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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?

Dose of Happy: I Will Find My Balance

This year, it’s time to take action. It’s time to pull our heads out of our asses and make some plans for world domination.

How? By telling the world, not what we want to do this year, but what we will.

So what will YOU do this year?

2019 is the year I will find my personal equilibrium, the balance between what I must do, what I should do, and what I want to do. It’s not going to be easy, as I have a horrific time saying no and even more horrific sense of guilt when I do.

Unless it’s before my first cup of coffee in the morning; then saying no is easy and guilt-free because I’m too tired to care.

When the balance between the must, should, and want is out of whack, I’m a mess. I’m impatient, resentful, irritable, downright cranky, and miserable to be around. Everything becomes a chore, even the things I like to do.

That’s not fair to me, to my kids, to my husband, to any poor soul who has the misfortune of being near me when I’m struggling to keep up with everything.

That’s why I’m making 2019 the year when I will stop that crazy self-imposed struggle and focus my energy on the musts and the wants. The should-get-dones will just have to wait.

I will focus my presence and talents where they can do the greatest good – my family, my volunteer work (that means YOU, Band!), my creative projects, my home, my friends.

I will say yes to projects that are a challenge and will help me to grow personally and professionally.

I will cut the clutter in all areas of my life: physically, mentally, virtually.

I will re-examine my limits, and respect those limits, for when I don’t, it’s not good for anyone.

I will say no to school activities and fundraisers that are nothing but money and time-suckers that prevent me from doing other, better things with my kids.

I will say no to family functions that cause my stress level to sky-rocket, even when I’m told over and over again, “it’s for the kids”. It won’t be for the kids when mommy is stroking out on the floor because the in-laws are being asshats again.

I will ask for help when I need it and not wait for someone to see that I’m struggling.

I will find my balance, dammit. I will.

 

You Don’t Get More Than You Can Handle

Losing a child of any age is one of the worst, hardest things for a parent to bear.

Please, share the stories of the children you’ve lost with us. There is strength in numbers.

Throughout the past two years I have often heard, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

Well, I have a bone to pick with God: I am NOT as strong as He thinks I am.

Somehow, I managed to get through my husband’s year long tour in Iraq. I had to. Late in the evening in September 2007, I hugged and kissed my husband, as he rubbed and kissed my h u g e pregnant belly and got on a bus. I didn’t know if I would ever see him again. I can still see his big, goofy grin as he smiled and waved good-bye. I stood there, watched the buses pull out into the darkness and I prayed to God that he would come home safely. I prayed that our son would get to meet his Daddy; the same prayer I prayed every day for the next year. I got into the truck, hugely pregnant, and I lost it.

I cried the whole way home.

27 days later, my son Robert was born.

I’m not so strong.

Now, seven months after Robert’s death from SIDS I can’t seem to “get it together.”

I’m pretty smart. I know that I am grieving. I know that everyone grieves differently. But I’ve had enough. I don’t want the panic attacks that happen for no reason. Panic attacks that I shouldn’t even be getting anymore because I take medication to prevent them.

Tired of being tired because I can’t sleep at night. Every time I close my eyes I see Robert in his crib when I found him, dead from SIDS, or in the hospital on the gurney.

coping with child loss

I’m starting to get mad, really mad. Mad at my husband because I had to go through another major event alone. Mad at the Army for not letting Joe be at home for Robert’s birth. I’m mad at God.

This is how my conversations with God have been lately:

Me: “Why did Robert have to die of SIDS?”

God: no response

Me: “Hrmph”

Me: “Guess I should have been more specific when I asked you to bring Joe home safe so Robert could meet him.”

God: no response

Me: “grrrrrr”

Me: “I’m a good Mommy, why do I not to get to have my baby?”

God: no response

Me: sobbing

Me: “I think you and I need a break!”

God: no response

wall of baby loss

 

 

My Struggle with Dissociative Identity Disorder

Being diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a real struggle.

First, I’ve had to work at coming to grips with the diagnosis itself. Then there is my struggle with the alters – I have to find out who they are. I know they’re there, but I don’t know much about them. I have learned the names and ages of some, but not all of them. I am slowly learning their likes and dislikes and why they are there. They all hold memories of my abuse. Memories that I can’t recall.

There is a power struggle. I am the host, and I need to be in control, but some of them think that I still need to be protected so they come out to “save” me. They are parts of me stuck in the past. They don’t know what year it is and often times don’t even know what month or day it is either. I have to talk to them and remind them that I am the host and that I am married and my husband and I have seven kids. It really complicates things when one of them has a crush on my brother in-law.

I don’t tell many people about my DID because it’s a stigma.

Society has a warped idea of DID. Most people still call it Multiple Personality Disorder because they don’t realize that the name (and diagnostic criteria) has been changed. Hollywood often portrays it as a situation in which there is often one very violent alter; that’s not the case for me.

If you want to see what living with Dissociative Identity Disorder is like for me, I’d recommend watching the movie Sybil with Sally Fields. It’s a very accurate description of my experiences with DID.

Dose of Happy: Reality Check In The Spa

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.

Ask The Band: Worn Out

Sometimes we all need a little bit of advice now and then. Do you have a burning question you’d like to ask us?

Do it! Ask the band.

The Band, I’m in a terrible funk right now.

I’m having some kind of weird mid-life crisis, though I don’t know if being just shy of thirty counts as “mid.” Either way, my main problem is that I just want to be left the hell alone. Of course, wanting to be left alone and actually being left alone are two completely different things, and the sad truth is that I will never be left alone.

It’s not due to the bipolar depression, although I know damn well it’s a contributing factor on my worse days; it’s simply because I’m tired. I’m tired of going through the motions of my daily life, getting up early to tend to all manner of things. I’m tired of everyone in my household demanding something from me at all times, whether it’s my daughters, who want/need all of my attention since they are both so young, or my husband wanting to constantly have sex, or even the damn cat for bitching about not having food even though his food bowl is completely full. (The cat is an idiot.)

I have no friends – all of them live in a different state because we moved away 2 years ago in order for my husband to pursue a new job opportunity. We have family not too far from us, but we barely see them as it is, so they wouldn’t dare step in and watch the kids in order for me to get the hell away for a little while.

A few days ago, one of my friends told me to come visit her so we could go on a bender, and to be honest, I would fucking LOVE to! It would be an opportunity to get away and have some fun for once, since all of my hobbies have gone to shit since becoming a stay-at home-mum five years ago. However, even if we still lived close by, that bender would never happen because my husband, while a great guy, is insecure as fuck, and at times errs on the possessive side of things. He would be paranoid about me cheating on him even though I’ve been a million percent faithful.

Pretty much all of my time I try to reach some semblance of reprieve by burying myself in my laptop: reading the news, blogs, messaging friends or (my secret shame) reading and writing fan fiction. (Now The Band knows my horrible secret!) Sometimes I listen to music. Music is a major way for me to unwind, and the advent of Spotify has been very useful since I can listen to stuff that I’m too cheap to purchase via iTunes. My husband thinks that I have some kind of bizarre internet addiction, but that’s so far from the truth.

I know this is a form of escapism.

I’m grumpy, I’m exhausted, and I’m just flat-out sick of everything.

This is my dilemma. I just want my family to back the shit off, but at the same time, it makes me feel like a terrible person. I don’t want to play with the kids. I don’t want to engage in “sexy time.” I don’t want to do the goddamn laundry or feed the goddamn cat.

What should I do?