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.
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.
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.
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.
there was this initial release, like the darkness escaping, and then this delicious numbness spread through my body.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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?
Last night, after my session, (which was a combination service and whipping session that, in itself made me feel better) I treated myself to a cleansing evening at the local Spa. I sat in the heat and watched the parade of local naked girlies walk by and I realized something:
We women come in a LOT of shapes and sizes. Very few of them Playboy-ready.
- The adorable curvy girls who mentioned being from the Pacific Northwest and sported HUGE dark bushes to prove it.
- The skinny ass lil tattooed and shaved (yes, down there. No landing strip, no nothing) Emo Girl types.
- The HUGE chicks. Both tall and… well. Just big. Two of them. Gorgeous and loud.
- The tiny little Asian girls who sat in the water with their towel wrapped around them. Can’t tell you much of what was under there. It was tiny, and I’m thinking pretty firm.
- The freaking adorable young blond with the tight ass, the tiny waist and the perfect perky boobies (not to mention the HUGE ovarian reserves) who probably hated her body as much as the rest of us do because she doesn’t like… well…. I’m not sure what there was to not like, but I know she was of the age where she doesn’t feel she measures up to what she, in her mind, should.
- The other mommies with our soft bodies and stretch marks.
- And, as in any Korean Spa, the obligatory 60+-year-old women who used the sitting shower the entire hour I was there. And yes, graphically scrubbed both the front AND the back door. Oh, my eyes!
So yes, I may not like my mommy belly, my sloppy boobies, or my extra IVF pounds. I may someday get a Mommy Makeover, but I’m about in the middle. Not so bad for being 41 with four kids.
And never ever working out. Ever. Even my Wii fit has given up on me. She just looks at me and says.. oh, YOU again…
I think we should all get to spend a couple of hours sitting in the hot steam of a Spa and realize: we all have our curves and our cellulite and our war wounds, but we are all pretty awesome when we are naked. It all adds up to make us what we are; who we’ve become.
So once my number was finally called and I was taken to the massage room – and not the private, darkened, quiet massage room where they step out for a minute so that you can position yourself on a pre-warmed massage table under neither a protective layer of sheets – but a large room, lit with fluorescent lighting and filled with massage tables, where a smiling lady women strips you of your towel and positions you by force, naked on a wet plastic massage table, and starts tossing hot buckets of water on you.
Thankfully she will toss a towel over your face to prevent you from opening your eyes and accidentally seeing the women on the next massage table over treated much like your dog at the groomer.
Just like you are about to be.
Sounds humiliating, but they get in and exfoliate and massage EVERYTHING. They get on top of you and dig their knees into your butt so they can get a better grip on your shoulders. They spread your legs so they can make sure those inner thighs are smooth as silk. They flip you, turn you twist you and stretch you until they knock the cry-baby right out.
Then they toss a couple more buckets of hot water on you and start again.
You leave feeling like a new person.
my dad was, and still is, a serious control freak. he wants everything to go his way, all the time, forever. His need to control + my rebellious streak – any display of love or affection = a seriously fucked up child.
i’d love to write this on my regular blog, but it would upset the people who know me (and we both know that i shouldn’t upset others, right?), so i’m writing it on the down-low. anyway, this is more for me than for you, because you would never admit to fucking up. mom has put up with a lot of shit to stay married to you for 44 years, but i don’t feel sorry for her because we both know she loves to play the martyr. you two are a textbook case of how not to raise a daughter, and i’ll get to mom in another blog. this one’s for you-
i know that you and mom “had” to get married. i know that you weren’t thrilled about it. i also know that you really wanted a son, but you got me instead. while i made do with the john deere tractor and matching wagon, you and i both know i really wanted the barbie corvette. so barbie and her friends went on lots of hayrides, no biggie. because i loved you.
lesson #1- be happy with whatever i get and don’t be disappointed; any affection i may receive depends on this.
we had fun when i was little. we played football with pillows in the trailer that i grew up in, you pretended to be a horse so i could ride on your back. except you always bucked me off, every time. you’d hide in the bathroom down the narrow hall and call to me and when i came to you, you’d jump out of the dark and scare me. i hated that game, and tried to refuse, but mom would insist i go every time. when mom called that dinner was ready, you’d always hold me back and say that i didn’t get to eat. even though i knew it was a game, i didn’t like it. now that i think about it, your sense of humor was somewhat sadistic. but i didn’t see it that way at the time. because i loved you.
lesson #2 – play along, even when i don’t want to.
when i was small, and did something wrong, you whipped me. you had that fucking collection of belts and always made me pick one. i took a long time choosing, hoping you would change your mind, but you never did. i always chose the red, white, and blue one, because if i had to get whipped, it should be with a pretty belt. and it wasn’t just one or two times. no, you beat my ass. and bare legs. and back. and arms.
