I'm not a stranger,
No, I am yours.
And these scars wouldn't be so hidden
If you would just look me in the eye.
It's not something you can comprehend or understand unless you've experienced it. But nevertheless, I'm going to attempt to explain it to you. It's not that hard of a thing for me to do. You forget that I've been you; I just crossed over a line you haven't even realized existed. I know it's something that you cannot even fathom doing, much less something possible of rationalization. It is just that you are not aware of what you are fully capable of; when pushed to a certain point, a certain limit, anyone can, and will, do anything. But for those of us who have been there, who have – and are – living it, it is not just a possibility but a constant reality.
Most likely, it all started very innocently; so much so you might have even missed it. Say it has been a bad day or week and you are so full of some emotion – whether it be anger, fear, sadness, happiness, one or a mixture of several – that you cannot think straight. Then something happens: you stub your toe, bite your lip/tongue, the knife slips while you are fixing a meal, you slam your hand in a door, whatever it may be that accidentally causes you pain. You breathe in the pain by pure instinct, and instantly that fog in your head becomes crystal clear (like you have fallen head-first into ice cold water), the world is right again and your functionality returns, perhaps better than ever.
If you noticed what happened, suddenly you have stumbled across something that seems like complete and total brilliance. Where one moment you were ready to either break down in tears or rip your hair out and scream, you now have plenty of calm clarity for control (see my alliteration? smile) You didn't do it on purpose. You didn't plan it or go out looking for it, it just happened. And it worked. That's what matters.
You'll probably go a couple weeks if not longer without even thinking about it. Then suddenly you find yourself digging your nails into your palms until they bleed because of stress, or you nick yourself in the shower because you weren't careful, or maybe you even just walked into the kitchen and saw the knife you forgot to put away still on the counter and some invisible, indescribable force just pulls you toward it… until you've suddenly pricked your finger on purpose or perhaps even your wrist, your thigh, your upper arm. You are watching the blood rise in a bubble to the surface of your skin where it POP!s gently and you are thinking, "This is so beautiful." And you are not scared because it is only a tiny amount of blood – it is only a minor little scratch anyway.
But you know that this is yours and no one else will understand. So, you rush to clean it all up and cover the mark with a flesh-toned bandage and a nice set of clothes because this is your SECRET and no one must ever know. You are not ashamed or worried; you just innately know that you must keep this little miracle to yourself.
It's slow going at first – one little cut every month or so – probably doesn't even leave much of a scar. Then you find yourself using it more often, and next they get deeper and you lose a lot of blood every time and they leave bigger scars and suddenly you're doing it multiple times a day and you spend all of your time "surviving" until your next cut, planning it, fantasizing it, living for it, finding better ways to hide the scars on your body because you are running out of room.
It's just… you think everything's been okay, and then something happens and you realize you've just been fooling yourself. Because it was all just lies, convincing yourself that you were fine. And suddenly you remember things that have happened recently, things you just pushed away and pretended they didn't hurt. But they did. And they still do, even now. Only now they've piled up and now there's too many of them and you just cannot handle it anymore and you have to do something because it hurts so much and you want it to go away, you have to make it STOP, but the only thing you've ever been able to do is implode…
Everything is so calculated in your life. Anything and everything, no matter how seemingly commonplace or miniscule, can end things as you know it. One suspicious question, one misunderstood word, a tremor in your voice, even a teeny tiny speck of blood on clothing would destroy your world and render it obsolete.
There are so many unspoken rules – make sure the sleeves are long enough, that shirt's too see-through so you have to put make-up on the scars no matter how old or recent and regardless the risk of infection, never ever react if someone does something to hurt a cut even if it reopens the wound, watch every single word that you even think of sending out your mouth and no matter what don't use the wrong tone of voice either, don't you dare cry and show people how weak you are, everyone else is always right and everything's always your fault so make sure you pay up equally every time, cut deep enough to compensate but don't be stupid and get an artery or vein and make sure you always do it in a place you can cover up, make up a logical story that people will actually believe (and not question) when shopping for new clothes or when you "wear" your bathing suit, always scrub hard in the hot water of the shower so you don't get an infection and dammit make the blood stop before you faint you idiot someone will find you or figure it out and take you to the hospital, get the blood stain out of that shirt before anyone sees it and make sure you clean up your mess so thoroughly that even the CIA wouldn't be able to trace it, don't move your arm stiffly or do anything different just because it hurts just suck it up and put your big girl panties on and DEAL WITH IT, always be charming and attentive and smile and laugh and be nice and make them trust you and don't be any trouble because then they'll pass you by for any problems and do everything PERFECT so you don't fail and disappoint anyone, and on and on and on… so many rules you don't even know what most of them are before you break them (or almost break them). But every little thing matters.
