on creating a constant nightmare: to cut or not to cut

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses what might happen when you cut.

This post functions primarily to educate others on what goes through someone’s head before cutting. This is an issue that is not discussed nearly enough, and those who have cut or done another form of self-harm are often misunderstood and stereotyped. Please note that everyone’s situation is unique, and I can only use what I know. This post combines my experiences with those of others I know personally and with those whose stories I have read. Feel free to comment with any personal experiences that might benefit the conversation.

Suppose you want to cut.You probably have some reasons. Maybe you’re going through a situation that doesn’t seem like it will get better. Maybe the emotions are too strong that you don’t know how to handle it anymore. Maybe think you deserve pain. Maybe you want to punish yourself. Maybe you don’t really want to do it but don’t think you have another choice. You’ve probably thought about it a lot.

That first time, you probably won’t do a whole lot of damage. Maybe, you decided to just do it once and never do again.

So, let’s say you decide to scrape yourself the first time. It feels great. It feels so relieving and gives you a sort of rush. But these good feelings last only as long as you do it. When you’re done, you are flooded with guilt. You feel worse than before. But you can’t push the thoughts of the next time out of your head. You had vowed to do it just once, but you already want to do it again. But doing the same thing over and over again won’t give you the same rush, so you’ll do it a little worse. And the cycle will continue.

You do it for a period of time. Maybe you hear voices that tell you to do it. Maybe you do it for the rush or the self-punishment. Or maybe you’re doing it for another reason. There are an infinite number of reasons for cutting.

You are terrified of being alone because of the fear of repeating it. Maybe you’re scared that one day you’ll go a little too deep and end up in the ER. Maybe you’re scared you’ll hit an artery and no one will find you and you’ll accidentally kill yourself. Maybe you see bloody images of yourself in your head that are portrayed as good and encourage you to repeat the self-harm. Maybe you’re nervous around other people and don’t want people to touch you, partly because it hurts but also because you don’t want them to feel the band-aids, scabs, and scars through your clothes. Maybe some scars are accidentally seen and you find yourself lying to explain what happened. Strain is put on all your relationships, even your closest friendships. Your thoughts get darker. You wonder when your friends will stop caring. You might become grateful to past or current bullies for showing you that you are awful and needed punishment. You will hurt every day. You will live with the shame and regret every day.

Then, let’s say you decide you want to try to stop. This is when it gets hard. Cutting is an addiction. Stopping an addiction often involves withdrawal. Not only do you have the above symptoms but you also have withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal could be voices that increase with volume until you give in and cut again. Maybe you feel the pain of cutting without having to do it. Maybe you start writing on yourself to avoid cutting and find your arms and parts of your legs covered in writing. Maybe you find yourself replacing it with another form of self-harm. It feels like you are in a living nightmare. All you want to do is to escape from your brain. You know that if you cut again, it will get a little better – for the time being. But then it will be even harder to stop.

How it ends it up to you. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of fighting. Maybe you’ll keep giving in. Maybe you’ll end up at the ER and that will scare you so you’ll never do it again. Maybe you’ll go to the ER and like the attention from your family and do it badly again. Maybe you will gather the courage to never do it again.

Those who cut are humans in so much (emotional/psychological) pain they don’t know how to survive. They aren’t creeps or vampires or monsters. The chances of them wanting to hurt others is incredibly low. Even when that is present, it might not be linked to the self-harm but to something deeper, like the cause of the self-harm or another psychological issue. If someone tells you that they’re cutting, it took a lot of courage, so listen to them and ask if there is any way you can help them. Who knows? Maybe you’ll save a life.

self-harm

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses self-hate and self-harm.

I first heard about cutting when I was 12 or 13. My initial reaction was “Wow, you must be really hurting to choose to hurt yourself.” But I had no idea. Even a week before I first hurt myself, I still could not understand why someone would choose that.

I did it because I wanted to try it. I wanted to do it once. So I did. I told myself I would do it once that I would just scrape the surface. Just once. Not bad. No more. I did not even totally realize why I wanted to do it. I thought about it some for a couple days before doing it, but it was more just deciding when and where to do it than anything else. If I had thought about it, if I knew why I wanted to do it, I think things might have been different. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The following is what I wrote in my journal the day I almost did it.