i stole some of your coin collection to use in the gum ball machine at the trailer court. it was only a couple of wheat pennies and a dime, but you found me at the gum ball machine and my heart got stuck in my throat. you had a wire coat hanger in your right hand and it was summer and i was wearing shorts. you beat me with that wire hanger all the way to the trailer and that was a long way and i couldn’t run fast because i was only 4. and still, i loved you.
and that time you got mad ’cause mom made chili in july. i was still in a highchair, even though i was 3. i dumped my chili onto the metal tray and you swore at me for wasting food. you grabbed me by my shirt and pulled me out of the highchair. my legs got all cut up because you didn’t take the tray off first. then you threw me on the floor of the living room, and that’s how my favorite top got ripped. then you grabbed a belt from your collection and started beating me and you wouldn’t stop. mom finally pulled you away and threw you out. she let you come back, though. because she needed you more than she loved me. i asked mom to fix my top, but she threw it away instead.
lesson #3 – i am bad, and being hurt by someone i love is acceptable. in fact, i should expect it. i need to learn the art of survival, nobody else is going to protect me.
you have never told me you loved me. never. not once. you have never told me you are proud of me. not ever. not when i graduated from college, or grad school, or got straight a’s, or stuck with my crappy marriage for so long, or left said crappy marriage when it was time. i craved your approval like an addict craves that next hit off the pipe, knowing it will never be enough. and i chased after your approval the way a child chases their shadow, knowing that they will never catch it but always hoping against hope that this time might be different. and i never hated you for it. instead, i hated myself for not being enough.
lesson #4 – it’s not you. it’s me. and it will always be me, even when it’s you.
you had a girlfriend on the side, beginning when i was 5, and ending around the time i went away to college. i know this because i rode the bus with her son in high school. he told me all about how you’d come over on christmas day when he was little. i always wondered why you left after we’d opened presents. you were going to your other family. the one with two boys.
remember that time when i was a senior in high school and my friend viki and i saw your truck at your girlfriend’s house? i rang the doorbell and asked your girlfriend if you were there and i told her who i was. after viki and i drove away, we hid in a driveway and watched you speed past us in your truck, racing towards home. and we laughed because we knew you couldn’t touch me. not unless you wanted to tell mom what you were so pissed about.
mom still doesn’t know about that time i called your girlfriend at work and called her a whore and a bitch and demanded that army picture of you back. the one that mom kept asking about and you kept telling her that you’d left it in your locker at work. only it wasn’t in your locker, was it? it was on your girlfriend’s tv, because her son told me. you brought the picture home that night. that’s when you stopped looking me in the eye and started hating me. because you’d been caught by your daughter. and i began to hate you right back.
and when you suddenly decided not to pay for grad school, i became a stripper to pay for it myself. because i had learned the art of survival.
lesson #5 – i have nothing to lose and it feels good to be a bitch.
you stopped hugging me when i turned 10, and i’m pretty sure it had something to do with my going through puberty. especially when you went on a trip and brought me back that cleveland browns sweatshirt, threw it in my general direction while averting your eyes and said, “here, this will cover up your bumps.” nice way to encourage a young girl to have pride in her body. so i started covering up my bumps, all the time. when i was in my late 20’s, i got rid of my bumps altogether by developing anorexia. then i had to cover up my bones. i began to loathe myself.
lesson #6 – my body is sexual, and sexuality is bad.
the only birthday of mine that you ever came to was when i turned 5. i still remember it because that’s the birthday i got my first barbie. you took her away and wouldn’t give her back. you thought that was funny and i played along so you would stay. to this day, i occasionally find myself playing along, for fear of being abandoned or pissing someone off. when i was 17, you never came to my high school graduation. i know this because when i got home after the ceremony, the ticket i’d left for you on the kitchen table was still there. you were still pissed about me finding you at your girlfriend’s two months prior, and calling her at her job. because i’d stopped playing along.
lesson #7 – when i stop playing along, you will hate me.
in high school, you started to have me followed, instead of sitting me down and asking me about what was going on in my life, you got kids from the trailer court to tell you shit about me, a full $5 for each bit of information. that’s how you found out i smoked, drank, got high, and had a black best friend. you even sent two guys on my fucking spring break trip to daytona beach. i know this because on the last night, we all got drunk together and they told me. then they proceeded to tell me your name, my full name, where i lived and what you wanted to know. i wasn’t even safe from you 1,000 miles away.
can i just tell you how fucked up that is? that is seriously fucked up. i was the most paranoid teenager i knew, even without the pot.
