Self-Injury

I was a freshman in high school. I sat in a bubble bath with the shower curtain pulled shut, adding an extra layer of protection added to the closed, but unlocked bathroom door. The lock didn’t work. Few of the locks in my parents’ house worked. At any moment my mother could rush into the bathroom unannounced.
At the time she was occupied screaming with my father about something, most likely related to my above average, but not up to her standards, academic performance.
I needed the shower curtain shut so she couldn’t see me with a shaving razor in my hand slicing open my leg, watching the blood mix with the bubbles.
The first dozen or so times I did this are mashed into one entity in my head. I want to know, what was different about that night that made me cut my leg open instead of just crying? At the time it didn’t seem at all significant. Now I wish I’d written something down.
I love having records of things. Without records I feel like maybe something didn’t happen. I want a physical representation of experience. I document. I write, I take photos and I make scars.
Scars leave records. A scar is easier to live with than remembering the details of why I have a scar. For this time period I have neither. The scars have faded and I wrote very little down.
Within weeks of the first injuries to my legs I began taking apart shaving razors. I didn’t want to keep all that plastic designed to “help” prevent me from cutting myself. Each shaver gave me three little blades. They were so tiny and seemed delicate. I hid them in a makeup compact.

It’s over 6 years later now. I still do it. Not as often as in the early days, but often enough that I identify as a “self-injurer”.

I don’t feel the same way many do about self-injury. I don’t think it is a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is a wonderful thing. It has flaws. In moderation, I think there is nothing wrong with self-injury. I don’t want to stop. I just want to stop the feeling that make me want to do it.

I used to be one of those people who mentally beats themselves up after self-injuring. No more. I’ve enough other things to mentally beat myself up over. I don’t need to add another.

I have never needed stitches. I have never lost a dangerous amount of blood. I have never gotten an infection. I am careful.

Much of my therapy has been a struggle. I want to not feel upset enough to want to cut. They want me to stop cutting, without fixing the underlying problem. The priorities are different.

Those same therapists will advocate the use of klonopin when I want to cut. I consider klonopin a worse way of dealing with stress than cutting. In my hierarchy of not-so-positive-ways to deal with stress klonopin rates worse than cutting. When I cut I can see the damage being done. With klonopin I can’t.

I wouldn’t advocate it to others. I realize there are negatives. I have scars. I deal with the pain the following days. I consider these negatives to be acceptable for me. I realize most people dosn’t feel this way.

I also realize that most people who self-injure consider it a struggle. For me the struggle is what leads up to the self-injury, not the self-injury. But I do support those who feel differently.

Self-injury helps me stay alive. I can short curcuit negative thoughts spiraling downward. I can prevent my mental state from further deteriorating.

In my first hospitalization the doctor drew a picture of my cuts. It’s in my records It amused me quite a bit that going to med school resulted in her drawing a picture of my cuts.

scanscarrealcropped01

I believe on the right is supposed to be a drawing of the bruise that was on my hand from punching the floor.

The tic-tac-toe one is my 2nd favorite, the first being the skull. The tic-tac-toe one has some faux symbolism that’s so corny I can’t even say it with a straight face. “The X’s represent life. They won before I could make a move” See it started out one day I decided to do a tic-tac-toe board. No particular symbolism or anything. It’s hard to make curves with the knife so I just made Xs, no Os. I cut over the same spots many times. Eventually I gave that meaning to it, despite the original purpose being visual, not symbolic.

Visuals are important for me with self-injury. I have to see what I’m doing. If I punch a wall I need to see the bruise. Otherwise it is not as effective.

I like the skull because I think it is cute. One the left leg cuts must be parallel (the skull is the exception). The right leg allows chaotic criss-crossing cuts.

I’m rambling now so I guess I’ll stop. I’ll just end things by saying that for me self-injury is helpful. Often times mental health professionals ignore its adaptive function and try to eliminate it without fixing the problem or understanding it. I fight them every step of the way. And then I get labeled as difficult. They worry excessivly about the risks, not realizing that I am careful. If they paid closer attention they’d realize that my anxious, obsessive traits carry over into my self-injury. I’m much more likly to panic and over react thinking a cut is far worse than it is than I am to underreact.

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32 thoughts on “Self-Injury

  1. I am obese. I’m not fat on the inside (in my head) so to see the fat on the outside is like an ‘obtuse’ feeling – kind of ‘out there’ if you know what i mean.

    But it helps to keep people away from me. It allows me some space.

    It is self-injury in a way. I allow it to only ‘so far’ and then i stop. It’s a health hazzard so i too am careful. I have heard it called a from of “slow suicide”. Its true.

