An open letter to Self Harm,
(trigger warning for talk of self harm/tools)
I am 29 years old. I first cut myself in 2000 after DYFS (NJ family services) failed me. I had told someone at school about how I was physically and emotionally abused. They ‘investigated’ but I wasn’t removed. That night was the last time I was beaten.
The words got worse.
The only way I knew how to deal was from pain. So every time my mom or dad started yelling and berating me I turned it into something physical. The first time was with one of those little swiss arm knives that had a file and nail clipper I got at an accessory store in the mall. I thought all my problems would be solved.
I was a sophomore in HS and every time I had an issue I cut. I used anything —staples, pencil sharpener blades, razors, one of those screwdrivers for fixing your glasses, broken glass….. I cut when I didn’t get asked to formal, when my best friend transferred from private school to my school and ditched me for the popular crowd, when I got a B on an exam, when my mom said I put the dishes away wrong, when I forgot my homework, when I sucked at gym, when anyone said anything negative about me or my body….. The list of reasons why goes on and on.
Despite being in leotards and swimsuits no one said anything about my arms. Anyway a teacher found out and I got sent to the disciplinarian. The DISCIPLINARIAN! Because at 15 that’s not the scariest person on earth to intervene. My guidance counselor told me I was making myself uglier by mutilating myself (thanks for the support!) And I got sent to the shittest therapist who broke confidentiality (I was a minor but she word for word told my mom everything I said, even though she said she would only tell them if I was in danger of hurting myself) My mom got tired of taking me and said to tell the lady I was ok, so I did. But I wasn’t ok.
I kept cutting. I cut on my birthdays and prom and graduation and when I started college. I stole my roommates xacto knives and cut. I went to the college counselors office and told him I wanted help for cutting. We met a few times, but he said if I told him I cut on campus he’d send me to the hospital. I didn’t go to any more appointments after that.
I wrote a short story series for my creative writing classes about self harm. I made it sound beautiful. Cascading. Trickles. Warmth. Quiet and Calm. I romanticized the fake hug it provided. When I met with my professor for feedback and guidance (she was also my faculty adviser) she said she had never met someone who self harmed and couldn’t believe I could make it sound so beautiful. All I wanted to do was break down and roll up my sleeves. It was all first hand experience I wanted to shout. But I thanked her for her notes and went to lunch and class.
I got a really good job at the company that I interned at. I didn’t wear short sleeves there. For a little bit I stopped cutting, but not because I was trying, I think I was just excited about being a real adult with a job and moving out of my parents house.
I got into grad school classes at a big deal NYC college. My classes had us do projects with xacto knives for mocking up posters and projects. It was too easy not to. I probably needed stitches that night. But I just locked myself in the bathroom and cried till it stopped bleeding.
I got a job at a design company near home. My boss was like my parents. He screamed and made people cry. We used to guess who would cry first on any given day. It was awful, but I needed to work. I had unlimited access to blades. I’d sneak them in my phone case and hide in the bathroom cutting away anything he said about me. No one knew how bad I got.
Somewhere around that time I thought maybe I should get help. I was cutting for around 10 years. That’s no way to do things. When I called I was wait listed for around 90 days. It was torture. I tried so hard but cut a lot of those days. The therapist I got was different than I expected and I wasn’t really ready for help, but I talked for the first time about a lot of things. I started DBT. I also got stitches for the first time. I was hospitalized when it got bad.
Then the therapist said I had to go to a partial care program. I was still cutting and emotional unstable. I had to go to groups. I had to share my story. I had to do homework and give feedback. My therapist was really awesome. She helped me make a year without cutting. Then she went on leave. I got a new therapist. She’s pretty kickass. I tried to cut over a lot of things. Death of friends. Fights with friends. Changed plans. Broken promises. But I didn’t. March 16 will be two years without cutting.
TWO WHOLE YEARS.
It’s gotten easier to use skills. I never thought I’d say that. But it does. Earlier today I was triggered not enough to want cut, but enough to feel shitty about myself, but started this post instead. Why? Because things are so much better when you are not wrapped up in hurting yourself. It’s not easy at all. But it gets that way.
So self harm F you for all your pain. For these scars that I try my best to wear proudly. For these mascara streaked tears. For everything that I thought you were helping me with but in reality were always making worse.