you made me stop being friends with kim, you beat my ass when you found out i smoked and you grounded me for three months for drinking. fuck you. i started getting high with my dealer’s 16-year-old wife before school, i went through the bottle of vodka you had hidden in your cupboard, filling it with water instead. that’s right dad, the more you tightened the screws, the more i fucked up. i went to school drunk every day, or high, or both. i hid beers in my bedroom and drank them when you were asleep. i smoked in the bathroom after you and mom left for work. i feared getting caught, but the rush was incredible.
lesson #8 – my father is out to get me, and he will always find me.
you wouldn’t let me date the same guy twice, because you didn’t want me to get pregnant, the way mom did. you wanted me to get an education and be someone. or something. not for my sake, but so that you could say you had a college-educated child. and i was so terrified of getting pregnant that i didn’t had sex until i was 19. and then i slept with every guy i wanted to when i went away to college. because i could, and you had never taught me to respect my body. you had only taught me to get away with whatever i could. i never enjoyed the sex, but being sneaky felt awesome.
lesson #9 – sex is about power and revenge.
when i was in my final year of grad school, i met my future husband, only i didn’t know it at the time. i was smart and i knew about birth control. but when you should have taught me confidence, i learned fear. where self-esteem should have been, there was an empty well, waiting to be filled by someone else’s ideas and beliefs. fear of abandonment took the place of knowing my own worth. standing my ground was replaced by an aching need to please, at any cost. so when my future husband said “no rubbers, please” i said “ok”. because i needed to be loved, and i was afraid of losing him.
lesson #10 – do whatever i have to do make other people happy. my thoughts and feelings don’t count and should be kept to myself. they will only make others stop loving me.
and then i got pregnant. your biggest fear. and because you were my biggest fear, and because i didn’t believe in myself, and because my boyfriend didn’t want a baby and because i didn’t want to be abandoned, i had an abortion. then the self-hatred really kicked in.
lesson #11 – all decisions should be based on fear.
it has taken me 20+ years to undo what you did to me. everyday i untangle a bit more of the knot, trying to smooth out the yarn. it’s still good yarn, and everyday i knit myself.
lesson #12 – you made me stronger, smarter, tougher and braver. so fuck you.
As a child of a covert narcissist, who spent every day breaking down any self-esteem I might accidentally grow, I was a prime target for my malignant narcissist of an ex-husband.
Keep in mind that there never has been and never will be an actual diagnosis for either my mother or my ex. Both fought like hell against any hint of therapy because there was nothing wrong with them, everything was my fault.
There are many stories, some I have already told, and this one, which I never thought would see the light of day.
I don’t even want to think about it, never mind discuss it with anyone. But people need to know that it exists, that it happens, and that it’s not OK.
I married my “high school sweetheart” AKA, a predator who targeted someone vulnerable 3 years his junior. Now, the age difference wouldn’t matter if we had been grown, mature adults. As a matter of fact, my current wonderful husband is 7 years older than me. But then, my ex was my first real boyfriend, and as I said earlier, I was raised in a dysfunctional family in which the normal was not normal.
I was taught to serve, to ignore my own needs in favour of other’s wants. I learned that I didn’t matter. I had no choices, no opinions of my own. I was a mirror.
And that continued throughout my marriage. I was perfectly broken and ready to be used.
From the beginning, he taught me that it was my fault if he was in pain. Physical, mental, financial, it was all my responsibility.
That continued into the bedroom.
Sex was not a loving act between two cherished partners, it was a power play. If he had a need, I was to fulfill it. If he had a desire, I was to play the part. Women were his enemies and only to be used. His porn addiction was out of control, and this was before the internet, so our bedroom was filled with falling down piles of the most degrading magazines he could get his hands on. I was only the receptacle, not the object of desire. I was too fat, too ugly and nothing about me was good enough.
He groomed me to be meek and accepting that he was the only one in the world who would ever put up with me and I needed to be grateful that I had him, because otherwise I would die alone. I was only acceptable as long as I did what I was told.
I was expected to be “ready and willing” at any time, any place, because you see, blue balls are fatal.
I bet you didn’t know that.
My sex education was brief at best, back in 1980ish and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t covered. As the years dragged on, I was barely even worth being a receptacle.
The worst part was when he…couldn’t.
That would bring the rage. That was when the worst times happened. If he couldn’t do it himself, he used whatever was at hand, including a police issued nightstick. He bought this illegally, as normal citizens aren’t allowed to have these in my country. This added to the thrill, I guess.
What it has done to me over the years has led to a deep fear of police. It’s not a straight line, there are many other stories involved, but that’s a biggie.
As a boring, law abiding middle-aged white woman, I actually have very few encounters with police officers. (Yeah, white privilege at work, sigh).
