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The Quiet Shame of Self-Injury

Self-Injury is a shameful secret many of us hold and we can often see no real way out. If you self-injure, please know that there is hope for you. Click here for more information about coping with self-harm.

This is her story:

i haven’t engaged in self-injury since april 8, 2004.

six months before my wedding years after i started dating my husband. just over three months after my stepfather died.

my soon-to-be husband and i were about to move in with my mom and younger brother to help fix up the house and pay the bills. it was a good arrangement – i was living with my dad for the first time since my parent’s divorce, and it was not an ideal situation.

he didn’t know how to deal with my craziness. he didn’t know what to do with a grown daughter who had trouble holding a job, was a recovering addict, was clinically depressed.

he didn’t know what to do when i would bang my head into the wall, lock myself into a closet, have to walk out of a room in the middle of a sentence. just because i haven’t cut, i don’t think that means i haven’t been involved in self injury, or si, self-harm, self-injurious behavior, as it is also referred to.

self-injury includes many types of injury or mutilation – cutting, burning, picking, biting. some people consider trichotillomania (self-pulling of hair) in the scope of si, even though it has it’s own diagnosis.

self injury

there is no fancy word for cutters. we cut. we burn. we bite. we scratch. we self injure. that’s it. i first identified myself as a cutter when i was 12.

TRIGGER

i realized that physical pain of the cut almost released the emotional pain i felt. as i got older, i could look back and see even more instances of it. i remembered biting my fingers and hands until they bled when i was only 5. i can’t remember what made me want to do that, but i remember feelings of emptiness, even then. i remember pulling out my hair around the age of 7 or 8. i remember digging my fingernails into my palm hard enough to break skin. at those ages,

i do not consciously remember why i did what i was doing.

i only remember doing it, and that some how it made me feel better.

i don’t know where i got the idea. i hadn’t seen a television special, i didn’t have any friends cutting. many people think it’s a goth or emo thing, that girls do it to seem cool or special or mysterious. that they do it because their friends do, because it makes them hard or whatever the
fuck stupid people think. i didn’t know anyone who cut or self-harmed in any way.

TRIGGER

i do remember taking a pen cap and scraping it back and forth across my arm hard enough and long enough that i drew scraggly lines of blood.

TRIGGER

there was this initial release, like the darkness escaping, and then this delicious numbness spread through my body.

TRIGGER

before the blood had even dried, i methodically started to clean up with tissues. this would become a ritualistic experience for me.

i stole a paring knife from the kitchen, hid it in a drawer, and knew i had an option at all times. i can’t explain why, but the ritual became almost as important as the cutting.

TRIGGER

i would get my secret stash of hydrogen peroxide and gauze. i’d cut, i’d bleed, i’d revel in the numbness. then i’d clean up the blood, clean out the cut, wrap up in bandages. by the time i was around 15, it got worse.

TRIGGER

i would enter almost a trancelike state, methodically cutting and bloodletting for hours at a time. i’d make small cuts, long cuts, perpendicular cuts.

TRIGGER

instead of using the paper towels to clean up, i’d press them to my cuts so the blood would seep into it, then save them in my notebook. i know, it sounds horrifying. then i decided it would make more sense to do that on the actual paper – i would be able to keep them forever.

i still have them. i cannot get rid of them.

i was always afraid of being discovered.

my scars and cuts were not a badge to show my friends, they did not make me cool. i cut almost everywhere, and had ways to hide everything. i did not want to have to explain how it made me feel.

TRIGGER

i cut my forearms rarely, although that is the only place i now have scars. i cut my thighs, my calves, my shoulders, my hips, my stomach, my breasts. i would cut, bleed, mark, clean, wrap. constantly.

i finally got caught out at 16. i had a fight with my boyfriend, went home, got high, and put on hole’s ‘live through this’. i don’t even remember getting my paring knife or other tools.

TRIGGER

i do know that i spent almost five hours smoking pot and carving the lyrics from two songs into my legs. i didn’t do my own laundry at the time, and ended up throwing out the sheet i had on my bed at the time because of the blood. i didn’t want anyone to know. i was ashamed and afraid and addicted.

my boyfriend found out.

we were talking about our fight, sitting on his couch. i pulled my leg up under me, and my jeans leg rode up. he saw my calf and made me take off my pants. he then told me he wouldn’t see me anymore unless i told my mother.

i did.

i told my mother, she got me counseling. he did stay with me for a few more months. he tried. i continued cutting on a near-daily basis for years, until i was 20. i moved in with my dad after his second divorce. i still had my knife; i needed to have it. i went almost four years without cutting. i was helping my soon-to-be husband move into my mother’s house. i don’t know what set me off, but i needed my knife and couldn’t find it. this made it worse.

