*DISCLAIMER* Now, I certainly don’t recommend cutting as a therapy or self-help technique to anyone, whatsoever. It is not a healthy coping mechanism and one needs to seek professional help if they are self-harming in any way. This is only my perspective based on my own personal experience. If you are self-harming in any way, I strongly advise you seek mental health treatment. This is my story.
I used to be a cutter. Someone so emotionally fragile, she was willing to create physical pain to mask her emotional pain. It was therapeutic to rip my smooth skin to shreds with the dulled tip of an old, forgotten about switchblade I once found in the back of the junk drawer. Cutting reminded me I alone was responsible for my feelings, behaviors, and actions; no one else, but me, myself, and I. I used cutting to teach myself how to find happiness within the darkest depths of my depression.
It sounds crazy to think something so negative could create a positive outcome, but it did, for me. At the time, I was emotionally reckless, irrational in most of my thought processes, and living life standing on the edge with my back to the cliff. I couldn’t get a grip on maturity, but it was my prerogative to fake it by all outward appearances. Those closest to me suffered the wrath of my unraveling behind closed doors, because one can only keep face for so long before they lose their composure. Life was overwhelming, to say the least, but I was too embarrassed and insecure to be honest with myself, let alone a therapist. Eventually, after jumping off the deep end and hitting rock bottom hard, about a half or so dozen times, I gave in and pulled up my big girl panties, seeking out the help I needed. It’s been well over a decade since I took back the control over my state of mind, and I can see my cutting phase in a whole new perspective; giving it the credit it deserves for seeing me through those early years of Depression.
Coming from a very volatile home, my early learning of social-emotional behaviors, personal accountability, and self-control was greatly askew. Alcoholism fueled the dysfunction, aiding in the stunting of my emotional growth and maturity, while exposing me to the detriments of addictive personalities and behaviors. It was not an environment designed to produce well-adjusted, neuro-typical, socio-emotionally balanced children. And it didn’t. For years, I locked myself in my room with the lights off, candles lit, and grunge rock wafting in the air from the stereo, setting the mood for the inevitable bloodshed which would stop the chaos inside of me; if only but momentarily. This method of decompressing continued on even into my early adulthood. Cutting was the only control I had over pain inflicted on me…or so I thought at the time. It was comforting to connect to my physical body and feel transcended from the mental anguish drowning my soul into a realm of serenity.
Every single time I set out to scratch myself raw and bloody under the spell of depressive darkness, I was letting in a little bit more light. In a way, it was like giving a toddler their lovey or an infant their pacifier after bumping their head, in order to self-soothe themselves. Many cutters say the act for them was a reminder of being alive, because their depression was numbing them completely. For me, though, I cut because focusing on the physical pain was like flipping a switch for my incessantly negative thoughts, clearing my mind of them, so I could get a grip on my flooding emotions. I felt too much. The pain actually allowed for me to think clearly. The sight of the blood reminded me there was more to me than just the darkness, and that I was worth more than I gave myself credit for. The scars became my second conscience, albeit a visible one; a voice to reverberate the messages of the one deep inside my soul trying to tell me how valuable I really am over the fog of depression.
Over time, I began to realize, as I lacerated my skin in various inconspicuous and blatantly open areas, it was only I who could bring light into my world despite the black clouds hovering; hovering and waiting to strike me down if I brought even a rainbow over to brighten things up a bit. When I finally began to look closer at everything, it became obvious those clouds were merely reflections of the level of control I had over my depression, and nothing more. The only way to gain back the control I had unknowingly given up was to declare battle against the disease…the illness…the glitch in my brain…which had made itself an unwelcome house guest for long enough. First thing I did, I sought out treatment with a psychotherapist. Then, I began to educate myself with all the information I could Google (which presented proper credentials to back up the credibility and factual basis of the info), filling my head with a bounty of techniques and tools- weapons of mass destruction with which to combat the miserable funk encompassing my waking hours. Especially, when life wasn’t going my way.
In the end, however, I could replace the negative approach to happiness I used to take with a more positive approach, and I couldn’t be any more blissful and at peace with myself than I am at this point in my life. Sure, there are still days of doom and gloom, which creep up on me unexpectedly, but they are sporadic in comparison to when they used to be a daily occurrence. And there is no need to cut anymore in order to shake me out of Depression’s mind-racing, rainbow-hating, despondency. I see now just how much cutting helped me get through a time in my life where I thought more about death than life. Being able to cope, even in a completely taboo aspect, kept propelling me forward toward the light I knew would be at the end of the tunnel… The light shining all around me as I write this today.
Cutting was an unorthodox means of therapy for this girl-not-quite-yet-a-woman with no support system, an early coping mechanism for a mental illness I knew nothing about. What once seemed like an unanswered cry for help became my saving grace. It leads me to find the courage to seek out help on my own and develop the maturity I lacked so that I could hold myself accountable for the control I’m always doing battle to keep; and I owe it all to the time I used to be a cutter.
Day 5 prompt: What was the greatest lesson you learned as a child and who taught it to you? (Obviously, myself, if you didn’t catch that!)
By: Kristina Hammer, aka, The Angrivated Mom