Log inskip to content

Archive for the 'Cutting Up' Category

Self-Mutilation from a Cutter’s Perspective

Thursday, February 24th, 2005

(Scroll down for 25 Feb update to this entry)

Had it not been for Skillzy, I wouldn't even have been aware of the contention circling around the blog world concerning cutting and self-mutilation. As anyone who reads this blog knows, this is an issue near and dear to my heart. Bleeding Out the Pain is my personal website chronicling my own struggles with this addiction and terrible problem.

Most of what I read on the blogs was misinformed, confused, or out and out ridiculous. Some of it was cruel and heartless spoken out of pure ignorance on the subject. The majority of posts that Michelle's Malkin's piece The new youth craze: Self-mutilation spawned were written by those with only intermediate knowledge of self-mutilation; or worse, no knowledge whatsoever. Even with A Small Victory's sound take on the subject, most people are still missing the real issues in this debate. I think it's time that someone with a little authority speaks out on the subject.

I'm not going to go into a lengthy dialogue about my background with cutting. There's my self-injury site and blog archives for all of that if you're so inclined or feel a need to check out my credentials. Suffice it to say that I've been down the road and the lost battles of my past stand out like a glaring beacon on my mutilated arms every time I go out in short sleeves. In other words, I live with this every day. I don't want your sympathy - I did this to myself, but understand that I've been in close contact with the world of self-mutilation for over ten years.

I created Bleeding Out the Pain as a way to help me cope with my own problems and as I began to go through the process of recovery. It was also a way to reach out to others who might be going through the same thing and felt alone. The night before I walked myself into a mental health clinic I spent hours scouring the Internet for personal websites on self-injury; it helped immensely to know there were others doing this same insane-sounding thing. In the years since that time many young people have contacted me to say my site helped them, and many others took up correspondence with me for a time to discuss their cutting problems. An alarming trend I saw from all of this was the very thing that Michelle Malkin brought up in her article: it was becoming a "cool" thing to do for today's youth. I knew that many years before Malkin wrote her obtuse article on the "new craze".

As I drove to work this morning I thought long and hard about what I would say here - how I would address these issues; the main ones I feel people are missing in all of these dissertations? I really can't tell you how deeply this hurts me or explain to you why I've been in tears for the better part of this morning. Perhaps it's Malkin's irresponsible assertion that someone like me, who cuts and has cut themselves, is nothing more than a bored, attention-seeking Emo kid. Maybe it's the fear that young people with a real problem with self-mutilation may get passed off as one of those bored, attention-seeking Emo kids and not get the help they need. It could be the fact that we are living in a society where children aren't taught self-respect, self-esteem or self-love and choose to hurt themselves as an alternative to healthier modes of coping. And it might just be that even after all these years and all these struggles we recovering self-injurers have gone through to make the public aware that this is a real and serious problem, it might all become regarded as nothing more than childish antics. That those of us who advocate helping self-injurers will be seen as no more than pushers perpetuating the glamorous world of cutting and self-mutilation to innocent and susceptible children.

All of this has been weighing heavily on my mind.

This has nothing to do with music, and even less to do with ignorant journalists trying to sensationalize a subject on which they have no knowledge or background and didn't take the time to research. The quandary here is that there is an alarming rise in self-injury by today's youth. Why? And what can we do to stop it?

The first thing is to realize what self-mutilation is. I'm not going to go into why or how - that's been covered and the reasons and ways can be as varied as the people who do it. People who self-injure are not freaks, they are not begging for attention. They have a real problem. And they need real help, and real understanding. I've written more on self-mutilation as an addiction, but felt it would make this post too lengthy; click here if you would like to read it.

Irresponsible articles like Michelle Malkin's do nothing more than cast self-injury as some attention-garnering child's game; a "fad" that that is more of a status symbol than any real problem or cry for help. It sheds misinformation on a sincere mental illness and glosses over the very frightening fact that the number of self-injurers is growing at an alarming rate.

