Six. Six red streaks that stung in a dull, pathetic way. What was I doing? I thought I was done dealing with my emotions in this way. Why did this silly habit I developed in middle school follow me into adulthood? Why couldn’t I just open up to people the way I could open up my skin?
It was the most cuts I’ve given myself in one sitting. I didn’t bother thinking of a cover story in the moment; they were easily concealable and the only person at risk of seeing them would be Isaac…and he wouldn’t see them if I played my cards right. Like slipping on an old shoe, my secretive tendencies fit right back into place as if they never left. The only person that knew I was cutting was Charles.
I hadn’t spoken to him except for a handful of texts for an entire year. But I knew that he, of all people, would understand the most and judge me the least. He was frank with me, “Let’s face it, _____. If [Fred] cheated on you, it’s your fault. If global warming melts the ice caps, it’s your fault. If everyone in the world dies from nuclear attack, it’s your fault. Everything is your fault.” I laughed, “How the fuck do you know me so well?” He was right. I blame myself for everything, tell myself that I’m weak for giving into sadness, and unleash anger at myself for letting my emotions show. Instead of addressing my emotions, and letting myself feel them, I tell myself that I shouldn’t have them. And all if does is make them worse. “It’s a stupid, fucked-up cycle,” I told Charles. “And I hate that I keep falling into it.”
We talked on the phone for four hours. While we did touch on my recent set-backs, we also talked about his life, about future goals, about people we went to high school with and all the old memories we shared. Suddenly I was 17, back in high school, and walking through the woods with him all over again. And I remembered why I fell in love with him.
I wish we could be friends. He’s the only ex I should have in my life I this point. But our lives are going in different directions, so any kind of constant communication at this point would be moot. And besides, clinging to the past won’t help me develop my future. I need to figure this out on my own. It’s like Charles said, not trusting people won’t help me feel better, or change the past. Fred made the choice to cheat on me, and it was his alone to make. It’s not my fault for trusting him. Trusting people does not make them cheat on you.
I really want to trust Isaac. But I also don’t want to scare him off. I thought when I’d finally divulge my depressive tendencies to him that they would be past tense, and less scary, but eventually he’ll see cuts or scars that I can’t cover up. Eventually I’ll need him to be that person I run to when I can’t stop myself. And as much as I wish I didn’t put that pressure on my partner, and would instead go to friends, that’s just not how I operate. And that doesn’t make me weak. (Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.)
I’ve lost any romantic love I’ve ever had, but that doesn’t mean love is the problem or that I am. Time just has a way of pulling people apart when their lives are headed down different roads, and only time can make those roads intersect.
I’m not looking for love necessarily, but I am looking for faith in love. “Alright, I’m going to finally get some sleep here,” Charles told me. “Wait,” I said. “Can I ask you one last serious question?” “Alright,” he said. “Do you believe in soul mates?” He paused. “No…maybe…yes? Yes, I think I do.” I decided right then that if Charles could still have that kind of hope in life, after everything I put him through, that maybe I could too.
Well, just as I didn’t plan, I have a new post for you all that I am writing during my valuable study time. Unfortunately, yesterday was awful, so here I am, sharing it with you all. Just what you wanted I bet.
It all started okay. I woke up, was lazy, went to breakfast, packed more, used up the remainder of my meal points, and then decided to go to the rec. And while I was working out, I was bored, so I decided to text back my ex boyfriend. The night before I sent him a “You there?” type of text because I was sobbing and miserable about our breakup. I never would have contacted him if he hadn’t been my best friend for the year we were together, and one of the few people who can put the brakes on my tears. He responded to my text the next morning while I was asleep, so rather than leave him hanging, I texted him back not to worry about it. And then he texted back, “Are you sure?”. And then I exploded.
Anger, extreme sadness, regret, jealousy, internal hate, you name it, I had the negative emotion. I right off the bat asked him if he had slept with anyone else, hoping he had so I could find a reason to hate him. And you know what he did? He started listing his faults in our relationship to make me see it wasn’t such a loss! I swear, he is such a good guy…it almost makes me sick with how much I feel I threw it away. Like it was nothing. But it was everything. And no matter what, we can’t be together because the distance and pressure is too much to handle.
Anyway, after that horrible chat I was back in my dorm, just listening to Eminem and staring at nothing. And then I saw my stupid scissors lying on the desk. So guess what my post is about today, folks? Relapses and cutting! Yay, everyone’s favorite subject!
As much of a shitty position as this puts me in, to talk about my awful habit of self-mutilation, I do it to support those who also struggle with it and make them feel not only understood, but that it’s ok to reach for help. Also, to educate those who have loved ones who self-harm on how to be there for them as best they can. But as noble as my causes are, I know as soon as readers who know me in real life read this, I’ll start getting all of these concerned texts or calls or whatever (or maybe not, because there is nothing left to say). I’ve even had my blog reported before to counseling services, who then contacted my parents and got them all pissy at me for being all screwed up. (How about giving me better genes next time, Mom and Dad??) So, just for clarification, I HAVE ACCESS TO PSYCHOLOGICAL RESOURCES AND UNDER THE CARE OF MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS. Meaning, I’VE GOT THIS SHIT UNDER CONTROL. Now, onto the noble causes.
