The Evolution of My Self-Mutilation, Part I

I don’t know what the trigger was, or what initially drew me to it. All I can remember is that sometime around the age of 13, I began cutting.  It was my secret.  I wasn’t doing it because I was suicidal-I didn’t want to die (well, sometimes I did, but that’s a whole different story)-I just wanted to feel the pain and see the blood. Cutting is totally different than suicidal actions.  I certainly wasn’t doing it for attention, as I’ve actually heard some therapists say about the practice of self-injury. (OOH that makes us mad!) I didn’t want attention, I wanted everyone to just leave me the hell alone. I was careful to cut in places that other people wouldn’t be able to see, like my thighs and my upper arms.  Sometimes I used a knife, sometimes a razor blade, sometimes scissors, once or twice even a piece of broken glass.  It didn’t matter to me.  What mattered was the physical act of hurting myself, of disfiguring myself, of punishing myself.  I had different reasons for the cutting at different times, but the compulsion was always the same: to draw blood.  Cutting was a release of all the pent-up anger and anxiety that I was suffering through not only as a hormone-driven teenager, but also as an unmedicated psych patient who was majorly depressed as well as manic and at times even psychotic. I was a wreck. I took everything out on my body. I chewed my fingernails down to bloody stubs when I was in school and couldn’t hurt myself as I’d have liked. I stole a scalpel from the Biology lab and it became a favorite cutting utensil. By the time I was 15 I was carving words into my forearms.  I was terribly depressed as a teenager and the cutting was a way to relieve some of the agony of living.  The pain on the inside was so great, that the only way I could handle it was by experiencing pain on the outside.  So I cut, my arms and my thighs, inside my arms and calves.  Perfect rows of cuts, spaced evenly, all the same length. I’m even OCD when I’m in self-injure mode. The cuts had to be PERFECT, and I’d spend exorbitant amounts of time making each cut perfectly align with the ones beside it.  Sometimes, I’d use a needle or nail scissors and draw swirly patterns on my arms and I loved watching as the blood ran down my arms, mixing with each other, the patterns and blood resembling roses on my arm.  I felt better about the pain in my head and heart when I could feel the pain on my body.

 And speaking of that, I should explain that better.  When I’m doing any type of self-harming behavior, I get so caught up in what I’m doing that I am in a whole other world.  I guess what I’m talking about is dissociation, but I’m not sure it happens every time.  Sometimes, I can’t feel the pain as I’m not in my body. Sometimes I’m a K who either is strong enough to endure the pain, or else I actually get psyched about it and enjoy it. (One or two of the K’s is into BDSM). And of course, many times I don’t remember the self-injury at all, I just find the bloody mess left behind. That, and the scars.

  So many scars.  I lie about how they came to be on my skin.  I have told the same story for many years, about how I was in a terrible car accident (true) and how all those little scars on my arms came from a broken windshield and pieces of metal showering down on me. (Truth? Some of them are cigarette burns, others are from needles/sharp objects)  Or I’ll explain the round scars by saying that I had horrible acne in my teens.  Or I will just act like my skin has always been that way, and that those aren’t scars, they’re birthmarks.  Or something like that.  (sigh)  So many lies. At least I’m very pale-skinned, so the scars show less than they would on someone with darker skin.  After so many years though, it became impossible to come up with a sufficient lie and so we just started wearing long-sleeves at all times. And long pants or dresses.  We avoided the beach or pools-no way in hell could I bare that much skin-and I’m sad to say that I missed out on a lot of good times throughout my life because of my embarrassment and shame due to the results of cutting.  At other times we’d let all our wounds heal, and it was during those times, in our early 20’s, when our skin was pale and smooth, that we did artists’ modeling.  Since K is an artist and was an art major, she had lots of friends who approached her to model for photography class or sculpture.  For several years K modeled for art classes.  Now during this period in my life, I gave up the self-injury altogether. Naturally I couldn’t cut while I was posing, sometimes nude, for artists, so I began getting pierced. For those of you reading this who cut, please do not be offended by my likening body piercing with cutting; I understand there’s a huge difference, I’m just saying that for me the two interchanged nicely.  I found body piercing to be a natural replacement for cutting.  I mean, I still got to experience the pain, which I longed for and even needed, plus I was tearing into my flesh, stabbing sharp metal needles into my skin, causing bleeding and wounds and a pain which would linger until it had healed up.  Now some of my piercings, in addition to my compulsive need to scar my body, were also decorative (such as my navel or nose); other piercings I got strictly for the pain.  For those, I’d leave the jewelry in for a couple of days and then take it out and let the piercing heal. (Example=both sides of my labia) It should come as no surprise then that I have a number of tattoos as well; again, it just seemed to me to be another form of self-mutilation, only I was paying someone else to hurt me.  I insisted on designing all my own tattoos, and each one has a special symbolism behind it.  I get tattooed when something life-altering happens; I get pierced when I’m in extreme emotional pain. I have six tattoos, including a large black piece which covers my stomach and wraps around my navel.  I’ve been pierced 34 times, including a corset piercing which was 12 piercings done all in one sitting, up my back (then I was laced up with satin ribbon; it was for a photo shoot)  The most painful piercing, by far, was my urethra, and I had it done twice. Is this too much information?  I’m just talking about my wounds, wasn’t that the point of this blog post?  Forgive me for rambling on about my body modifications.  But it was my psychiatrist who told me that tattoos and piercings are the “grown-up” version of my cutting and self-harm.  One other thing I found to be especially fulfilling and painful was getting branded with blessed cone incense, three at once in an inverted triangle on my lower back.  A Buddhist performed the ritual and placed the incense cones on my back and then just let them burn all the way down until they went out by themselves. Yes, it hurt.  And I’d love to do it again, on top of the same scars. So I guess the only question left to ask now is, Do I ever still cut, like with a razor blade? The answer, unfortunately, is yes, but it’s not nearly as bad as it once was. The stress would have to be over the top and unbearable to make me cut with razors again.  I’m well-medicated and have a husband who keeps an eye (he times my bathroom visits) on me and besides, I can always just go get inked or pierced.  And I always have that special scar on my left wrist as a reminder of darker days.