I would have been around 10 when I first started to cut. I can remember it like it was yesterday (surprisingly clean and crisp image after 20 years). I sat in the bath feeling incredibly alone, quite a feat when in a house full of people and pulled apart a disposable razor that I had found, carefully dissecting it and then without much of a thought, pressing the blade against my thigh until crimson droplets appeared.
I do not wish to glorify self harm. To this day, it is something that I am ashamed of. I don’t know why I did it. To this day I still don’t. It just felt good. The feeling, well the perception of control is a powerful drug and that is what I had given myself, if only for a few moments. I was able to choose what was done to my body and no one else could tell me otherwise. I never cut my arms or anywhere visible, always the thighs. Having a grass seed allergy (contact allergy) I was usually wearing long pants although I knew even in shorts or a skirt my scabs and scars would be hidden from prying eyes. This was private business.
It was around the time that my dad was diagnosed with cancer, although I don’t think that had much to do with it. I had gone to the public library to research his diagnosis, not trusting the bits and pieces I picked up being whispered by the adults. 6 months. Didn’t seem like a long time, although I had never been close to Dad so to be honest it didn’t affect me in that way. What his diagnosis did do, was ensure that my siblings and I stuck out. At school, we were always getting asked how he was and everyone knew about how he was sick and had shaved his head and had gone from looking like a normal Aussie bloke with a heavy-handed approach to parenting, to what more resembled a pale, bloated corpse from the chemo and radiation therapy.
I didn’t like being the centre of attention. I still don’t. When ever I needed some quiet time to myself, I would find myself sitting alone with a knife or razor blade, carving lines into my leg. But didn’t it hurt? The answer to that is complicated. I have always had a strong pain threshold so I don’t think I am the best at answering those questions however, in all honestly. No. It didn’t. What did hurt was having zero control of my life and being expected to be the “good one” who would help out mum, look after my siblings, clean the house and do everything possible to make everyone else’s life easier regardless of what I wanted to be doing. My mind was always full of thoughts, and day dreams and plans of escape and for the moments when I was by myself, it would focus it a way that it never had before. My thoughts would become crystal clear and I would have my release.
My cutting continued throughout the years and the ups and downs of family life. As a life long insomniac I had plenty of time to construct excuses in case the tapestry I was carving into my legs were ever revealed. Being a bit of a klutz helped, cuts and scrapes were as easily excused as bruises and over the years I’ve had my share.
When I was 15, I started dating this guy who was a friend of my older sisters boyfriend. First impression of the guy was that he was a douche bag and looking back, I wish I had listened to my inner voice. I stopped cutting quite so often and ensured that when I did, I switched legs and kept them small. With the introduction of puberty into my life, stretch marks came into the picture and as my hips and thighs expanded, they became useful for disguising the milky white scars.
At 17 I moved out of the family home after an argument with my older sister and her accusations of me trying to poison her unborn baby when I threw out the pasta that had been left on the stove for over a day, that she had apparently intended to consume. I moved into my boyfriends father’s place and knew I didn’t fit in. In the 3 months we co-habited with his dad, sister and her partner, I was unable to find time to continue my cutting and would instead, lay in bed slowly getting stoned from the smoke that drifted up through the floorboards. 3 months later I moved into my first rental and spent the day in silent tears when my boyfriends cruelty showed.
At 20, I married the same guy and life became monotonous. I had a vision in my head of being a good wife but that did not match his vision. He wanted a 50’s era house wife as well as someone who could bring in the money. The years passed and were spent by being largely ignored by my husband, publically ridiculed and put down when ever another female was around and emotionally abused. At 24, after losing my beloved Grandmother, I suffered what I found out was most likely a miscarriage. I stood in the shower, bleeding profusely and screaming in agony (a reaction I had never had to physical pain), while my husband shut the door and left me to it. I was already incredibly depressed by this point due to the loss of the matriarch of my family and this pushed me over the edge. I shut my husband out and when I wasn’t at his beck and call, to service his needs, he took what he wanted.
The “marriage” broke down and soon after that, was over. I moved back into my parent’s place for 6 months while I attempted to sort my life out and had every intention of committing suicide. Due to the amount of death my family had witnessed over the years, I had decided that the only way I could achieve this was to disappear. I had a collection of blank postcards that were being sent to me by pen pals around the globe and I had the idea of writing letters to my family and sending them to my “friends” around the globe to occasionally slip in the post while I disappeared.
My final act of rebellion against everyone’s wishes, was to get a tattoo. One I had been wanting since I was young. An elephant. My favourite animal. The wise, gentle giant that seemed to have life mysteries sussed. My foray into personal artwork brought me into connection with a guy who had attended my high school. A talented artist who had connections in the tattoo industry. A tattoo was designed and promptly gotten, much to the horror of my parents and ex, when he found out about it.
All of that, was just over 6 years ago now. The artist, is now my fiance and he accepts that like everyone else, I have my demons. In the years we have been together, I have used a blade twice when things have gotten too much for me. He hasn’t understood it. He has his own ways of dealing with things. Last year, I saw a psych and finally got my story out in the open. It was good to have someone say “you have every right to feel like shit”.
I do not glorify self harm. It is something that I wish I had never discovered, although discovering it is probably what got me to the place that I am now. If it wasn’t for the cutting, I could have found more damaging ways to deal with my torment. To the outside world, I was a relatively quiet bookworm who came from a big loving family and married young. The world did not know me. The world is a big place and it is easy to get lost. I have friends who have committed suicide over the years, or self harmed in various ways. I see the signs in others. When I see one of the vulnerable, I start up a conversation or do something that will make that day stand out from the others as positive. A funny story shared between strangers, words of encouragement for a job well done, anything.
We are the reason for others torments and anguish, we are also what can banish the darkness. Be the light for somebody, anybody, and the world will be a better place. Don’t ever assume you know someone’s story. Even if you have known them your entire life. Everyone has secrets. Everyone has pain. Yet, everyone also has the power to help others.