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.
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.