You carry your weapon of choice – blades of various types and shapes, knives, scissors, maybe even matches if you prefer burning yourself – with you at all times because you are terrified of not having it when you need it, but it really doesn't even matter because when you are desperate enough you will use anything – rusty nails, dirty broken glass off the street, nail clippers, paper clips, pencil erasers, a hard brick or concrete wall to slam your head into or bruise yourself with, even your own teeth – to get your fix without even thinking to give a damn about infection. All you know is that you need it. You literally cannot survive without it. You are not trying to kill yourself; if you wanted to die you would do it another way because this is your cure. You are cutting to live. It is as necessary and common as the air you breathe.
It's hard to explain, but it is simultaneously heaven and hell. Everything you need and nothing you should want (but you do want it, you want it so bad). A wounding embrace (even as it seems to heal). When you are too low it brings you up and when you are too high it brings you down. It helps you think or it helps you forget. It is the absolute perfect solution to every problem. The only option, only solution. It allows you to breathe at the same time that it chokes you. It is like a drug in it's most pure and natural form – you keep doing it more and worse just to get back to the way you were, what you had that first "perfect" time.
And it is so cheap, so easy. "Sharps" are never hard to find. No one thinks to hide them from your sight or questions you for buying them because they are such common household items it never crosses their minds that you intend to injure yourself with them. It is the friend you always turn to to rant or cry or receive help. It is the only friend that listens and refuses to judge. It never fails to give you what you want and does not ask for anything in return. It is loyal, it is ever present, it is yours.
And then you discover an article or a book or a website. You sit down frozen in pure shock. IT has a name. Self-Injury. SI. Self-Mutilization (but that sounds so gruesome you push it from your mind). Self-Harm. Cutting. This is the name you like most, because it is not used as a negative word in normal conversation. And SI is okay too, although it reminds you of your Chemistry and Physics classes. But what matters is that IT now has a substance. IT has research and plausible causes and rehabilitation options and… others.
This discovery is as foreign, new and exciting as anything in all of your life. It is like learning there are aliens on a not so distant planet. You are not alone. This comforts you at the same time that you hate it. Because even though you don't feel as lonely or weird anymore, suddenly you are not so special anymore either. IT does not just belong to you. You realize it never has. It is like finding a cheating significant other. You want to throw them far away but can't stop clinging to them.
You devour every source of information you can get your hands on. You buy every book, save every magazine article and scour every Internet site. You cannot get enough of it. It is not a sick interest; you are not jacking off to it or getting excited by it or putting new usable methods to memory. You are just completely overcome with this deep and unquenchable need for contact, to know and understand this thing that has control over your life.
This is a new concept as well: that IT has all the power, not you like you have always believed. You have never thought about IT before. You just did IT. And suddenly you finally see this for what IT really is: a sickness, a disease, an addiction. And you want out. You want out NOW.
But try as you might, you can't stop. It is much too late. You are way too far down this road. The "uncrossable line" was traversed hundreds of thousands of miles ago without you knowing it was there at all. You have been tricked, poisoned, succumbed. IT is a demon living inside you that has possessed your very being. IT is a terrifying monster with two heads that held your hand as it jumped out at you. IT is your life.
You suddenly feel so dirty, ashamed, worthless. You've never felt this way about it before because you've never thought about it, never realized it wasn't a normal thing to do. You feel awful. You are depressed and cannot function. You cut because it is all you know, you cut just to make it all go away but it doesn't. It won't. It refuses. You feel like shit all the time and you cannot remember what it's like to not feel that way. You cannot even remember that you had a life before a problem.
But you can't tell anyone because they wouldn't understand. You will scare them and they will hate you and take everything away from you and you just know your life will end so you don't tell anyone. You can't. It literally won't let you. It stole the words from your mouth long before now; you can barely even think them but they burn deep in your soul because you are so scared. It scares you and you need HELP. You need out because it's going to kill you. You need out right this very instant and you scream and you cry and you bleed but you just keep spiraling down this big, bottomless black and red hole, so empty and lifeless and helplessly at it's mercy because
NO ONE HEARS YOU.
That's what it's like. Maybe now you'll understand why I am this way. Maybe now you will not judge me so harshly. Maybe now you will not allow yourself to be caught under it's mesmerizing spell.
Maybe now you will help me…