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Spiral Out

I'm a reformed self injurer.

Sort of.

I started hurting myself before I can remember. For most of my life it was little things. Hitting walls until my hand stung and went numb. Bashing my head against a wall. Biting my lips and tongue til they bled. Pinching myself.

It escalated in my teens – I'd sew my fingers together with needles and thread. Pick at my skin until it bled. Push my body to it's limits. Finally, when I was in my late teens I graduated to cutting. A late bloomer so to speak – I was living away from home, had my B.A, a failed relationship behind me. It became an addiction, a release.

I was also seriously depressed, mildly suicidal and indulging in some very stereotypical behaviours like casual sex, overuse of alcohol and pushing my body to it's limits again. But I dragged myself out of it. Therapy, medication, lifestyle changes – anything to rid myself of what Winston Churchill called 'the black dog'. Depression nearly killed me and took a lot of my life away.

So, a year after I last hurt myself and I still struggled with it. Most days I was okay, but some weeks I could barely hold it together. When I stood in the shower contemplating rubbing shampoo in my eyes for the pain I realised I had to do something.

So again I embarked on therapy, medication and changing my life. I've been lucky enough to have a supportive partner who can help me, but he can only do so much. The lure of self-destruction holds no attraction for him. For me it's a way of making myself anew. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of a life I couldn't face. I'd recently watched the documentary The Vanishing Tattoo and had realised I'd lost the connection with my first tattoo, my dragonfly, my Theros. I'd lost my ability to deal with emotional pain.

That was the first step to getting better once more. That period was hard – the circumstances of my life were not conducive to getting better. But I did it. I managed to get to a place where I could heal.

Which is why I cut myself again.

I know it sounds strange. Stupid even. But cutting had occupied such a huge place in my head it had become an entity of it's own. I had to minimise it somehow. When I talked about it, a lovely lady I know online said that making mistakes doesn't relegate me to where I began. I began thinking of scarification as a way to release what was becoming far too much of a burden – the same was a chocolate looks so tempting when on a diet even if it's a terribly made piece of cooking chocolate. I hoped that by delving into it, I could rid myself of my obsessive attraction to it.

The design was simple, the execution more complex.

I decided on a spiral. Life continues, keeps going around and around with my participation or not. A testament to my refusal to block myself out of life any longer for fear or simply for lack of courage. Prompted somewhat by the Vanishing Tattoo documentary, Lateralus by Tool and the sea shells I remember from my childhood. The spiral was another reminder that I am capable. I can do this. I can get through it. A reminder that life keeps going, no matter my involvement, and I can keep living, keep going. Placement was influenced by the documentary and my desire for it to be a sensory piece as well as aesthetic – I wanted it where I could touch it as well as see it. I chose my right shoulder as it's a place of strength, a conduit for expression.

I didn't think the execution out as well as I should have. I decided to do it myself simply because it was so intensely personal I couldn't imagine letting another person do it. I decided to use my old methods, albeit with much better preparation. However I hadn't actually contemplated how difficult a cutting could be in a spiral shape, on one's shoulder. I ended up doing the cutting with my off-hand.

So for three nights I would set myself up with a clean razor, hot water, tea-tree oil and dressings. Three nights I went over the design, taking photos afterwards. Then five nights after that I went over it once more and five nights after that I made the final pass. Like my tattoo, the actual execution was anti-climactic. I this case, exactly what I had hoped for. By doing the cutting as a means to an end, for a concrete result, it lost it's hold over me. I still feel the urge to cut sometimes, but not nearly as badly.

Sadly though my healing has accelerated and the scar is faint. I irritated it only slightly and hoped for a result like the other scars on my arms but it was not to be. I'm planning on having it done professionally at some point in the future. Even so the experience has been invaluable.

We'll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one's been. Spiral out. Keep going.

Tool - Lateralus

disclaimer - don't do it yourself. It can go wrong, it can go bad and the result isn't as good as a professional.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 18 Feb. 2005
in Scarification

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