Trigger warning: This article contains sensitive content involving self-harm.
I remember the first time I cut.
I don’t remember what I was searching for, maybe I just wanted to be heard. I’m drawn to the strange and unusual, perhaps it was my way of uncovering it. What I do recall, is immediately falling in love. I found it beautiful and somewhat shocking and at that moment it became a part of me. I was sixteen years old.
Cutting became my first addiction and it may have been more difficult to quit than my substance addictions. I was very ritualistic about it and quickly I developed cravings. It was something I did morning and night, even while simply driving my car. Self-harm soon became not something brought on by emotion but something done out of a desire to identify with something that was so uniquely me. It became something my soul connected to.
Self-harm soon became not something brought on by emotion but something done out of a desire to identify with something that was so uniquely me.
As I grew up and my relationship with substances began, self-harm and intoxication went hand-in-hand. Like most toxic relationships, my self-harm evolved from a beautiful thing to an uncontrollable darkness. Associating self-harm with anything other than a positive experience hurts my heart slightly, although I know it’s true, I feel like I’m betraying a loving friend. Unfortunately, my cutting progressed from a unique bond, into the only way I could express the hate I felt for myself.
In my last years of active addiction, I spun out of control because of the disgust I held for myself. I hated everything about who I had (and hadn’t) become. In the middle of blackouts, the only way I knew how to express this deep distaste was by taking it out on my body. It’s like a hurricane of self-loathing and alcohol would explode inside of me and I’d wake up with dried blood on wounds as a memento. This mechanism of self-awareness turned into an expression of self-mourning and in the years of my sobriety, it has been difficult to remember the two are actually the same.
I’ve been self-harm free for almost four years.
I cut once in sobriety and haven’t since. There are days when I find it harder to abstain from self-harm than I do from alcohol. Although I was very meticulous about the way I cut, I have scars serving as constant reminders from my neck down my legs and everywhere in between. There are nights when I must sleep with my arms facing down, times when my wrists feel white-hot like my skin is remembering how it felt. The night of my wedding I reached into my bag and a razor nicked my fingertip, the sight of blood and the way in which it happens immediately sent me into sobs, my husband sat on the bathroom floor and held me as a deep understanding of how sick I still am set in.
There’s a saying we often use in sobriety – play the tape through. If you want to use, play the tape through. If I drink one drink I’ll drink another; I’ll eventually wake up naked, probably in someone’s front yard, with no recollection of how I got there. It’s easy for me to play the drunk tape through. Yet, with cutting I never truly experience consequences; with the exception of one stint in an institution and one job dismissal, I view self-harm as having something to lean on, having something to me make me feel a multitude of feelings.
I view self-harm as having something to lean on, having something to me make me feel a multitude of feelings.
Why do I abstain today? For the time being, my sons are my motivation. We can only find true healing inside of ourselves, but for now, they deter me from my impulses. I can hear my three-year-old asking about the bandages, see myself wearing long sleeves at the beach. I don’t want that for my children, or for myself. There are enough scars I’ll be asked to explain, it’s not a conversation I’m yet ready to have.
I’m not quite sure why am sharing this part of myself, perhaps because sharing does take the power away and I want the power removed. However, I also know I am not alone with these feelings. Many of us struggle with self-harm even if our relationships look different; mine may be more romantic, yours may be darker. Regardless, those relationships are valid. I see you, I hear you, I understand you. We are not alone and we will learn to heal. Until then, let’s find comfort in the recognition that self-harm no longer must be a silent, isolated battle.
We are not alone and we will learn to heal.
If someone you know is self-harming, please read: How To Support Someone Who Self-Harms