I took a book out of the library yesterday and the blurb asks the question“Why do so many young women harm themselves?” There are so many things wrong with its phrasing I can barely begin. Why young? Why wom en?
I started cutting myself when I was thirteen. I can’t say that there was no element of looking for attention in it. Note, though, that I say “looking for attention” without the negative connotations of the phrase “attention seeking”. My feelings were genuine. I didn’t think my actions were cool or interesting; I didn’t enjoy the attention I received once I had it. But I needed it and, looking back, it was the start of a still-going journey towards making my feelings manageable. I was depressed and that continued throughout my adolescence. Later would come the elations, more serious “highs”. The cutting was the first sign of what was to come.
It meant I didn’t have to smile so much. It meant I didn’t have to worry that I looked weird. I knew I was weird. It meant I was too dizzy to worry about other people. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep much. I was medicated, dulled. I didn’t care. It was embarrassing, actually, to be discovered post-cut or have to confess to an OD. But it meant nobody truly saw the awkward little girl behind the facade.
The thing is, though, I am not a little girl now. Not even on the inside. I’m twenty-six, and the self-harm is still a habit I turn to when things are bad. I am writing this, actually, to stop myself from doing it now. Distraction techniques on the discharge letters. I don’t self harm to “ground” me. I don’t do it “to feel real” or “bring myself back”. I don’t do it for a lot of the reasons this book discusses… I do it, often, out of pure self-hatred or, rather, pure rage directed inwards. I make myself angry like nobody else is even capable of doing. I hurt myself, so I hurt myself. I. See. Red. So I see red. Or I drink drink drink, outsides in.
I have serious scars- my arms are basically one huge scar, with only small suggestions of skin poking through. Old photographs make me overwhelmingly sad at what I’ve done, and angry. The anger isn’t always self-directed: I hate how I have felt, how I have been made to feel, hate illness, hate the lack of understanding, hate the blood, hate the pain, hate the desire to inflict. I am permanently scarred by those things.
More recently, I am learning to front it out. I wear short sleeves sometimes, or roll long sleeves back when it’s hot. I wear short sleeved pyjamas at my parents’ sometimes, though never in front of my young siblings. I am steadily learning that these scars are an uneraseable part of me, and I won’t always be able to hide them. It’s about knowing how, and when, and where, I can appropriately and safely show them. It’s a horrible kind of exposure, sometimes. It’s like being naked in a room of clothed people. Heart on my sleeve, heart under my sleeves. Inside out. Painful. But I’m a big girl now, sometimes a brave one, and I am learning.
3) Stupid Things People Have Said To Me:
– You’re too pretty to cut. (So if I were hideous it would be ok?!)
– You know you’ll never be able to wear short sleeves now? (Actually, no. But thank you for making me still more self-conscious.)
The book is as ludicrous as promised. Self harm has been many, many things to me, but never an expression of the unintended cruelty and inadequacy of my mother, nor a form of masturbation. My mum is a very good one. Don’t even get me started on the rest of the theories.