Malkin's inclination is to blame the music. How is it that when a genuine issue arises involving our children today our first thought is to cast blame on the media? To me, that's a cop out. One of the biggest problems with our youth today is that everyone tries to put the blame for their disturbing behavior on something else.

Then Malkin goes on to attack Christina Ricci, one of the many Hollywood stars that have come out as a self-injurer. In the self-injury community, people like Ricci are lauded. For so many years cutting was not treated as a serious mental illness, or was simply thrown off as "suicidal" (which is far from the reality of the situation). When famous people began admitting their problems with self-injury, it became real. For the first time when I told people who asked about the scars on my arms, "I used to cut myself" they didn't look at me in horror and say, "What in the world?! WHY would you do that? I've never heard of such a thing!" When self-injury became a known true and real problem, self-injurers started getting the help they needed and deserved. I have no problems with anything Christina Ricci said about self-injury; her stories of what she did and how it made her feel are authentic. They help shed light on something that most people don't understand.

The important first step to be made here is not casting blame, but taking action. Cutting is not cool and that needs to be the message we're spreading. Not "stop listening to that music" or "just stop cutting already". Yes, cutting is a rising phenomenon among today's youth - now, what are we doing to do about it? Give me something concrete - don't pawn this problem off on music and celebrities.

Another real problem here that people seem to be missing is what I call the "Everybody Cries Wolf Syndrome". When you have a large number of people "playing" at and experimenting with what is a real problem or mental illness, those that are truly suffering and need help get grouped into that category of those doing it as a fad. There may be a child out there who truly has mental issues - who is truly cutting and cannot stop by herself and needs psychiatric help. But because of the large number of kids that are doing it because it's "cool" she is seen as just another blase, pseudo-tortured kid trying to be heard by jumping on the bandwagon. She doesn't get the help she needs. That, in my opinion, is the larger problem here. Articles like Malkin's that are spreading the "it's a new craze" perception only worsen this dilemma.

Self-mutilation has been around for a very long time, and it will continue to exist for as long as there are mental illnesses. I don't know what the answer is to combat the rising number of young people latching on to cutting. For my part, I do what I can. I have my site, and I listen to those that contact me; I counsel those that come to me themselves. I talk with those concerned relatives and friends who ask me questions and try to understand why and how they can help their loved ones. It pains me deeply to see someone going through the trials of self-mutilation. It isn't a joke and, for a lot of people, it isn't a "fad" or done to "be cool". It's a very real problem - that needs very real help.

25 FEB 2005 - UPDATE
Following up on Michelle Malkin's Update

Michelle Malkin seems upset that people are criticizing her "The new youth craze: Self-mutilation" piece. I'm not sure what she expected when she tackled such a grave and serious issue with the trite commendations of modern culture.

I don't believe that Malkin's intent is to trivialize cutting or self-mutilation. Yet while her heart might be in the right place, she is attacking the problem from all of the wrong angles. Delegating self-injury into the category of "fads" and "new crazes" severely damages the fledgling self-harm community. It is just in recent years that self-injurers are being recognized as their own unique group; that self-mutilation is being seen as a serious problem & mental illness and is being treated as such. Beforehand it was lumped into a conglomeration of other problems and was not properly treated. Because of the emergence of self-injury as a distinctive addiction and problem, help became available to those who suffered from the affliction.

Even more hurtful to me, as a cutter, is Malkin's inclination to place liability on modern culture. I am not at the whim of the media mavens and I'd like to think that people, even young adults, have enough sapience not to blame their shortcomings and compulsions on music and celebrities. Sadly, this is the bandwagon that people have jumped on in increasing numbers as the years passed. It is so much easier to blame something else than to simply admit there is a problem that is out of our control.

Where Malkin misses the mark is her belief that shedding light on what might or might not be causing kids in larger numbers to carve into themselves is going to solve anything. If a parent reading her article thinks that deterring their child from listening to certain music is going to stop that child from ever cutting, that parent is in for a hard blow.

