(**WARNING: Other self-injurers may find part of this entry triggering their own desire to cut. It is not my intent to cause anyone a problem but merely to explain my story. I try to exclude as many potentially triggering details as possible. I have marked potentially triggering sections with ** to allow the reader to brace before reading or make them easier to skip over if necessary.)
I first turned to self-injury because I wanted to punish myself for how angry I was with my Mom and the man she cheated with. Despite my Christian principles, I found myself hating this man with an intensity I’d never felt before. I tried to quench it with fantasies about making him feel as hurt and betrayed as I did. I wanted him dead. And even though I still loved my mother, I felt constantly yanked back and forth between my desire for closeness and my rage at what she had done. My parents had taught me it was always a sin to be angry, (a lesson I didn’t realize was incorrect until after it was too late) so I worked hard to bottle it up where no one could see it. I was not allowed to express my frustrations to my mother. Overtime, they grew to the point where I could no longer contain them within. I was so sick of everyone thinking I was a great person that I struggled with the urge to cut up my face so others could see my inner hell even if I wasn’t able to tell them about it. I called myself an evil monster over and over in my diary for the dark feelings I couldn’t shake that I believed no truly good person was supposed to experience.
I was not at a place where I was even considering forgiving the man she cheated with, nor did I understand how to forgive my mother for so significant a betrayal. Whenever I asked people about forgiveness, they informed me that anger was a choice and that those who didn’t forgive would rather hold onto feeling hurt than being happy. I certainly did not enjoy being angry and very much wished to be happy, so these words left me rather confused. They made me feel like someone who was weak and immature for struggling to understand and manage my turbulent emotions. This only increased my urge to punish myself.
I was so frustrated that for all my vengeful fantasies, this man I loathed would never feel an ounce of the pain his actions had inflicted upon my family and me. The only way I discovered to cope with this injustice was to take my fury out on my skin. I would imagine he was being cut as I was cutting myself and felt a sense of temporary relief when I finished. But then I’d wake up the next morning and cry at the marks I’d left on myself.
I usually cut because I wanted to feel relief, but there were other times where it helped me feel detached from my troubles. For example, I’d get really upset about buying cards for Mothers’ Day because Hallmark’s sweetly written sentiments reminded me of the Mom I once thought I’d had but ended up shattering my heart. As soon as I cut, it felt like a wall was put up between my emotions and me. They could no longer hurt or haunt me. What I didn’t realize was that I’d fallen into a pattern of cutting when I wanted to escape their onslaught. Whenever I got a bad grade on a test, I’d excuse myself to the restroom, quickly cut to alleviate my distress and promptly return to class like nothing had happened.
When I wasn’t angry, I felt numb from the crushing weight of my depression and exhaustion wrought by panic attacks. I was like an expressionless zombie who dragged between classes watching others smile and laugh. I missed feeling happy and sometimes just feeling at all. I’d cut just to feel alive. The sharp sting of pain was better than nothing. And I always believed I deserved it anyways.
**But the main reason I cut eventually became the rush I got from doing it. I’d be drowning in my turmoil and the first cut gave me an immediate sensation of peace and calm. Warmth swept over me shortly followed by the feeling of control over anything that was bothering me. Then, a surge of energy would carry with it a joy I learned to crave. It was wonderful to have something I could do anytime, anywhere that would instantly make my chaotic world endurable. It gave me the extra enthusiasm I needed to counteract my melancholy long enough to do an assignment or put on a smile when it was required of me.
Years after my resolution to stop self-injuring, I still wrestle with yearning for the rush when my life is exceptionally difficult. It is easier to give in and obtain instantaneous relief than muster the patience to work things out. The problem is that the quick escape is a temporary fix and a lot more destructive than learning to deal with stress. Cutting has to be done repeatedly to keep those feelings elevated. The body gets desensitized to cutting overtime and fails to deliver the same rush it used to, which is why the cutting has to grow progressively more severe to attain the same effect. I didn’t know this was true when I started but I discovered the hard way that it is the case. This is one of the biggest reasons for why cutting takes more than it gives. It constantly demanded more and more from me before it gave what it promised. It was my mistake not to recognize that because I was too busy trying to get my next rush that I was willing to do whatever it took to get it.