When I was about 19 I started to cut myself. I used to cut up and down my inner forearms. I used to cut in winter because I was able to cover my scars with a cardigan or a jacket. I used to wrap them in bandages when I couldn’t use a jacket and told people I had injured myself. I always had an excuse for why I was covering my arms.
Cutting is just one of several methods of self-harm. When I cut myself it was either because I couldn’t feel anything and I wanted to or because the physical pain would provide a brief respite from the emotional suffering I was experiencing. It was never about suicide or wanting to die. It was a way to regulate my emotions or to make me feel them. A person healthier than me, saner than I am can find other ways to stabilise themselves through emotional turmoil, they have healthier ways of coping.
There was a time where if you were to look at my arms you’d see cuts from the elbows to the wrists but I haven’t cut myself in at least a year. If you look at my arms now you’d see tattoos. My tattoos mean a lot to me, they symbolise my struggles with mental health, the ones on my arms they stop me from being able to cut the way that I used to. I don’t tell many people that reason but it is important to share it now. I still get the urges to cut myself and the problem is that I would cut anywhere else if meant that I could get away with it but I try not to. I try to find other ways to cope.
Along with my tattoos I’ve started to practice ways to avoid hurting myself. When I feel the need to self-harm I stay out of the bathroom – that is where I would do the cutting. If I really don’t trust myself I ask Rob to sit with me until the feeling passes. I used to put an elastic band around my wrist and flick myself when I had the urge. My psychologist has also suggested I hold onto an ice cube long enough for it to hurt a little bit and the feeling to self-harm goes away.
I realise I hurt my loved ones when I hurt myself but it was never about needing others to notice, needing someone to rescue me or hurting anyone else. When I’m like this I can never see past my own pain and I look to end the suffering. Knowing I was hurting others sometimes pushed me further towards self-harm. I have a friend who I’ve referred to as Johnny before; when he is worried about me he will always say “Remember, no cutting!” To make me understand the severity of my self-harm he once referred to me as a junkie and explained that the cutting was my drug. I didn’t stop for any one person but rather I realised how toxic and unhealthy my behaviour was and no matter how well I seemed, I would never truly be on the road to recovery if I was still cutting myself.
It’s not easy to ignore the urge when it comes. Especially now, being so depressed and getting worse, sometimes it is all I can think of. I’ve locked up most of the feelings. I know I am hurting but I can’t get to those feelings, typically I would hurt myself to set myself free for a few moments. I didn’t say it was rational. I can’t describe to you this feeling I have. It is sadness and it is emptiness, it is apathy and it is restlessness. It is feeling lonely but not wanting to talk to anyone. It is when you want to reach out but aren’t able to open up. It is when you want to hide your feelings but overwhelm yourself with the pain. It is when you want to prove you can be better but all the ways you used to deal with your pain begin to surface again.