I began cutting at the age of 14 or 15. It had absolutely nothing to do with music, stars or celebrity of any kind. At that time it wasn't a "fad", all the kids at school weren't doing it and I honestly believed I was the only person that found solace in slicing at my arms with razor blades. I didn't show off my marks, but painstakingly hid my cuts and the ensuing scars behind long sleeves and seemingly superfluous jackets in the summertime. I didn't come from a broken home and I wasn't abused. I was a scared teenager like most of you were that happened to find a coping mechanism for the pains and trials of my prepubescent years in a blade; others found it in alcohol, music, drugs, or exorbitant sex.

I don't (and didn't) "fit the bill" of a teen who would be cutting by Malkin's standards. I didn't listen to "sad" sappy music, I wasn't "goth", and I wasn't starved for attention. There was no Internet for me to connect to other cutters, or to view graphic pictures of bloody wounds. Regardless of what is on the Internet, the radio, the TV or on the pages of a magazine, kids are going to hurt themselves. Why? The problem is not what the media and accessible sources are feeding them. The problem is not Christina Ricci admitting she hurts herself. The problem is a media that shoves plastic perfection down our youth's throats and can't understand why they hate themselves. The problem is people blaming the wrong people for the wrong things and thinking that solves anything. If Michelle Malkin truly cared about the rising number of children hurting themselves, she'd use her notoriety for positive change - not for a smearing hate-campaign against pop culture. What we need to be doing is teaching children that CUTTING IS NOT COOL; we do not need to be casting blame and throwing our hands up in disgust. We need to work together to fix this problem with our youth rather than blast what the purported causes might be. They're doing it - they've always done it, they'll continue to do it for any number of reasons that you can come up with. If you took away all of the media "problems" and possible causes that Malkin brings up, you would still have young kids hurting themselves as a desolate method of coping.

I'm tired of people saying "Oh, they're doing it! How horrible!" I am disgusted with people saying, "It's this person's fault!" or "This is making them do it!" I'm ready to hear people say "What are we doing to stop this? How can we make a positive change for our youth?"

As long as we keep pointing fingers, we are not addressing the real issue. As long as we are blaming this on asinine things like "fads" and "crazes", we are hurting those children that have real problems and need very real help. This isn't a fad, it isn't a "new craze". This is a very serious issue that has been around for a very long time, but is getting worse. What are we going to do about it?

Confession

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

With the good comes the bad - or, as I prefer to say it, with the sweets comes the sour. But if you don't have one, how could you ever appreciate the other? Personally I love to mix sweet & sour - how about you?

I know, I know, wtf am I babbling about?! It's been a rough week, friends (and it's only Wednesday). I'll be honest with you here - though I've been trying to decide if I was going to confess share this or not - I fucked up. Some of you already know what that means. Yes, I cut. But that's not the bad news! The bad news is I did it two nights in a row. It's a low I haven't hit in many, many years.

I want to first thank you all for you concern - those that commented here asking after me and those that sent concerned emails during my prolonged absence. It's so nice to know there are people who, even though I've never met them in the flesh, truly care about my well-being.

I won't go into the reasons I slipped up; it's not really worth it. What's done is done. It isn't bad, and it likely won't even scar so don't think I was over here hacking at myself like a mad woman as in days of yore.

The sweet of this seeming-bowl-of-lemons is that today I feel better. Not because I cut, but just because I do. I don't know why I've been so depressed and I don't know why I woke up feeling a little better today than I did the day before. That's just the way of my psyche. Maybe it's the holiday tomorrow - I enjoy the chance to get together with my family. Maybe it's the break in the overcast, dreariness that has been our permanent weather for going on two weeks. Maybe it's because there's finally a cool snap rather than the tepid and sticky humidity that has been hanging heavily in the air. Perhaps because The Worm and I had a huge fight last night which ended in an amazing make-up and opening up to each other that brought us much, much closer. Whatever the reason, for the first time in many days, I'm happy to be alive. I'm not yet overjoyed at the prospect, but you've got to start somewhere. If I can make it back to the giddy joy that I felt a few weeks ago - loving life and being in high spirits every single day - I'll be most content.

