind was completely fixated on the idea. Dragged blade, ripped flesh, bloodied arm. I was consumed with it. I wanted to. I had to. I had to go home and cut. I had to run that ever-saving blade over the scabs, repeatedly, over and over and over, tracing the bloodlines until I felt my mercy. I had to let out the anger, the pain, the frustration, the tears I could no longer bear to shed…let it all out in the form of crimson liquid. I had to ruin my fucking innocence so I could take a goddamn breath without wanting to explode.
I was angry. I was a total wreck. So I went home, locked myself in my bathroom, and carved meaning permanently into my skin.
I was pathetic and I knew it. After all, I was the girl who went to the bathroom during passing to just CRY. The girl who stared at the mirror, looking at her sunken, vacant expression, tears streaming down her face. The freak who looked down as she walked, too afraid and anxious and scared to keep her chin up. Pathetic anorexic, pathetic cutter, pathetic.
Fast-forward to this morning in therapy when my therapist noticed the somewhat-recent, angry red line on my left forearm next to my newest tattoo. “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise” next to a basically-new scar. Yup. Doesn’t make much sense, as she pointed out to me.
It’s still sort of the same, the cutting thing. I still do it when I’m overwhelmed and need it all to stop. I still go about it matter-of-factly and nonchalantly, and it still doesn’t register as abnormal. It still stops the mental chaos, if only briefly.
But it’s different now, too. Thoughts of harming myself don’t run through my head in obsessive circles (at least not usually). I don’t really do it because I’m angry. And I certainly don’t think of myself as pathetic because of the whole thing.
Not to mention, I’m a friggin’ adult. Who the hell’s gonna stop me? I mean, maybe I’m still doing it purely because I can, but seriously, what can anyone say or do about it now? Judge me? Ooh, I’m so scared. Other people’s opinions about it don’t really matter to me.
But then again, as my therapist pointed to my arm when she noticed my mark/line/cut, I instinctively hugged it to my side. I’ve been trying to work on identifying my feelings using exact words as opposed to writing essays that describe them in fluffy, extravagant ways. So I guess I’m identifying how I felt as “embarrassed,” right? I was embarrassed. My ears got hot and I assume I turned red and my eyes jumped to the floor, away from her eyes full of kindness that were looking at what I’d done.
Professionals really aren’t supposed to bring attention to cutters’ cuts. They’d talked about that in a class she took a while back. I guess any sort of notice of self-harm somehow reinforces the behavior. But she put it into perspective, saying how I have a booboo and she wants to make sure I’m okay.
Which I am. I don’t think it’s about that anymore. There used to be pain behind each self-inflicted wound. Weeks, months, years worth of tormented thoughts warped into bodily discomfort that threatened to detonate at any moment –that was the impetus behind the whole thing. And I couldn’t make sense of that emotional pain, I didn’t GET it. But actual pain? Pain that I could see for myself? I liked the idea of that. Proof of my unending sadness, the physical manifestation of how I felt inside…it was just better. But it’s different now.
Right? Like, jeez, what IS it about now? I’m tempted to say habit. I do it just to fuckin’ do it. It’s also partially because it feels good in a way I can’t put my finger on. I know it “feels” better on my left arm, and it’s not just because I’m right-handed. It just feels good. There’s also a part of me that’s like, “oh hey it’s cool that I can still tolerate the experience of carving of my own flesh.” That maaaaay be linked to how with the anorexia stuff, I couldn’t just “go back to that” even if I wanted to. But the cutting thing? I can still do that, dammit. And that kiiiind of makes me special? In a fucked up, terrible, ridiculous way?
I sat there not looking at my handiwork, but my therapist, sitting next to me, took my arm in her hand and flipped it over and looked down. I twisted my arm in her hand and she twisted it back. I looked down eventually. And the random thing, the weird part, the shameful truth? I actually liked looking. At my type-written tattoo over faded, white-lined scars. And at the recent ones peppered around the poignant and significant words.
It’s somehow poetic, the contrasting positivity of the quote with the obviously negative connotation that accompanies self-inflicted wounds. Is that what this shit is about? Being poetic? Nah. No way. I hate when people romanticize mental illness. It ain’t a pretty thing, and making it into some disordered version of art is just plain wrong.
Alright alright, real talk: the cuts/scars/marks/lines mean something to me. They’re memories, not particularly good ones but still important to remember ones. I don’t want them all to fade. I’m scared for them all to fade.
There’s a lot to unpack in that last statement. Like, am I worried I’m gonna lose a part of who I am if I get over this thing just like I got over the eating thing? Oh GOD, do I think of myself only in regards to my mental illnesses??? And if that’s the case, is the cutting thing related to my being so wildly bipolar still? Wait wait, I’ve been mostly stable for like three months. Am I doing this shit because I need SOME sort of crazy going on? Fuck.
Honestly, I cut myself like three weeks ago when I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking too much and I wanted my brain to shut the fuck up and I cut myself and it did and I went to sleep.
I dunno. I’m tired now, from thinking about it all, but I think I made some progress with this whole thing.