I wrote this a bit ago . . . before I started blogging. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post it. It’s a tough subject. I’ve always been honest about my self-injury when talking to others, but writing about it . . . posting it for the world to see . . . that’s an entirely different story. Recent events have brought this to my mind . . . I figure that two things can come from this. One ~ the catharsis that always comes from sharing something so deep . . . Two ~ maybe, just maybe someone out there in cyber land will get something positive from this. So, all fear aside, here it is.
I am an adult self-injurer. I qualify that with “adult” because it is almost instinctual for someone to picture a teenage girl when they hear words like “self-injury”, “cutter”, or “self mutilation”. It’s true that the first time I took a razor to my skin I was 14 years old. I am now 31. I don’t self-injure nearly as much as I did in my teen years. In fact, it has been almost two years since I last harmed myself physically. I am much better able to control my urges now. I have a support system, medication for my anxiety disorders, and I have learned some alternatives to self-injurious behaviors. All of this said, those urges still exist, sometimes daily.
I am impressed with the recent surge in the public’s awareness of self-injury. Every time I see a new TV movie, book, magazine article, etc. covering the facts about self-injury, it gives me a sense of hope. There are still many out there who don’t understand, who think it is attention seeking behavior, or as evidenced by a friend’s Facebook post not too long ago, “emo” behavior. (Her post: “I wish my grass was emo so it would cut itself.”) But all in all, people are beginning to see the truth behind the behavior and for that, I am grateful.
The next step, I believe, is to show the world that it is not solely a teenager’s affliction. Yes, most self-injurers begin in their teen years, but for many of us it does not stop there. I’ve seen episodes on shows like Degrassi, 7th Heaven, and Law and Order where the portrayals of cutting are very accurate, but still they are all teens. I know I am not alone, but I feel ashamed to admit that I still struggle to stay safe because I “should’ve gotten over that by now”. For me, I know it is an emotional addiction. Whether it is a break up, a death, or simply feelings of inadequacy, my first instinct is to cut or burn myself. It is the easiest, simplest way I know to control what I am feeling. I can still visualize the entire process, and I long for that release. It is not something I ever see going away.
In high school, I found myself avoiding pool parties or wearing oversized t-shirts when I went to the beach for fear of someone seeing my scars. Today, I put off what is supposed to be annual full body dermatologist check-ups and avoid turning the lights on when I’m intimate with a partner. I’m even afraid to talk to a therapist about it. The last two that I mentioned it to basically gave me a “you’re too old for that” look. I feel as if self-injury is still not taken seriously if you are beyond your early twenties.
The interesting thing is that I had an easier time talking about it 15 years ago. When I talk about it now, I mostly refer to it has an “I used to” kind of thing. And while the actual execution of the act is incredibly infrequent, the thoughts and the struggle are still always there. Like an alcoholic who will always be an alcoholic . . . I will always be a self-injurer.
I am an adult self-injurer. I am not alone. I am working on not being ashamed.