So enough of all that. Today is a new day - a fresh, clean slate. I want to wish every single one of you and yours a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all gorge yourselves on turkey, green bean casserole, rice dressing and booty bread. I hope you share a million laughs with your loved ones and fall asleep tomorrow night full, happy and content.

In closing, I'd like to hear from all of you - tell me, on the eve of Turkey Day - what are you thankful for?

Dark, Dirty Secrets

Sunday, November 14th, 2004

I've been a naughty girl.

Reading Dooce's memories of suffering through anorexia & how she's doing now with it gave me an urge to get some thoughts out about my cutting - and my almost-slip-up.

The other day I almost cut myself. I came so very close that at the end of the evening I shamefully handed The Worm my almost-instrument-of-destruction.

"Here," I told him. "I've had this hidden for some time now. I never planned to use it. It just makes me feel good to have them hidden around the house, but I'm giving it to you now to punish myself for coming so close to screwing up and slipping back."

He didn't understand, but he took it and gave me a hug. He tries.

Yes, I have blades hidden around my house. Like an old boozer who has liquor bottles stashed away "just in case" the urge should ever overcome him - just so he can sneak off and have "just one sip" if life becomes too much. They are usually plastic pink disposable razors that I have painstakingly altered - the front pieces of plastic are ripped to expose the blade, the blade is usually darkened from my "cleansing" it with a flame. It's something I used to do countless times to ensure I had an ever-ready blade, or in the moments just before I cut when I had nothing else to use. That may sound bad, but it was better than when I had none and got desperate and switched to the serrated knives in the kitchen.

That sounds terrible - seeing it on the page like that I'm thinking, "I cannot fucking POST that on the Internet. What will they think about me?" But it's a part of me - it's something I did and it's something I will struggle with for the rest of my life. I can't run from it. People that know me in person actually see my handiwork (my scars) and that's much worse than reading about it. I know what they think - I know no one can imagine purposefully hurting themselves; especially so viciously. But I try to remind myself that people also can't understand drinking one's self into an early grave, being unable to stop taking copious amounts of harmful drugs, or even making themselves throw up every time they eat. I don't need them to understand it - I just need them to know I'm not that different than them; I just have a more fucked-up way of coping with my problems.

So why did I almost cut? What was so devastating that I almost slipped back into the "dark side"? You're going to laugh. There was a kitten I'd met and bonded with at a friend's house a few weeks ago. I got a phone call wherein I was told said kitten had been hit by a car and was paralyzed from the waist down; otherwise it was fine. Would I take it? Otherwise it was going to be put to sleep. Can you imagine how that made me feel? Crippled-ass me who has been on crutches for two years, a cane for almost 6 mos now and who will NEVER walk right again???? They were going to kill her because she couldn't walk. I was overwhelmed with hurt and sadness and the weighty decision over whether I could take on such a responsibility. I wanted to, with all my heart, but could I? Baret was against it and since we do share a home and my current disability puts much more burden on him to get household chores done, his say was a huge one. I was so extremely torn. I have the largest soft spot for animals. My fellow man can be damned - I'd just as soon off one for driving stupidly - but I tear up at even the sight of a kitten. My mind was literally in a state of turmoil and chaos and I couldn't handle it. I knew that cutting would calm me - it would still me enough that I could make sense of everything and make the correct decision. I also knew that wasn't the answer, but it was such a tempting one! I went into the bathroom under the premise of getting ready for work, but Baret tried to follow me in there. He knew. I quickly got my pink plastic encrusted blade out from its hiding place and stuffed it in my robe pocket. I left the bathroom and told him I was okay. I was going to wait until he went to take a shower. Part of me was hurt he'd even leave me alone in such a state - didn't he know what I was capable of?

But in the end I didn't do it. Reason somehow won out - perhaps its just years of self-therapy, and real therapy and medication and learning how to deal with my "manic-depressive" self - but I didn't do it. That evening I handed the blade to Baret. Letting go of my "security blanket" was hard, but I wanted to punish myself. I'll likely make another and hide it away anyway, if I know me. But for the moment it was shameful to confess that I'd had it and that I'd almost done it - so that was what I did.