As a cutter, I hate being labeled “cutter”. Because when most people hear that, they think of middle school girls slitting their wrists the wrong way to get attention. Now, first of all, those girls should be taken seriously because self-mutilation should not replace glittery, flashy makeup that middle school girls used to use for attention. It’s sad to know that people feel like the only way to get noticed is to do something this drastic, and I wish I could help every single one of them. But in reality, most people who cut have a major underlining problem that needs professional help. So that’s why I personally hate the term, “cutter”. Everyone who self-harms, even if it’s not in the form of cutting, deserves to be taken seriously.
Now, this being said, most people who self-harm DON’T want to be found out. I know I don’t. I take drastic measures to make sure no one notices the cuts, and rarely admit to it, even if someone flat-out asks me. A lot of people have the wrong assumptions about cutting (see above paragraph) and rather than pour out my whole life story and explain what is truly going on, I prefer to just brush them off and walk away. These people usually have good intentions, but obviously people who self-harm are pretty sensitive about certain things.
So, if you’re a person on the other side of things and are worried about a friend or family member, here’s what you should do:
- Act like you normally would around them, and don’t treat them in any sort of special way. They don’t want to be treated like a patient, a child, or a wounded creature. They deserve respect and acceptance just like anyone else.
- If you want to show them you’re there for them, be kind! Let your actions show them you love them. Ask them about their day, their soccer team, their holiday plans, their favorite music–show interest in their lives! If talking is hard for you, offer to do something with them! Go see a movie, support them at their next soccer game, go bowling, help them in the kitchen…whatever! Big or small, it shows that you value their company.
- Now, if you really really really feel the need to DIRECTLY say something about their problem, don’t do it with everyone listening. Public places aren’t really the best place for a private conversation, but you don’t have to pull them off to the side in some dramatic way, either. Next time you’re driving in the car together, or if you both go outside to get some air at the next family function, ask them how they’ve been feeling. If they brush you off at first with a “fine”, ask again. After the second time, if they still brush you off, then stop asking. Sometimes people need to be asked twice, but you never want someone to feel like you are just asking to be nosy or invasive. If they do brush you off twice, just tell them you just wanted to make sure because you care about what is going on in their life, and you care about them. If you feel the need to hug at this point, go for it. But then, unless the person you are concerned about continues the conversation, it’s over. Like I said, if you make this a big, dramatic conversation it will make them uncomfortable, so just ask them those questions and let them know you care, then move on with a topic or activity.
- If this person opens up to you about their problem, then first of all, know that they trusted you enough to do so. Thank them for it, and for christ’s sake don’t screw up that trust, because they need you now more than ever. But this sort of topic is difficult to not only say, but to hear, so I’ve got some lame-o tips for you. First, listen, and listen well. Nodding and verifying what they are saying by repeating it back to them are great steps. And whatever you do, DON’T INTERRUPT unless you see a meteor right behind them about to blow up the earth. Also, I know what they say might be upsetting to you. It might hurt to think of how they could have called you or relied on you in those tough times. But please remain calm and supportive, and don’t guilt-trip them about how they didn’t do that. The last thing this person needs is to feel worse about their situation. Now, after they are done talking, feel free to ask a few questions. Questions show that you are interested in what they have to say, but beware: They might not want to answer them, and that’s okay. So if you ask, “Why did blahblahblah upset you?” try to add, “You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to.” And my last tip: DON’T offer solutions to their problems unless they ask “What should I do?” All they need is a listener, and sometimes when you try to “fix” things it makes them feel stupid or like their problems are minor and not a big deal. It’s all about verifying what they are saying right now, and letting them know that you care about them. After the conversation is over, remember not to treat them any differently, and you should be fine.
- This is pretty obvious, but even so, don’t spread around their problems. Getting unnecessary people involved is completely counter-productive. Not to mention a compromise of trust.
- Now, if this person is in some serious issues that require professional help, you need to be extremely careful about how you broach that idea to them. In fact, do some research, find a psychological professional, and feel free to ask them how to introduce the topic in a respectful and non-pushy way.
Remember, I’m not a geisha or Yoda. But I do hope these tips help you or at least give you some perspective about those who self-harm. Also, feel free to shoot me a message if you have a question about a particular situation or leave a comment below. I always appreciate (constructive) feedback!
One thing I just want to put out there… When I do it, I run through this list of people I can call instead of cutting. And I don’t call them, obviously. Why? I know they would listen, that they love me, but sometimes that doesn’t cut it (pardon the pun). Sometimes there is nothing you can say. The thing is, people who self-harm are choosing to feel their pain, their way. It’s the control that makes me feel good. Because I can’t do anything about how I feel, nor can those that I love, but I can control how I feel it. And I know it’s wrong while I do it. And I feel ashamed after it happens. But, in the end that is what will motivate me to stop–Me. Only I can make myself stop, and only I can seek help if I want/need to figure out an alternative way to calm down when I’m that upset. So try not to be offended if you have a friend who only tells you after the fact. They just might be in similar shoes.