TRIGGER

i took out my keychain-sized swiss army knife and dug into my upper arm until i bled.

i haven’t cut since then. but i haven’t stopped self injuring.

i cannot.

i have scratched my face until it bled. i have banged my head on a tile floor hard enough to concuss myself. i have pulled hunks of hair out in frustration. i bite my tongue until it is raw and bleeding at times. i pick and pinch at myself more than i care to admit. i have gone to get a tattoo in desperation to feel something (incidentally, not the right reason for ink).

the worst part is, and i think any cutter will agree with this. the worst part is that we do what we do TO FEEL SOMETHING. but the problem is we already feel too much. we have so much (fill in the emotion) inside us, that we need to feel something else.

is it that we need to feel something we can control?

like eating disorders, is it about having control over something in our lives when it feels like everything else is out of control?

do i cut or self harm so that I AM IN CHARGE OF MY PAIN… at least for a few minutes?

Ask The Band: I Think My Boss Wants To Sleep With Me

I know this is going to sound totally gross and the more I go on the grosser it’s going to sound, but please, hear me out. I’m in trouble here, folks.

I think my boss wants to sleep with me

When I say I think, I mean I’m about 97.5% certain.

He’s not just my boss; he’s also my friend. He’s also 62. He’s also my best friend’s dad. He’s also married. And I could say all sorts of shit, like ‘He’s 62 but he’s a YOUNG 62,’ or ‘He’s married, but his wife’s a drunk and from the outside it sure looks like they have a craptastic marriage,’ but that is making excuses. I’m not doing that.

In the last several months we’ve become good friends. There are times when we’re alone at the office and we hang out and chat. We talk about all sorts of stuff: music, arts, culture, literature, blah blah blah blah blah. He’s interesting and funny and a really good friend.

Years ago I dated a man who was 29 years my senior. I’ve never hidden that. In fact, when I started working at my current place of employment the (old) gentlemen and I were still together. In one of the many conversations the boss and I have had he mentioned that he hadn’t understood that relationship until recently. That I was just delightful to be around or some tune similar to that. I tell you right now just to save you all the time that I most definitely have daddy issues. Being a young lady in her early twenties dating men in their fifties isn’t the norm. I never thought it was gross though. I still don’t.

I’m not entirely sure that I wouldn’t do it. I’m really curious. Not curious enough to ruin a friendship, marriage, my job, etc., but curious enough to let my mind wander. Also can I mention that this is a huge fucking distraction in the workplace?!

That sounds bad, huh? Like I’m a bad person. I’m not, I’m just so fucking confused by the whole thing. But I’m listening to my gut here, and my gut’s telling me that this is what he wants.

I haven’t been 100% honest with you guys. I totally let him take pictures of me. You know the kind. Twice. He’s full on into photography, took hundreds of pictures just like mine years ago, has some bad ass camera equipment, never said anything inappropriate while the sessions were taking place, was super professional and I know everyone says this, but they were tasteful! And the second batch? Well, I think they are the prettiest pictures anyone has ever taken of me.

I know, doing shit like that opens the door to stupid and I just didn’t believe that would happen. All these little things keep adding up and the only conclusion I can come to is that my boss wants to sleep with me. I’m not saying he would or that it will happen, but my instincts are telling me something is there.

Has anyone ever dealt with anything like this? I need help, The Band.

Dose of Happy: I Fought The Man ‘O’ War and The Man ‘O’ War Won

One of the weirder phobias I have–aside of my fear of tomatoes touching my food–is that I’m terrified of fish. I don’t mean that if I see an aquarium, I’m going to break out into a cold sweat and start crying, no, even I’m not THAT insane.

But since I can remember, my parents have been taking us to tropical places–I know, poor baby, right?–and along with tropical places = snorkeling.

When I was 4 or 5, my parents bravely took us to Mexico and in a stunning fit of idiocy on their part, they left my brother and I to swim alone while they leisurely relaxed in a cliff-type thing above us. Out of sight, out of mind, I think, was the idea. Having three kids of my own, I understand the urge. But I’m still unsure what the fuck they were thinking to leave a 14 year old in charge of a 4 year old in the ocean.

