I have spent a huge amount of my life pretending everything was fine. But the truth was: I was barely holding it all together. Using glue to hold the pieces in place. Plastering on a fake smile and going about my day. All the while the rapidly drying glue was cracking in places and the plaster was crumbling. No one else knew, no one else saw what was happening. I knew exactly when to smile and where to hide so I could keep my secrets to myself.
I perfected the art of camouflage.
But inside, I saw what was happening. I felt the storm raging on in the dark corners of my mind. Pulling me further and further into the darkness. I felt the tug from both directions at once threatening to tear me in half, to break me.
I was using all my energy trying to make sure not to show any signs of weakness on the outside. But inside of me I was exhausted. All I saw was where I went wrong, what I did wrong, and how very weak I really was.
For me the signs of mental illness were there as a child. I had some very traumatic experiences at a very young age and the problems began not long after. Anxiety, rapid speech, pressured speech, followed by severe depression then back full circle again.
I was struggling with who I was behind my dim soulless eyes. I was changing, and I was not sure I liked who I was becoming.
My days began running together. Wake, Eat, School, Sleep, Rinse-Repeat.
I was like a ghost at school drifting through the walls from class to class, teachers did not know how to speak to me, guidance counselors did not know what to do with me. And I had all but given up on myself.
My grades went down hill and I began loosing interest in school. I lost friends and I most certainly lost myself.
I remember situations where my mouth kept talking where I should have kept it shut. I talked and talked and talked. At times people couldn’t understand me, I was constantly told to slow down. Breathe.
I spent more time with anxiety and in depression. I cried myself to sleep. I was ashamed, I was afraid, and I prayed. Boy did I pray. I prayed for help, I prayed for guidance, I prayed for a savior. But none came.
Self Injury is defined as the intentional, direct injuring of body tissue most often done without suicidal intentions. It often includes cutting, self-mutilation, or self harm. It is an injurious attempt to cope with negative emotions such as extreme anger, anxiety and frustration. It is repetitive. Often people who injure themselves are survivors of traumatic events during childhood.
Self injury. It is a hard topic for people who deal with it, and an even harder topic for people who do not. It is hard to understand, it is hard to explain. For the most part, self injury is a taboo topic.
These are my personal experiences.
I was 13 years old the very first time I self injured. I continued to do so until just 2 weeks before finding out I was pregnant with our first child. Call it mothers intuition: I have no idea why I was able to stop then, I had tried over and over before but failed. I have had a handful of “one time slip ups” over the years. Until February of 2012 when I started self injury all over again and continued to do so for about 7 or 8 weeks. Since then, I have for the most part, been self injury free.
Do I still struggle with the urges? Yes. Do I act on them? No, I try very hard not to.
There is something I want you to know about someone who Self injures: It is not a cry for attention, it is not a suicide attempt. In fact, for me, I spent the entire time hiding it. I hid it from everyone.
For me it was a release, it was control. I had taken part in different types of self injury, but it always went back to cutting.
I had tried several different methods (all recommended by mental health professionals) to try to stop. Marking myself with red marker – did nothing for me. Writing when I felt like self injury – I did a lot of this, I wrote and wrote and wrote until I couldn’t anymore. Elastic bands on my wrist and snapping them when I felt the urge served no purpose for me, just bruised my wrists but I never got the release I was looking for.
Sometimes the frustrations built up inside me were so bad, I would be physically shaking. I felt like if I did not self injure I was going to physically and mentally blow up. The pressure was extreme. The pent up emotions were raging inside me and I needed to let them out. And the only way for me to get even minimal release was through self injury.
Sure I had other ways of expressing myself especially through writing. But the urges were so strong and I was so weak.
In the end I was cutting numerous times each ‘session’ on a near hourly basis.
My then boyfriend – now my husband. Was the only person other then my Psychiatrist and therapist who knew the extent of how bad it had gotten (only because it was kind of hard to hide it from him). He was afraid to sleep because he was afraid I would get up and do something. He was terrified that i was going to end up cutting too deep, or do something even more drastic. He slept (if you can call it that) with his foot/leg always touching or anchored over mine, so if I got up he would know and would be able to check on me. He had a key to the bathroom hidden away just in case I would lock myself in there.
I, in turn, had hid things too. I hid razors, I hid anything I could possibly cut with in places he would not suspect. I knew it had gotten extremely bad one particular day, I was sitting in a mall bathroom and was cutting. I began to shake, and cry.
It is hard for someone who has never dealt with self injury within themselves to even begin to understand the release that comes from it. It is also hard for me to explain where the release comes from. You probably wouldn’t understand. Trust me I have tried to explain it. I have written, I have talked to therapists, psychiatrists, doctors.
Sometimes as I struggle now the urges become so strong and the emotions are so pent up that I feel like the only way to get through it is to partake in more self injurious activities, it feels like that is the only way I will be able to release some of the pent up tension that is building just under the surface.
But I know that there are better coping methods. And I try each and every one of them until the urge subsides.
For me self injury was something I could control when so many aspects of my life – were uncontrollable. I felt like I could release the pent up feelings that my emotions were causing. I could control how often, how many times, what part of my body, how deep, how big, how small. Control. It was the one thing in my life that was constant and I thought I controlled it.
But the cutting had gotten so bad that it was out of control – I was out of control. The control that I tried so hard to exercise was completely gone. Things began getting worst, and fast. More pronounced, harsher and I was beginning to make mistakes. I had always cut where I could cover it with clothes. I began cutting everywhere on my body. I began cutting deeper. I have a scar on my arm, it would have needed stitches had I seen a doctor. That was part of my turning point. I was unable to stop myself, the control, that I thought I had, was gone.
Although self injury might feel like control, it might feel like release, it is only temporary. It is an unhealthy coping method. If you find yourself controlled by your self injury, please seek medical help. A doctor, therapist or psychiatrist will be able to lead you into some more healthy coping methods.
This is my story – I am not proud of it, but it is a part of who I am.