I’ll cut right to the chase with this experience as there’s no easy way to slice it. Perhaps it’s wrong to pun about something so serious and mysterious but I’m at the helm here and it’s my experience so I choose to add some levity rather than chopping my story into a more palatable pablem.
My experience with cutting and self harm is rather limited and came later in life than usual but the urges were no less compelling. My weapons of choice were rather creative and odd but got the job done. I used a grapefruit knife for scratching, an artist’s blade for separating paper for cutting, a potato peeler for scraping and scissors for cutting.
This behavior began last year about a month before I checked myself into the psychiatric ward. I haven’t had any issues in 2016 but occasionally a whisper of an urge arises and I’m able to distract myself using techniques taught to me at the hospital.
The reason for this behavior, in my case, was wanting a way to punish myself for not being able to control the crazy in my head…for needing serious help and feeling like I didn’t deserve it.
I recall scratching myself up on my side before heading to the hospital because I didn’t think I deserved treatment. I felt I was just taking up space. The scratching was a pre-punishment of sorts.
To start with, I began by scratching the side of my left wrist until it was raw and red and often a bloody mess. I soon realized this was difficult to hide, even with long sleeves and bracelets so I moved on to more creative locations; my side ribs, my legs and higher up on my arms.
If you look closely at the circled area you can see horizontal scarring healed over.
Once I was in the emergency ward waiting for a bed in the psychiatric ward I had nothing sharp to punish myself with so I began pulling out my hair. This terrified me because I was “safe” and still finding ways to self harm. I would also squeeze and pinch my skin until bruises formed, then I would focus on prodding and pinching to increase the size of the bruise.
Once on a unit I was shown some tricks that worked for me when I felt the urge to harm myself. I would draw on myself with red pen instead of actual cutting. This was creatively satisfying and quelled the urge.
I also would hold an ice cube in each hand and squeeze hard. This is actually quite painful and always seemed to shock the urge out of me.
I hope my account of my short experience with self harm has been helpful. It was scary, confusing, embarrassing, and painful but, so far, it’s no longer an issue for me. I know many other individuals are not so lucky and self harm can be a lifelong battle that can start at a young age (early teens typically I believe). I urge seeking treatment rather than feeling as though it’s not deserved. We all deserve the help we need.
Mental health stigmas and misconceptions can only be quashed by sharing stories and raising awareness so as to provide support for those not comfortable sharing, those on the outside of mental illness looking in, and creating a community where taboos are swiftly kicked out the window so we can heal, not in secrecy, but by regaining some semblance of pride and self worth.