This is a battle I fight every day - even if some days I never get the urge to cut, the thought and the desire is always in the back of my head. I've gotten better - I can now safely collect daggers (something I've always wanted to do) without fear of using them on myself (I would *never* use my two beautiful daggers to cause myself harm - I made a very serious pact with myself and have found no problems upholding it). My first instinct when I get upset is not to cut (unless I'm *very* upset and then it still is, but it's all work-in-progress). I know you can't understand it - I know you think I'm crazy - I know my scars scare you. But just remember that under these battle scars is another human being who isn't that different from yourself.

It wasn't easy to write all of this down for people to read - especially people whose opinions and thoughts I respect & value as I do each & every one of you who comes here faithfully to read my babble. Thank you for your time - for listening - and for at least trying to understand. I've only ever blogged for me, but you guys make the experience all the more rewarding.

Soon to Be Twenty-Six

Wednesday, November 5th, 2003

Well now that you've all had a chance to oggle me in my Renaissance garb (thanks for the compliments everyone!), it's time for me to insert another random ramble into your day.

Answer me this, female readers, when did they stop having you pee when you went to the gyno? I drank a near gallon of water an hour before I went b/c I always have trouble peeing on command. I get there, wait in the waiting room for 20 minutes and am about to explode when they call me back. In the room the nurse says only, "Get undressed and she'll be with you in a second." Um...where's my little cup? So the entire time I'm thinking, "Omg, she's going to be examining me, and when she pushes down on it all I'm going to pee all over her." I usually repeat a little mantra in my head to take me away from the exam, but "Don't pee, don't pee, don't pee" isn't my usual choice.

In other news, tomorrow is my birthday!! That's right, I bolded it so you couldn't miss it. I haven't been excited about it with all that's been going on, but for some reason I am today. This little Scorpion will have been gracing this Earth with her presence for 26 years at precisely 10:53am tomorrow morning. Woot for me!

A big, huge hug to my good friend, Ryan, who emailed me this morning a picture of this dagger. I fell so in love with it, I found it for cheaper on Ebay and ordered it this morning. This is my birthday present to myself.

Why the sudden love of daggers, you might ask? Well, as I've mentioned before, I am a recovering self-injurer. I say "recovering" because I've found it to be just like alcoholism or any other addiction. The craving for it never ends, you just learn to cope in other ways. I love blades, and I've always wanted to collect daggers and knives. Yet, I worried that a r.s.i. collecting blades would be akin to a recovering alcoholic collecting whiskey & wine. A bit too much temptation, you see? Yet, it's been quite some time since I've slipped into those old habits, and I believe I've finally grown past the urge to wound myself when the going gets rough. In fact, in most of the tragedies that befell me in October, I never once had the urge to cut myself. Now that's progress, folks. So, I am now beginning my dagger collection. I'm quite excited about it, too.

Ah, you know you're no longer a Toys-R'-Us kid when you get appliances for your birthday - and you asked for them. Not only that, you're excited about them. That's right, I'm officially becoming a grown-up. And it only took 26 years. My Mom & Dad got me this really cool microwave that's like something out of the Jetsons. This little thing bakes, toasts and grills along with good 'ole microwaving. Sweet, huh? Yes, I'm bragging about my new microwave. I might as well start driving a mini-van and carpooling to soccer practice now. No, I don't have kids - but once this grown-up stuff starts, it's like a snowball effect.

What else? Damn, I'm talkative today.

Oh, yes, I had a question for you all. Do you ever notice there are certain words you always have trouble with? No matter how good a speller you may be, there are always those words you can never remember how to spell. I'm usually an excellent speller, but the words that will stump me 'til the day I die are:
convenient, atheist, and damnit now that I've started typing them out I can't remember the rest. But every time I have to spell these words, I get them wrong. Does anyone else have any "stump words"?

I suppose that it is all for the moment. I'm going home, drinking some beer and hanging up my pictures and candle sconces. That should make it feel more like home for sure! Have a great one.