It had been nearly 2 years since I’ve had a self-injury incident but I had a few a couple of weeks ago. It’s so hard to explain to people who don’t understand… but it really does help me. There’s this buildup of such intense pressure; it just builds and builds and builds… and the energy needs to go somewhere. It’s like an extremely over-inflated balloon in danger of bursting… you let a little bit of air out and suddenly the crisis of a potential explosion is averted.
To some degree, my lack of self-injury in recent years was due to progress in therapy and learning better coping techniques and just getting things talked through and out in the open; that’s been the biggest antidote to my cutting– talking. I’ll admit that there have been many situations in the past few years where I definitely felt the strong urge to cut but I didn’t simply because of those who care about me– I knew it would upset and disappoint them not to mention it would embarrass me to have to admit to them what I had done to myself. I despise the shame that always follows… both the shame I put on my self as well as the shame that comes from seeing that humiliating look of disappointment on their face when they find out.
We’ve been working on the self-injury again in therapy as of about 3 weeks ago. I can’t recall exactly what she had said towards the end of one of our sessions but it was a reference to “that moment” of the first cut and seeing the blood. Apparently a tiny hint of a smile drifted across my lips and she said, “I saw that! What was that?” I was confused. “What was what?” She replied, “That little smile when you imagined that moment. I don’t think you even realized you were doing it. Let’s start there next week and explore that further.” So we’ve been talking about it a lot and doing some work with EMDR. She’s the second therapist I’ve had in all my years of therapy that has been open enough to leave me the freedom to still have it be a part of my life until I don’t need it to be any longer. I had one therapist a long time ago that said, “If that happens, I can’t continue to treat you. I need you to promise that you won’t do it or we will need to terminate this therapeutic relationship.” Interesting. Not a hint of giving me the tools to work through an emotional crisis but simply a “don’t do that anymore” method of treatment. Thanks, genius. Why hadn’t I thought of that!?
I can recall the very first time I injured myself. It began as hitting/punching. I honestly can’t say for sure how old I was but I have a perfectly clear memory of me sitting on my bedroom floor, in front of my mirror, and punching myself in the face over and over and over. I think I was about 5 or 6 years old. That’s pretty fucking young to have such a hatred for yourself. It wasn’t until years later that I “graduated” into cutting; as the years went by, I required more and more severe injuries to achieve the desired relief… much like a drug addict’s substance of choice, and the quantity of them, typically increases over the years as they require stronger things, and more of them, to achieve the same “high.”
I had a good friend tell me about 15 years ago that something happened to her one night that sort of helped her put my “coping mechanism of choice” into perspective for her. She said she and her husband had gotten into a terrible argument and he stormed out and left in a fury. She was left at home alone and sobbing. She tried to distract herself with busywork and started to iron some clothing. She said she continued to cry as she ironed clothes until suddenly, in her preoccupied state, she accidentally slid the iron right over her hand, causing a burn. She immediately went to tend to the injury and only later did she realize that in all the scurry to take care of that burn she had stopped crying and had momentarily been distracted enough to have forgotten all about the argument she and her husband had just had. She told me, “I think I kind of get it, now… in a small way.” She explained how the injury had made her forget about why she was crying in the first place. And she agreed that physical pain is by FAR easier to deal with than emotional pain and it was a welcome distraction.
It was such a relief to have a friend talk to me about it in that way… not everyone is so understanding. I’m always hesitant about who I tell and how I tell them. I had another friend around that same time whose response was, “OH MY GOD, YOU ARE A FREAK!! WHY WOULD YOU TELL ME THAT? AND WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO YOURSELF???? OH. MY. GOD. WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!??” It made me overwhelmingly cautious about who to tell from that day forward. And I’m terribly self-aware of all of the scars when I’m meeting new people for the first time. I don’t want that to be one of the first things people learn about me… I’m a good person and I have a lot to offer and don’t want to be judged up front by what they see to be a crippling character flaw.
Last week I finally watched the recent interview Diane Sawyer had with Bruce Jenner where he was discussing is lifelong struggle with his gender identity and his intent to someday undergo gender reassignment surgery. While my self-injury isn’t the same, so many things he said rang true for me and I really related to his struggle. At one point he said he had a “revelation.” He said, “Maybe this is my cause in life; maybe god put me on this earth to deal with this issue.” And that revelation seemed to give him courage to keep moving forward. He also said, “All of us deserve the right to be loved for exactly who we are.” That’s exactly what I need out all of my relationships.
Towards the end of the interview, Diane looked at him and asked, “If you were me, what’s the one question you would ask you?” He thought for a moment and offered a reply of, “Are you going to be OK?” So she proceeded to ask him that very question: “Are you going to be OK?” He said, “Yeah. I hope I’m gonna be OK. 2015’s gonna be quite a ride.” In closing, he said to the viewers, “When you think of me, please be open-minded. Have an open mind and an open heart. I’m not this bad person. I’m just doing what I have to do.”
It’s as though he pulled those words right out of my own head. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for myself… with regards to the scars all over my body and the truth behind how they got there; I want those who care about me to have an open mind and an open heart and still love me for exactly who I am.
“Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.”