Because my brother promptly ditched me to go and strut his lack of muscles in front of a couple of bikini clad babes.

I could swim, though, so I just waded into the water.

What happened next has been replayed over and over in my mind for the next 24 years.

The fish, accustomed to friendly humans who might feed them delicious treaties, swarmed me. Since I wasn’t underwater myself, I couldn’t see their beautiful swirling colorful fins. Instead, I saw a bunch of black THINGS just swarm me.

I screamed so loudly that pretty much everyone at the beach–including my lazy parents– came running. Maybe they thought I’d been half eaten by a Jaws-like shark, or perhaps I caught sight of a fat hairy dude in a Speedo. Who knows.

All that I do know is that for years after this, I had to force myself to go into the ocean, shaking and terrified, every time we went on vacation. The fear would subside the moment I was under the crystal blue water, but up until that point, I’d be silently shaking in my swimsuit.

Our last family vacation happened in 2000. My brother–recovering from a nasty divorce and full-on taking every bad feeling out on me–was 30, I was 20. My parents made the grave error of leaving us alone to share a room where we fought like it was 1999.

This is likely WHY this was our last vacation as a family.

One of the days that we were there in Cozumel, we went to some renowned beach to get some snorkeling done and generally laze about the beach. By this age, I can assure you, I wasn’t upset that my parents didn’t watch me swim. In fact, I welcomed the opportunity to get the fuck away from everyone else and have some relative solitude in the waves.

I’m a decent swimmer, so once I got past the rocks and coral at the mouth of the beach–where, of course, in my normal good gracefulness, I fell and cut the shit out of my foot–I got pretty far away from the lip of the beach where I could get in and out of the water. This beach wasn’t really full of sand, you see. It was more the coral and other stuff that will cut a bitch (like me) up.

But I relished the soft whooshing of the ocean in my ears as I snorkeled about, following a family of yellow and blue fish around and trying to forget the hysterics of the morning. My brother had called me a worthless piece of shit for the 437th time that hour and I crumpled into a pile of tears outside of our villa. The 5,000 feral cats who’d been following me about swarmed me as I cried. It was strangely comforting.

It was wonderful to feel so free. There’s something so comforting about the soft lull of the waves, the ability to be a voyeur into another world, and after my initial fear, I am always reluctant to get out of the water.

Out of nowhere, as I was admiring a particularly delightful looking puffer fish, my body caught fire. I was electrified, my body searing in pain and I began to hyperventilate.

I popped my head above water to see if I’d run into some electrified fence (I was in pain and terrified. I know how dumb that sounds now), nothing. I forced my face down under the water to see what I’d obviously run into. If it were a school of jelly fish, then I’d do well to make sure to swim AWAY from it rather than into the swarm. Still, I could see nothing.

I swam choppily back toward shore, hyperventilating and panicking, now noticing just how fucking far away I was from the beach. I looked down at my arms and legs and saw with horror that I was now a mess of criss-crossed red welts, from my legs to my arms and my chest.

Finally, after what had to be at least two hours (read: 3 minutes), I grabbed hold of a ladder and hoisted myself shakily up to the beach. I sat at the edge of the cliff-type, surveying the damage and trying to catch my breath, crying heavily. I was breathing so shallowly that I was starting to white out, and using the last bit of my common senseI crawled back away from the edge, lest I fall to my watery death below. This time, I really could have used a chaperone.

I passed out for I don’t know how long, and when I woke up, the welts had turned to bleeding blisters and I had uncontrollable goose bumps without being cold and a good case of the shakes. I was now officially fucked up.

Eventually, my mother found me and helped me back to a towel and gave me a medicinal Pina Colada. The rest of the vacation–including the following day which was a snorkeling boat cruise sort of thing–was uneventful by comparison. If that horse bucks you and all that good boo-yang, right?

—————

What’s attacked YOU, Internet whom I love beyond compare?

Post originally published on Mommy Wants Vodka

Sound Check 4/3/19

What is UP The Band?

It’s Aunt Becky here rocking the suburbs like Ratt tried (and failed) to do. Even with two “t’s?”

March was a weird month for me – it felt that it both flew by and was extra long, although we all did survive the Ides of March, though, tragically Caesar did not. Presumably, if you’re reading this, you did, indeed survive. Congrats!

On Sunday, we had an excellent amount of posts come in for trans visibility day, so if you haven’t seen them, I suggest you do.