In the past few years, my PTSD has made me absolutely terrified of even the briefest encounter. Why it waited 20 years to fuck with my head like this, I have no idea, but my therapist does. I’ve been working on my fragile mental health for about 10 years now, one thing at a time, and she tells me that my brain will withhold things that I am not prepared to deal with yet. As I have gotten other things somewhat under control, my suicidal thoughts, my OCD, my anxiety, and depression have a little less hold on me. And then, slowly, over a few years, I found myself avoiding anyone in a uniform that might remind me. Whether a soldier, a police officer, or even a security guard if he has a nightstick or a gun, I will freeze and go into a panic attack.
This is interfering with my life dammit!
I am so angry at my stupid brain. I am absolutely terrified of getting stopped by the police, even for something benign.
What would I do?
My big fear is that I will bolt and not be able to communicate why I am acting erratically and get arrested. I fear my heart would stop, like a terrified rabbit caught in a trap. I
fear that I will have another nervous breakdown. I fear I would never recover.
But I’m working on it. I am going to beat it, I swear.
This particular mind-dragon is a powerful one, but not invincible. I have proven that over and over again in my recovery. I am worth the work, I deserve peace.
Session by session with my trauma therapist, day by day with my husband, we are all fighting for me. If you are reading this and you have experienced marital rape, you are worth it too! It’s not right, it’s not OK and it’s not your fault. Please use the resources here at The Band, and know that there are people who care and who can help.
This shell of mine is cracking.
I try to hide it under duct tape
But that’s no longer working.
I can’t take another setback,
I think I have suffered enough.
I deserve to be happy
To be loved
To be surrounded by people who cheer me on
Not tear me down.
Yet life does not agree with me.
It says that I don’t matter
Unless someone needs something:
A detective/private investigator
A human punching bag.
Life says that I am not good enough.
That I will never be anything more than what I am.
That I am beating my head into a brick wall.
That I should wake up and see that the shitty life I live–
Is all I’m worth.
Life says that my lot in life is to be alone
To watch others have all the fun, joy peace, happiness.
To hide away from the world–ignored and unaccepted.
Sadly, I’ve grown tired of fighting life.
My head is pretty battered from the beating it has taken.
I have chosen to give up,
To silently and quickly murder my dreams
And play alone with the dark shadows of my mind.
I was never going to write on here. I was going to comment and offer support… but I was never going to write about how I felt.
“It’ll go away later,” I’d tell myself. “There worse things out there in life than feeling down every now and then.” “Everyone gets overwhelmed this time of year.”
But then I wonder if it’s worse than that.
I’ve always been relatively smart. My elementary school wanted me to advance to 2nd grade during Kindergarten. I was in Beta Club and always enjoyed school. Then, in the 3rd grade, my parents split up. I vaguely remember an incident where my dad hit my mom. They got back together when I was in 6th grade. But, things weren’t going well.
We moved after 6th grade. My best friend had moved away a year earlier and I had a hard time making new friends in my new town.
I was smart… and smart kids aren’t the cool kids.
So, I dumbed myself down.
Things weren’t good at home, either. My parents were not happy and it showed. My mom had a meeting with my teacher’s my sophomore year of high school to discuss my poor grades and my English teacher told her it was because I was bored with school. It was too easy for me, and I had given up.
I had driven myself to the point that I actually told my mother that I wanted to kill myself.
To this day I can not guarantee that it was an empty threat.
After we moved, everything about me changed. I became my mother… she gets upset too easily. She’s depressed. As far as I know, she’s not gotten help for it and she’s always telling me to stop getting “into tizzies.”
I’ve been in some bad relationships where I was used and cheated on and emotionally abused. I was called a “butterface” (everything is okay about her, but her face), ugly, and fat. I think the worst thing people made fun of me for was my nose. It’s on the larger side and now every time I look at myself in the mirror all I see is that damn nose.
How it makes me far from perfect.
I’m engaged now and I love my fiance with all of my heart and I know he loves me, too…but there’s this voice that comes out every now and then and eats away at me.
That voice says that he deserves someone beautiful and he’s going to find her and leave me. My self-esteem is not great.
I trust that he loves me and won’t leave me… but that voice in my head won’t shut up.
The best way to describe how I feel is when you go to a store like Best Buy. If you go to the back of the store where all the TVs are, and you put each TV on a different channel and close your eyes. All those voices, all the things running through your mind – and I can’t make it stop.
My self-esteem is so very low. I can’t even make simple decisions like what I want to eat for dinner. If I go to make a speech or presentation in class, I get so shaky I can barely stand up, let alone speak. In some classes I can’t understand the material, so I cry.
When Tony asks me what I don’t understand so he can help, all I can muster is, “I just don’t understand.”
What’s the most important thing I don’t understand?
Why I went from a smart, outgoing kid to someone who wants to hide in their room with the lights off.
And, then there are days when I feel great and nothing is wrong and I just say to myself, “it went away like usual. See? Everything is better. Sometimes people just get sad.”
Until that voice in the back of my head finds those remotes again.