I want to hurt myself, but I just don’t have the courage to do it… I’m also scared that someone will figure it out… But tonight, I’m going to do some minor stuff, with a safety pin or scissors or something sharp. Just some scratches, and maybe a few drops of blood. So just a little but not too bad…

But I didn’t do it that night. The next day, I convinced myself that I wouldn’t do it that badly and that it would be ok. So then I did it.

I couldn’t help it.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t do much,….  Only had a few drops of blood and some scrapes. …  I’m sorry.  But it felt like I didn’t have any other choice.

The thing is, I did have a choice. I didn’t have to do it. I didn’t think through it. I didn’t talk to anyone about it. And I started a living nightmare. Right away, I caught a glimpse of what I started. The next day, I wrote this.

6:15 am. Last night… I did something crazy.  Something I never thought I’d actually do.  And then I tried justifying it, saying it wasn’t that bad.  And it wasn’t that bad, but that doesn’t change the fact that I hurt myself on purpose.  I took a safety pin and scraped my skin until it bled a little.  At first, I enjoyed it.  It felt good. But then, as I realized what I had just started, I just felt the pain of all the years built up,… and I was just shaking and wanting to cry but not able to really cry it out… I don’t want to do this again.

1:50 pm. What did I get myself into? … Was this worth it?  I’m afraid I started a chain reaction of events that will be rather difficult to stop… I want to do it again tonight.  It felt good last night, until it was over…

Each time for the first week or so, almost every single time was worse than the past times. In a sense, I was gaining confidence in self-harm. Each time, I told myself that it was not bad last time and that this time it would be ok to do a little worse. Over time, minor scrapes became shallow cuts. It was an addiction. I got started, and then it became harder to stop. The more I did it, the more I wanted to do it.

A couple weeks later, I wrote this…

People can look at my smile and think I’m ok.  And I am.  But maybe there’s something behind it – intense fear maybe – that most people don’t see.  And maybe, deep down, I’ve wanted them to see it all along.  And maybe, in those few moments that I revealed what I’m hiding, I discovered who I really am.  Yeah, I’m that “monster” that allowed herself to be controlled by the panic attacks…  But maybe, deep down, maybe I’m also the girl that just was waiting to be told she was beautiful.  Maybe I was waiting to be told that those words weren’t supposed to mean what they did.  Maybe I was waiting for someone to believe that I really was hurting.  Maybe the girl that everyone thought was crazy just wanted to be loved and understood.  Does that make sense?  Or am I that “monster”?

And then a few days later I wrote this…

To everyone that’s ever hated me, you were right.  I’m an idiot.  To everyone that’s ever told me I’d be better off dead, you were right.  I wish I hadn’t been born right now.  To everyone who has ever told me that I wasn’t worth it, you were right.  If I died then, I had like no friends so it would’ve been easier to say goodbye and I would hurt way less people…  To everyone that ever hurt me, I’ve been angry at you, but it’s ok now because I understand you.  I’m that obnoxious, annoying, stupid, worthless idiot that you always thought I was.  Thanks for being honest even though it hurt a lot.  It ruined my life in a way but it showed me how awful I really am.

These were my thoughts. I hated myself. But I just wanted to be heard, to be understood. I wanted to understand why someone called me a monster when I had a panic attack that I didn’t know how to deal with. I learned quickly to keep everything inside. And then when I hurt myself I initially only told one person and even doing that much was hard.

The next day, I wrote this, which was part of what made me really want to stop.

Right now, I just feel so empty inside.  I don’t know but I hardly know who I am right now…  I’ve been told to be myself, but sometimes I don’t even know who that is.

Self-harm caused me to question the very foundation of who I was. I was doing things I never thought I would ever do. I was on a roller coaster that alternated between doing ok and hurting myself.

Now, I haven’t hurt myself for a while. But I still struggle with it every day. I pray every day for the strength to get through the day without doing it. Some days are worse than others. A lot of the time, I see gory images of myself covered in blood with stab and cut wounds all over. In my head, that image is portrayed as good. I fight with all my might and pray just to convince myself that the image really is not good. I fight and pray every day to not hurt myself. A lot more friends know now, so I have a lot of people to turn to for help. Finding healing has not been an easy process, but it is going. With self-harm, seemingly minor victories are major accomplishments, because each victory takes so much courage. Each day that I stay strong is another victory. And I am learning that this too can be a part of the beautiful story of my life that God is writing. It is broken, but He is making into something beautiful.