Self injury and cutting often go hand in hand.
As I write this I ask you not to judge me. This is a controversial topic and I hope I manage to convey my feelings and my motivations for doing what I feel I need to, as honestly as I can, without sounding stupid or naive.
As I sit here in August 2006, aged 17, i've been cutting myself for over 6 years. It's not a subject I like to speak about as it's very emotional for me so please, keep an open mind as you read it.
Throughout primary school, I was bullied mercilessly about my weight. I was always taller and chubbier than the other kids, I had few friends and the ones I did have weren't real friends. Because of this I was picked on. In primary school, you only have to have a different hair colour, or the wrong shoes and you'll get bullied. Unfortunately, my weight wasn't something I could fix by changing what I wore or what my mother bought me. It's only in the last year i've discovered my weight problems are probably due to the inherited Thyroid gland problem I have. As I say, I couldn't change who I was. I tried not eating but this made me grumpy, and I just didn't have the willpower.
Throughout primary school I pretended to not care what people said to me. I was one of the brighter kids in school and was one of 5 girls in my year to be put in with the year higher to learn. I thought that maybe that would be the end of the bullying. I was so wrong. If anything, being in with the older kids made the bullying worse. Although the girls were ok, it was the boys who shouted the stupid but incredibly hurtful comments. Every single derogatory comment that came out of their mouths about me cut me to the core.
I was never the talkative type. I could never tell my mum anything, instead I kept the bullying to myself. Until one day I was walking home, completely minding my own business when two of the older kids started shouting abuse at me. I managed to ignore them and was nearly home until one of the boys threw a stone at me. It hit the back of my head and at that, I burst into tears, ran home and eventually, after a lot of encouragement on my mothers part, told her what happened.
Now like I say, I never told my mum anything, she knew of that one incident and the rest I kept to myself. I didn't deal with things well and as a result of bottling things up, I was a very unhappy child. I thought how I felt was normal so I got on with things.
The summer of 2000 was the year I left Primary school, where I was a big fish in a little pond, and went to the high school, where I would be, as my teacher put it, a tiny fish in the sea and I struggled with that (Needless to say, that comment didn't fill me with confidence. As the first child to go to High School in about 9 years in my family, things had changed and I was venturing into the unknown). The summer of 2000 was also the year my world was tipped on it's head and the year I became a nightmare to live with.
I should give you a bit of background and say that my father, isn't my biological father. He's my step-dad but he's been in my life since my 'real' dad walked out on me when I was 3. (Haven't seen hide nor hair of him since, not that I could care less) To me, a father isn't someone who makes up half of who you are. A father is someone who's been there for you, who brings you up, who helps you out when you're stuck, and sticks up for you even if you were in the wrong. This is my step-dad. Next year will be his and my mother's 10 year wedding anniversary, but 11 or 12 years together. With my dad, came two boys in tow, my step-brothers. They stayed with my dad in my house because their own mother didn't want them, and because of this, they blamed my mother. They hated my mum with a passion, they did everything they could to make her life a misery, including running away (which they did multiple times) and lying when they were found, that they were being hit and starved and generally mistreated. Because this wa s such a serious allegation, the police got involved and my step-brothers were taken into foster care. I remained with my mother and step-father in the family home, but was put on the "At risk" register. I also got a social worker whom I loathed with every ounce of my being. Not helped by the fact I got a different one every two weeks or so, I was never settled and never 'bonded' with them. I thought they were sneaky. They'd play board games with me and ask me a few questions, often the same question over and over again but worded differently. As I say, I was never the most articulate child and often got confused and upset being interrogated like this.
Eventually, a case was brought against my parents for child abuse and the trial began. This all coincided with my leaving primary school and starting high school, aged 11.
