***This post could contain triggers.***
It’s been nearly 20 years since the first time I cut myself. I can remember the events of that night easily, but I don’t recall the thought process. I doubt there was much of one at all.
Thinking back on that night is like an out-of-body experience now. I see myself from behind . . . reaching on top of the refrigerator (I don’t know what I was looking for) and finding the box of industrial razor blades. I pulled a few out of the box and carried them with me into the living room. I sat on the reclining chair and looked at the notebook that sat on the end table, the one with the words, “I’m fucked up” written in dark pencil, the same words traced over and over again with a heavy hand.
I pulled a razor out of its paper covering and felt the cool metal between my fingers. I lightly dragged it across the back of my hand for several minutes before actually breaking the skin. I watched the drops of blood form as I pressed a little deeper. I don’t remember pain. It was more of a trance. I kept dragging, kept digging, kept pressing until the back of my hand contained nearly a dozen lines of blood . . . there was no pattern, no rhythm.
It didn’t occur to me until well afterwards that people might ask where the scratches came from . . . they weren’t really cuts . . . not yet . . . that would take a couple more weeks. I explained away the marks as cat scratches. Nobody questioned it, not even those who knew my cat only had claws in the back. I was smarter the next time. I moved my cuts to my upper thighs . . . far away from anyone’s curious eyes.
I only cut for 2 years because at 16 I discovered burning. The burning was more spiritual than the cutting, it was also more painful and the scars lasted longer . . . and there was no mess to clean up. I’d flick the flame on my lighter and hold it upside down. I was mesmerized as I watched the flame heat the metal. When the metal was hot enough, I’d press it into my thigh . . . hold it there until it throbbed, until the heat from the metal dissipated. I’d take a deep breath and my entire body would relax. The warmest calm would wash over me. It was my escape from . . . . everything.
I burned to distract myself from the emotional pain. I burned to feel when there was only numb. I burned to relax when I was stressed. I burned when I was happy because happy was so foreign. Any conflict, any issue could be solved with my lighter.
I stopped self-injuring on a regular basis shortly before I turned 18, but the struggle has never ended. I slip up every few years . . . there’s always that longing . . . always that desire for the calm. I don’t think I ever make it through a day without thinking about it. I’ve even glorified the cutting in my mind and that was definitely not my method of choice. Cutting never made me feel the way burning did.
Tomorrow is Self-Injury Awareness Day. I didn’t know that until last week . . . . I didn’t even know we had a day. I don’t know if that really means anything, but I thought I should take the time to write a little bit about my experiences. I’ve written about them before . . . and I’ll write about them again . . . because the more I write about it, the easier it is for me to accept it as part of myself . . . and the more I write about it, the more I am able to connect with others who understand, others who have been there, others who are there . . . and the more I write about it, just maybe, the more people who don’t understand will start to try to understand.