This is one of the days that right away lit up for me when I was reading through the challenges. It’s such a touchy topic, and when it hit’s close to home it pierces straight through you like a bullet. Anyone who knows someone who self-harms knows the emotional hurt that it carries. It can be utterly devastating to see someone that you know, love and want to protect not only hurting… emotionally reeling. And to really give you that unfathomable blow…you see that they are taking all this hurt out on themselves. They are physically hurting themselves. For real… read that again. “they are physically hurting…themselves” WTF!! How can someone do this. We’ve all stuck ourselves by accident with a pin or needle; nicked ourselves cutting an apple; or at very least gotten a paper-cut or broken a nail. I think we would all agree, pain is not fun. It is the furthest thing from comforting, it’s not even the least bit calming, and it’s mind boggling to think that anyone would feel otherwise. Most of us can not even begin to wrap our heads around the idea of self-harm…it just does not make any sense. None. At all.
I think that through all the things I go through, the self harm is what causes the most question, concern, and confusion. Actually, let me reword that…I KNOW that self-harm is the kicker. I do self-harm. I am a cutter. I have roughly a hundred scars on my forearms, shoulders and neck. For the most part, my cutting has been fairly superficial, but I have had some cuts go a little deeper causing trips to ER for some repairs. It’s not something I’m proud of doing. Not even a little. But I also know that one day I’ll look down at my arms and see my stripes, and see an illness that I have harnessed, reigned in, and penned up under control. But for now it’s one of my biggest struggles. It’s my go-to coping method, and the sad and scary reality is…it’s the only coping method that, for me, works 100% of the time. It does the job. I know it does, I know I can count on it when things get to be too much. I know that that option is always there. The safety net. The crutch.
“But how can you cut yourself? I mean, you’re cutting…yourself?!?!” There is really only one answer I can give you, and that is this. Until you’ve been there…until you’ve been at that place where cutting yourself is the absolute greatest source of relief, you won’t get it. If you’ve never been there, I don’t care how hard you try to understand…how much you believe you understand; If you’ve never been sitting there, knife in hand, you do NOT understand! Sorry, I don’t mean to discourage you at all. I’ve told Sherry it’s kind of like child birth. I can think of all kinds of unpleasant things to say child birth might feel like, but I’ll never know. I’ll never really understand. BUT…I’m still there every step of the way to support her. And in the same way, Sherry is there every step of the way to support me.
How can I cut myself? For me, and again, I can only speak for myself. But for me it’s the anxiety that is the culprit when it comes to cutting. My BPD causes both extreme Anxiety and extreme Depression, and everything in between. It’s different from bi-polar, where the “mood-swings” are more lengthy, Depression can last days, weeks even, and the “manic state” the same. On the other hand, with BPD the Depression/Anxiety spikes are not near as drawn out. Anxiety, for me, comes in basically two forms. A very ‘focused’ anxiety, and ‘noise’. The focused anxiety is pretty much how it sounds. Something will get into my head that gets me anxious…work, money, a meeting. Whatever it might be, I just can’t stop focussing on that. The more I focus on it, the more anxious I get, and eventually the focus becomes negative and “self-punishing”, and the anxiety actually swings into depression. It works the other way too, where I’ll be depressed thinking about something, and that will shift into me being anxious, and the mood swings the other way. You can see how it is frustrating for people who are trying to support.
The “noise” is the anxiety that I haven’t really learned an effective way to cope with. And it’s the anxiety that leads to 90% of my cutting. It’s so hard to explain. People who know what I’m talking about know, and everyone else just looks at you, jaw slightly dropped with a wrinkled nose and ruffled brow. I’ll take my best shot at describing noise…bare with me. Imagine your thoughts as a tv show that you are watching in your head. Now imagine someone standing behind you with the remote and flipping through the channels. All of a sudden you have all these different tv shows, or “thoughts” flipping through your head. Faster, and faster, and faster. but…you’re still trying to focus on your show you were watching. You have to block out what’s on all the other stations, and whenever your show comes around quickly try and focus on it and follow what’s going on. This, for me, is what it’s like trying to perform tasks when my anxiety spikes. It is impossible. I have been practicing different coping methods, but the sad truth is that right now, cutting is the only thing that works. And here’s how it works. It hurts!! It doesn’t feel that good. But, the pain is a distraction. When you’re cutting yourself, it is very very hard to focus on anything else. It draws your attention to the task at hand. If the first cut doesn’t work, you keep on going. I also do a lot of self blame. Self hate. Self punishment. It’s very easy for me to justify the pain I bring on myself as being deserved. So even after the cutting does it’s job and takes away the anxiety, I don’t look at my arms and think “what have I done?”. Not at all. It’s much more of a “you got what you deserve, you piece of shit!”
For all the cutters that read this, I feel your pain. I know all too well how it feels to have no other option that has any sort of relief for you. It doesn’t have to be this way though. If you are cutting, and haven’t done this already, seek professional help. There are ways to overcome this. It’s hard work, but I am plugging away at it and trusting the day will come when I can tattoo over all my scars knowing I’ll never have to cut again. For everyone else…please-please-please…don’t be quick to judge someone you care about for cutting. Don’t alienate them. Don’t try to understand where they’re coming from. Remember, you will never understand. It’s like me and child birth. All I can do is be as supportive and comforting as I can. Be there for whatever she needs. And that’s the best thing you can do to. Comfort them…Support them…Listen to their needs, and do what you can to help out.