Through all this I stayed with my gran just along the road from my mum's house. I got used to it eventually, but it made me even more unsettled and unhappy. I was withdrawn and hid more in my shell than ever. I remember the day when the verdicts were given, as clear as if it were yesterday. My mum and dad dropped me off at my grans and said they might not be coming back that day. I told them to shut up and i'd see them later. It was upsetting for me seeing my mum upset but I never let on because I didn't want to hurt my mum more. So they drove off to the trial with my mum's best friend who was there for moral support shall we say. I went to my grans and waited it out. I still remember the phone call from my mum's friend. I was watching TV and eating Cornflakes. I had answered the phone and someone asked for my gran. I didn't recognise the voice and being the wise-ass I am, said that she'd run off with the milk man. Eventually I gave my gran the phone and went back to my cornflakes. I was sitting with my le gs over my sisters knees watching TV. When my gran got off the phone she said both my mum and dad had been sent to jail for 9 months. At that point my mind had gone blank and all I knew was that I wasn't going home. I burst into tears as did my gran and sister. I still had a mouthful of bloody cornflakes (To this day I can't stomach them) and swallowing them whilst crying my eyes out was the single hardest thing i've ever had to do.
So that was that. I was staying at my grans for the next nine months. I didn't know how to deal with all this and I missed my mum horribly. Eventually, about a fortnight of not seeing or speaking to my mum, we were allowed to visit her. We were allowed a quicker visit because of my age and I think the prison wardens felt sorry for my mum. Going to the jail was something else. It was quite a distance away from where I live, but luckily my gran drove. That first visit, I think it was me, my mum's friend and my gran.
I was petrified when going into the jail and it smelled odd. I can still smell it. Those huge doors and metal barriers were exactly how they looked in movies and on TV. I was absolutely petrified. Eventually we were allowed up to see my mum. I started crying again because my mum was crying. I was inconsolable, and even though I was way too big and it isn't allowed, I was allowed to sit on my mum's knee that first visit. The visiting room wasn't anything like i'd imagined. There were vending machines where you could buy chocolate and crisps, and although the prisoners weren't allowed to take anything back to their cells, they could eat and drink as much as they liked (or you bought them). There was also a play area for the kids and a little tea bar. the wardens were nothing like I imagined though. I had watched one too many episode's of Bad Girls and was petrified of even looking at them, but they were lovely. At the end of that visit I cried again and left in a bit of a mess.
Visiting my dad was something else. My mum was in a women's only jail, and my dad was in a men's only jail, about 100 miles away from my mum, and 30 miles from me. I visited my mum every two weeks and could have seen my dad every Wednesday, which, during the summer was fine, but at School was impractical. As I was saying, my dad's jail was scarier, although the wardens were equally nice. Because I was just a child, I didn't need a pass, but anyone who visited my dad had to get their photo taken and their finger print of their first finger scanned.
It was scary going in to see my dad, because there seemed to be 'harder criminals' in with my dad than with my mum, and this screwed with my head no end. (Remember that 'Limbs in the Loch' Killer from Scotland? Yeah, he was in with my dad.)
During that summer staying at my grans I was very unsettled. I became moody, withdrawn and stayed away from everyone. I was moody anyway, but having just started my periods and puberty, all these hormones plus what was going on in my life equated to one very unhappy 11 year old. I locked myself in the bathroom, I screamed, I slammed doors, I ignored people, I shouted at my cousins, I swore at my gran, I still did well in School but I was incredibly emotional and missed a lot of school visiting my dad. Dealing with the emotions in me and starting school with all those HUGE people in the higher years, all squishing me and pushing me out of the way to get to their class took it's toll on me.
One time when I locked myself in the bathroom (It was one of those locks you can open from the outside too, so I took to shoving toothbrush handles underneath the door. Problem solved) I had a set of keys and I was refusing to come out. My gran was swearing at me, I was screaming at her and it all got too much, I cut my wrist with the key, convinced it would cut open my vein and i'd die like I wanted so badly to do. The resulting burny scratch wasn't the suicide I had planned, but it was the release I was looking for and had unwittingly stumbled across. From that moment on, whenever I became too much of a bitch (I love my gran and felt so bad I was putting her through what I was, even though I didn't know how else to deal with things) I cut myself using whatever I found that was sharp. At that point I didn't think about or realise the consequences of a dirty object piercing my skin, I just wanted to feel better.