    My age now is causing me to want to change habits. I’m 47 this year and want to live. Its just that i’ve trained myself so well – its tough to train myself differently. Gosh – its been years!

    I do, how ever want to change my behaviour and will gradually in time.

    None-the-less, pain is pain. And both our self-harm ways leave evidence of it.

    Reply
      • Well, the distance i’ve created is a physical one too. Ever hugged an obese person? Talk about keeping people at arms length! Literally!

        Reply
  2. Wow, it seems crazy that people insist on treating the symptoms not the causes of problems. It just seems so obvious that it is a survival mechanism not an actual problem in it’s own right. Keep fighting!

    And for the record I guess I have been/am a self-injurer too, although not to the same extent. But that is irrelevant.

    Reply
  3. I’m with you. I want the crap feelings that are driving the cutting to stop, not just the cutting itself. I think when the underlying stuff is addressed, the rest will fall into place.

    Therapists, of course, typically don’t agree with that – I went through several before I found one who wouldn’t wrist-check at the door or issue “consequences” for cutting, and blah to all of them.

    I agree on the klonopin v. cutting, too; to me, it’s just trading one coping skill for a slightly more socially acceptable one…I’d rather spend the time getting to the reason that I need such a drastic coping skill in the first place.

    Reply
    • Yea, social acceptable-ness plays a big role in their preference.
      I think they also like it because they can control it. They don’t have the power to limit how much I cut and I can easily hide if it do it. But they’ll know I’m using klonopin, because eventually I’ll need a refill.

      Reply
  4. Good post,

    I looked again at the drawing you did for me. The one with you lying down and there were the same tic tac toe and the skull in that. the positioning of them did make me wonder about some relationship to sex and you made such a comment in your comment above

    What is klonopin?

    Good comments and I would like to use them (anon of course) in writing I am doing?

    Tony

    Reply
    • The impact is has on sexual relationships isn’t the primary purpose of cutting there. It’s more an unintended, but useful effect of it.
      I cut there primarily because it’s easy to hide. I just don’t wear bikinis or short shorts. I’ve intentionally avoided places like my breasts and genitals.
      It forces me to only have sex with someone who can accept some of my crazyness.

      Klonopin is an anti-anxiety drug. works on GABA receptors.

      And yes you can definitely use them in your writing:)

      Reply
    • I don’t cut there because I like if best there. I actually like cutting my shoulder best. I have one scar on there there I’ll let myself reopen from time to time. I cut there because I can hide the cuts best there without damaging a part of my body I would want to stay pristine. I could cut on my stomach because it’d be easy to hide but I happen to think my stomach looks awesome the way it is and I don’t want to mess it up.

      Reply
  5. I’m a self injurer also. I’m not typical, in that I am 48 years old. My therapist has told me that it’s ok for me to do this, due to the fact that I don’t do it often (depending on what your definition of often is), my cuts are superficial, and I’m not doing it to kill myself. I’m trying hard to believe him, because he is the first person I’ve encountered who thinks this is ok behavior. But really if you think about it, why is it worse than drinking, abusing drugs, overeating, binging and purging, or any other self destructive behavior. It makes me feel better, but that feeling is usually just temporary. After a while I feel incredibly guilty and evil for cutting myself. If I could get over that part of it I think I would be fine.

    Reply
  6. I am glad that you like your stomach,

    It is interesting how you talk about keeping parts of your body pristine. That is an interesting word.

    Cutting the top inside of your legs does seem an ‘intimate ‘ spot as compared to others.

    Graffiti

    Reply
    • It’s not really the inside, more the front/outer-side.
      The intimacy of if makes it easier to hide. I’d hidden cuts from my doctor even during a pap smear, because it’s not a place that gets looked at without a good reason.
      My current GP doesn’t know about my cutting

      Reply
  7. Well I would agree with Harriet,

    In terms of the physical impact on the body how is cutting self in the way that you do any different than getting a tattoo.

    the psychological motivations maybe different but the actual result on the physical body seems to be no different

    Tony

    Reply
  8. Hi.
    i cut too and am 47. i must have been doing it for about 12 years now…(a late bloomer…ha!). i have had to have stiches and staples several times and been hospitalized m behaviors. i just want to say p l e a s be sooo careful, as my cutting started out fairly minor and then progressed. Just the past couple of weeks, i have had two cuts that weren’t that big, but i had alot of trouble stopping the bleeding.
    As i mentioned, just try to take care of yourself…easy for me to say!
    (i must admit, i am kinda impressed that you can “draw” while cutting…like the skull…please don’t take that as encouragement!.)

    Reply
  9. I’m kind of like you with cutting.