This month, we’re mixing things up like Grand Master Flash, so please take a gander:

You can post any post about anything – as always – but we’re looking for all kinds of stories and writers and non-writers. In fact, we’ll happily take any and all posts that have been published before. Don’t worry if you’re not a writer because we have an excellent editing team (shout out to Rosalie)!

I’m super excited for all of your posts, especially the “hear’s the deal” ones. See, for these posts, you get to be open, honest, and explicit about something in your life, such as here’s the deal for Autism. Or loving an addict. Or, as you will see tomorrow (TUNE IN), my own post about the state of mental healthcare. Really, vent away!

I know some of the stories you could tell aren’t “as bad” as the others, but that doesn’t change them from being important – we’re not running the pain olympics and as far as we’re concerned, if you have a story, tell it. I know, I know, it’s hard to do, but it’s a task I’m making myself do, because it matters. All of it. It all matters.

You can even do it anonymously, if you so desire.

And as always, we’re expanding. I’m hoping that we do, in fact, get moved to the next theme, which our site guy Matt is taking care of. We know this theme is a bit wonky so we’re mixing it up and making it a bit more user friendly with functioning things like links.

If you don’t already follow us, you can find us out and about on social media (shout out to our amazing team of social media gurus who make everything easier for us!)

Twitter

Facebook Page

Facebook Group

Instagram

Tumblr 

Pinterest

I’m really thrilled to read all of your stories this month, and remember this: you can write anything about any subject at any time. Don’t feel constrained by the calendar.

If you need me, you know where to find me: becky@bandbacktogether.com

Loves you!

Aunt Becky

Dose of Happy: The Simple Life

This post was previously written on Mommy Wants Vodka, October 2012.

Moving is not my forte. Well, I suppose that moving is NO ONE’s forte, but there are people who move for a living, so perhaps they enjoy their job. I can’t be sure. So I’ll go with “most people hate to move.” I, myself, as previously stated, am one of those people.

It’s not the packing or unpacking, it’s the goodbyes that go along with it. While moving from a house to an apartment wasn’t quite the same sort of job that required actual movers or anything, it was still hard to say goodbye to the home I’d been lovingly restoring for years. I never expected to leave.

I’d begun moving on Wednesday, the day after the Comcast debacle began, which, I’m beginning to doubt that Comcast actually DOES care, or they wouldn’t have made me waste approximately two days to get Internet, but that, my wonderful Pranksters, is neither here nor there. (but it does make an excellent story for another day)

Box after box, I loaded into the van, pretending to be an overly large ant simply bringing offerings to the queen. It helps if I can visualize something like that or I get annoyed at the bruises that now make it appear as though I’ve been thoroughly beaten with whips and chains or boxes I happened to fill just this side of too heavy.

the simple life

Three trips later, we were nearly done transporting boxes from this place to my new home, all over but the furniture and a couple of boxes that could only be packed at the last minute because they contained items like, “Marshmallow Fluff” and “Socks.” I mean, a day without socks is a day not worth living, and I wasn’t stupid enough to wear flimsy flippity-flops to move in, although that does seem to be something I’d do. Four inch heals? Sure! Let’s go run a marathon! Imma beat you motherfuckers! Just as soon as I fix this broken heel and nurse the 27 blisters on my feet that I got already. Wait, it’s ONLY been two minutes? That’s bullshit. 

It was weird, seeing my life packed up like that. I’d always thought that I had more stuff, but it turns out that my ritual purging had truly paid off. And not just because I’d already managed to dump my shit at the scary Salvation Army donations center, but because my life in boxes? Turns out, that well before this debacle began, I’d purged just the right amount of stuff to fit into my one-bedroom apartment. In fact, the only things I really needed to make my house a home were pieces of (cheap) furniture.

Target, you are my BFF forever and ever and ever. Except for the Pranksters who are my family.

Saturday, I brought my Muppet girlchild with me to the U-haul place nearby to pick up one of those truck thingies and managed to fill it – in one trip – with the furniture I could call my own, which means that I’ve been able to actually sit somewhere that is not the floor while I sort through my crap.

Slowly, I’ve been unpacking, cleaning, and placing things in my very own space. Because the space is smaller than the home I once lived in, it’s been much easier to utilize the space that I do have, paring down the items I own further, and making my apartment my home.

While leaving my home of 7 years has been incredibly hard, for the first time in my life, everything seems simpler.

the simple life

More put together.

the simple life

Calmer. More organized.

And happier.

the simple life

Much, much happier.