Life is hard all around. Whether it’s because you are struggling to find food to eat, have just been dumped by a boyfriend/girlfriend, or lost your job (or someplace in between that broad spectrum), we all feel pain from time to time and we all need the love and care of others to support us through it. In a really screwed up way, we all feel alone together.
I’m pissed off.
I’m pissed off that I work five days a week and have negative two dollars in my bank account. I’m pissed off that I get yelled at for getting home past curfew because I was crying in a parking lot to my boyfriend, while my brother can have his girlfriend spend the night at our house and have her up in his room with the door closed (did I mention that my room is next door and the walls are thin? Yeah. And meanwhile, my boyfriend can’t set one foot in my room without me getting screamed at). I’m pissed off that it’s been a week of working at my crappy job and the one day where all I want to do is be alone and relax while playing this computer game “Civilization” (my boyfriend got me addicted to it to the point where I want to play it everyday for hours), I don’t have enough money to buy it (or gas, for that matter. Or the spending tickets I’ve acquired. Or the lawyer for the speeding tickets). I’m pissed off that all I ever do is screw up and get yelled at for it. I’m pissed off that I have less than a month left before I leave this place and my boyfriend. I’m pissed off that I have to start taking meds again when all I want is to be normal and stay there. I’m pissed off that this stupid blog is FOR NOTHING, that my friends don’t bother reading it, or anyone else for that matter. Am I helping anyone, or being helped myself? NO. IT’S ALL FOR NOTHING. I hate it. I hate my life right now. I hate that no one in my family wants to spend time with me without criticizing me. I hate that all my friends are busy. I hate that college is starting. I hate it all. I hate that my boyfriend has had a lot more relationships than I have had, and has slept with more people than I have had, and they’ve all been good and fine and all of my past relationships remind me why I suck and deserved to be treated that way. I hate that I’m thinking all of this and writing all of this, when no one wants to hear it–people want to hear about how being positive is easy and life isn’t scary and that once you have found love it all works out and that confidence will never fail you and your friends from high school will stick by you and won’t end up doing heroin.
And I can’t write about any of that, because I know none of it.
Sometimes, when people look at my scars where I’ve cut myself they joke around and ask things like, “So why’d you carve a giant swastika into your arm?” (which it isn’t, and is offensive), I think, “You’ve never hated yourself like I have, have you? And you’ll never know how sad you can feel inside when you look at your scars and not regret it. Because deep down somewhere I know I took it easy on myself, and if I truly were honest when I had that knife in my hand I wouldn’t be here right now. So go ahead, look concerned or laugh. If you knew what this was like you wouldn’t say a word.” That’s how I feel writing in this blog sometimes. I feel like I’ve put my scars out there in these posts, and in response all people want to do is judge rather than understand.
I don’t need advice and I don’t need sympathy. I need support, I need to know you people are actually there.
(If you even are.)
Sometimes in life you just have to tell yourself it wasn’t your fault. It’s not your fault that your friend is upset, that your job doesn’t provide enough for your gas tank, that you feel like you haven’t slept in the past ten days. I’m not saying to blame the world, I’m just saying that some stuff you need to just let go before you twist a situation into another phony reason why you are a sucky person. Some stuff just doesn’t deserve that kind of attention, and most (if not all) people don’t need the extra dose of low self-esteem.
Gee, if I had only known this a good three or four years ago. Then again, I know it now and I still can trip up over the actual execution of letting crap go. I pass out blame, alright, but I take a good 99% of it and leave the world with a whooping 1%. That’s how I deal with situations. Letting go for me means forgiving myself. Only sometimes I get wrapped up in situations that have gone wrong only I don’t know what exactly to blame myself for. Take relationships. You can blame yourself all you want for a breakup, but until you actually have an idea of what you did wrong you cannot forgive yourself. And so, you cannot let the break up go.
As much as I try to be brave, to just let myself forgive and forget my faults, it doesn’t always fly. Honestly, I’ve taken to cutting myself to relieve some of that tension. Which I actually consider an upgrade to my past method of smoking marijuana, but not by much. Though I’ve mentioned my cutting to one of my therapists and a friend or two, I haven’t done much to rectify it and neither have they. I understand its dangerous link to another serious bout of depression, but I still feel very in control. In a strange way, even more so than when I’m not acting self-destructive. There is no guarantees how often it has to happen, if it will happen again, or how deep the cuts will or won’t be. And I like that. I like that for once I get to choose how far my feelings will take me.
I know this information could very much hurt my friends, my family, and whoever else, but what can I say? Sometimes in life you have to tell yourself it’s not your fault.