    My main tool was always shaving razors that were taken apart. I’m all OCD about sh*t so I never went very deep and was always pretty careful; although there was this one time when I did one cut pretty deep and it probably could of used stitches, but it didn’t bleed much at all so it was just weird and I freaked out-sorry, I’m rambling. :)

    Anyways, I haven’t cut in like over four months, which is like the longest I’ve ever gone since I started in Oct. 2007 (that’s a record! lol). Reading your blog just makes me want to do it! But for me it’s not helping. I have to resist what I want so I can get to where I want to be in the future. It totally sucks! Oh well. Sorry for the rant,this is just how I comment.

    This is off-topic, but what is it like being a psychology major? Psychology interests me (I’m 16). I’m wondering what kind of career you plan on (or what you’re already doing), and also, do jobs in the field pay well ? :D

    Reply
    • I love being a psychology major. I plan to get a doctorate in clinical psychology after I finish my undergrad. What I like about that degree is that it gives me the option to both work with patients and do research. One thing to know is that psychology is one of the most popular undergrad majors, so for grad schools it can get pretty competitive. But that can vary depending on which type of program you choose to go to.
      As far as jobs in the field, I haven’t gotten one yet so it’s hard to say. People certainly make enough to support themselves comfortably, but it’s definitely not a make millions kind of career choice.

      At 16 you have plenty of time to figure things out. Some colleges offer summer pre-college programs in the summer where high school students can take a college class and explore options of things you might like. If you can afford it (they can be pricey) I recommend looking into going to one.

      Reply
  10. I AGREE 100% I haven’t found a single person that holds this view before. I try to express these points to my psychiatrists/doctors/etc… but they still think I will “grow out of it”. I’m being hospitalized again tomorrow and like in your other post I have gone about hiding razors in my belongings. I’m from Australia and it’s exactly the same with their searches. A monkey could do better!!

    Reply
  11. I just came across your site while doing a project on nssi for my class and I feel compelled to leave a little note… I am a first year student in a clinical psychology doctoral program and I also think my interest in psychology stemmed from some of my own challenges with anxiety and self injury…I found reading your posts incredibly comforting…especially where you recount your first few incidents of self injury… and also that desire to leave a scar (I think that is something the scientific literature misses with nssi) I always wonder the same thing, I wish I had written down exactly what was going on so I could know (or well analyze in my head over and over) where this all started… I’m not sure how you view your self injury but lately I have started to think of it as a coping mechanism… I also feel like the problems/thoughts that lead up to the self injury are the real issue that needs to be resolved, for me the self injury is a way of coping with those cognitions… I’ve been working really hard to develop different coping skills buuuut I find the first place I always think to go is cutting and the urge to cut is extremely hard to resist and I think it is something I will struggle with for the rest of my life…whether I continue to cut or not it is definitely something I will always think about.

    I’m not sure if you feel this way but as a psychology student I am always afraid people will discover that I struggle with self-injury and will not only see me as “crazy” but as a fraud in my profession, how can I help other people if I struggle with this myself? Anyway, as a fellow psychology person I just wanted to let you know that coming across this site makes me feel a bit better that there are other people out there with similar aspirations as myself that also self injure and I wanted to wish you the best of luck in applying for clinical programs!

    Reply
    • Yea, I agree it’s a coping mechanism. I have a hard time believing any treatment targeting NSSI as the problem would have long term benefits.
      I also do worry about people finding out not just about my NSSI, but my other problems as well. Things like this make me think maybe i should only stick with research or maybe work only with children (I feel like because my problems were not so dramatic in childhood that I’d have less worry about working with them).

      Reply
  12. I’ve read a couple of your posts on self injury, and it comforts me to know there is someone who thinks of cutting in the same way. A short term therapist I had knew about my cuts, ensured I was doing it safely, and never mentioned it again… I never realized how lucky I was. For about two years, I’d go through bouts of something like anxious depression, and think of cutting, but fear kept me in check until last summer, when I made my first cut with an xacto knife. I record all my cuts by pressing them into a thick papered notebook I have; it’s the blood patterns that I find fascinating, beautiful.

    The purpose of hurting my body as I do is to keep away harsher things… fears and impulses, pressure. It took courage to do it, and I don’t regret that it’s a part of me. It hurts though, that the only friends I’ve told my secret to have changed how they once thought of me; it seems as though it’s worse for them than for me, and I don’t know how to change that fear. I try hard to avoid recognition on what I do, and as a dancer and a model, this means only my hands, hips, and the soles of my feet are fair game- perhaps the most frustrating fact.

    One more thing: I love words, and write them all over my body when I have something to let out… my most ambitious cuts were numerous tiny lines forming the word ‘honey’ on the side of my finger.

    Reply
  13. Wow, to find someone who cuts and isn’t all angsty about it… refreshing. I cut too. I first used a blade(scissors) in my freshman year as well. I quickly “upgraded” to a razor I found in my dad’s workshop area. I still have it (1 and a half years later) but it’s getting dull and I can’t find any more. I’ve taken apart some razors for sharp blades. Those I keep in my backpack so I can cut at school super easily. Everyone thinks I’m grabbing a tampon or something similar when I go to the bathroom. Before freshman year, I self injured, but much less noticeably. I would scratch myself with my nails. Punch myself, hit myself over and over again. It’s kinda funny that I never remember starting… my earliest memory of hurting myself on purpose was 8 years old. I wonder if it’s just a part of me. Anyways, no one’s ever discovered. I feel really proud of that. It helps that everyone knows me to be modest, as like you, I cut my upper thighs, my upper arms, and my legs. The cuts on my legs are super easy to excuse, I purposely make those scratches look like they’re from a thorn or a cat. The cuts on my upper thighs have surprisingly not left many scars. Like your skull, I’ve carved something on my thigh, too. I carved “Life is good.” I knew exactly what I was doing at the time and I knew it would leave a scar so I carved something positive… even if someone saw it they’d think “must be from a marker” or “must be a scarification tattoo” so I played it safe there. I have carved some obscene things on my stomach, but I’m always careful that it isn’t deep enough to leave a scar; and so far, none have.
    I’ve told one friend, one of my best ones. I told her cause I was dying to tell someone, I couldn’t hold it in any more that every night I’d watch myself bleed. I sent her a facebook message, making it clear I didn’t want help or sympathy with my problem. To my surprise… she was totally ok with it. She said a lot of her friends cut and that the best thing she can do is be there for me. I never thought I’d scored such an amazing friend. I got so lucky with that one. I know cutting is unhealthy, but I’m just totally addicted to it. When I’m angry, instead of taking it out on others, I take it out on myself and then I feel happy. It’s a win-win situation. I do think it would be better if someone found out about it though. I’m unhealthily obsessed with it. Maybe I’m secretly hoping someone finds out… I always make jokes about it but so far no one has ever even asked if I cut.
    I worry about myself… I know all of those angsty whiny people that say they’re crazy to get attention or feel special. I hope I don’t come off like that. But anyway, what worries me is that I like the sight of my blood. I’ve been told I’m a good artist, and naturally I draw in my free time. Anyway, when I cut, sometimes I’ll paint with it. I’ve drawn pictures with blood. I like how it changes colors when it gets older. I’ll cut deeper so I get more blood to paint with. I’ve even gone as far to do my makeup before a shower with blood. I’ll use it as lipstick, blush, eye shadow. This is what makes me think there’s something wrong with me. I don’t do anything with my menstrual blood though. I’ve read that people paint and do other stuff with it and I think that’s just repulsive and totally gross. To me, drawing it myself, right out of my skin, it’s clean. It feels purer. Maybe it’s because I’ve been raised a Christian. I don’t know.

    Anyways, back to your post. I love it. I think people that are afraid of cutters should read it, because you seem so normal. At least to me. Thanks for sharing it with every one! (^_^)/

    Reply
  14. I am so glad I found your blog. Really, it’s wonderful. I have thought for a while I was in some way wrong or messed up about my views on my careful, calming SI. I, like you, would never allow it to be any risk to me. Whereas when I tried to quit it was so much worse ( and not just because of withdrawal or whatever you would like to say). It makes me so relieved to know others have these same views. Obviously any SI that puts someone at risk, or someone starting to Self- Injure I am fully against. Anyone who can or wants to stop, should. Anyway I’m proably not making much sense but I just want to say your blog makes me so relieved to know I am not alone.

    Reply
  15. I’m a young cutter. I hate using the word, but that’s what I am. I was recently hospitalized and missed more than a half of a year of school and had to make it up over the summer. I was having severe hallucinations, textile, auditory, and visual. When I cut, the hallucinations would disappear leaving me with one minute of absolute silence. After the hospitalization, I no longer am having hallucinations, but I still have the urge to cut. I’ve only just realized that the numbness I feel did not stem from the hallucinations. I agree with you that I don’t think that cutting is a bad thing, and that all I want is for whatever is causing my need to cut to go away, however, i’m so numb, I’m not even sure what’s causing it anymore. The only thing I can do these days is just keep my mask on and fake my way through life, hoping I won’t get thrown in the mental ward as an inpatient again. Thanks for helping me realize I’m not the only one out there.

    Reply

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