4 and a half months after my mum and dad were put in jail, they were let out for good behaviour (because their sentence was under 3 years, it was halved. Anything over I think 3 years, 1 third got taken off the total amount) I had settled into a routine at my grans and didn't know how to deal with the upheaval, although anything past that first night, where I cried to go back to my grans, is a blur.
Fast forward to 2002 I think, and I was 13. I had made a few good friends, one 'best' friend but I was still incredibly down. I was sitting in my room one night, crying uncontrollably (heartbreakingly, i've learned how to cry quietly and motionlessly so that even people in the same bed as me don't realise i'm crying) and I loathed myself. I was fat, I hadn't grown into my looks and I was struggling with everything. Put quite simply, I wanted to die. I took apart a brand new pencil sharpener and cut really far into my wrist (not even across the way, down my vein, which I later discovered was more dangerous.) The resulting river of blood that followed shocked my to my core and I called my best friend for advice. I was sobbing down the phone, not realising how loud I was being and my mum came in. She was over at my bed so fast once she saw my wrist that i'm convinced she flew. She hugged my so tight I thought I was going to be smothered by her chest. She kept asking me why i'd done it and I told her that I simp ly didn't know. To this day I still don't know. My friend called my house and told my dad to go check on me. He told her that my mum was with me but i'm pretty sure I scared the living daylights out of her. I know I had scared myself witless.
After that incident, my mum took me to the doctors where she basically told me to go for counselling. I couldn't. If I couldn't speak to my own mother how on earth did she expect me to speak to a complete stranger. So I didn't go. It was never followed up. Even though it wasn't a serious suicide attempt (well, I was serious, I was in the depths of hell in my mind and wanted to die, but it wasn't like i'd OD'd on pills, or tried to hang myself) I think more should have been done. The doctor basically said I was 13, I wasn't depressed (because teenagers don't get depressed of course!) so she wasn't putting me on pills and I had to go to speak to a professional about the cutting.
4 years on, i've struggled with what I now realise is depression, probably not severe, but really pretty serious in my mind. I've gotten to the point where I walked about on auto-pilot. Never speaking to people, never smiling, barely eating. But at the same time, I put on an act for people, pretended I was ok. From the age of about 13 til I was 15, I got pretty seriously hammered every single weekend. It was my way of dealing with things. I'd cut during the week and get stupidly drunk at the weekend. Thankfully I was always safe, but I drunk way too much for my age. At one point, I could drink a 2 litre bottle of cider and a 2 litre bottle of alcopop crap and still walk. That's not normal for a short (i'd stopped growing in the last year of primary school) 13 year old female to be drinking.
I've learned through all of this that the hardest and most painful smile is the fake one you plaster on for people when all you want to do is curl up and sleep until everything feels better.
At this point, last winter was a pretty low period for me. I started college and i'd just finished with my boyfriend of 2 years. The dark nights and dark mornings really affected me, and my lack of friends just solidified that. I was incredibly depressed and managed to escape through the internet. I have a huge circle of friends in the IAM community, some of them I would fight to the death for and I know they'd do the same for me, and for this, I count my blessings every night. Without them I probably wouldn't have survived the winter. I'm dreading this winter, but I hope it's different.
A few weeks ago, I went to the doctors to get help for how I was feeling and my cutting. I have far too many deep scars on my legs and arms and I don't want to do it anymore, but cutting and self-injury is addictive. I know this now. I had broken my habit for a few months, but recently, i've been very stressed and it has all come crashing back. Sometimes I feel so guilty and panicky that it feels like all the breath is being crushed from my lungs and I can't get a decent deep breath. I hate feeling this way and it needs to stop.
I'm glad i've finally gotten some professional help, and i'm on a waiting list to see a psychologist. But it was long over due. If it wasn't for the great support of my IAM friends and a few friends in 'real life' I wouldn't have gotten this far. For that I thank everyone who's helped me. They'll know who they are. I still haven't told my mum though, I know i'll need to soon enough, but she has enough health problems as it is, and I don't want to stress her out anymore.
If you're going through a distressing time and you have children, please, please talk to them, find out how they feel. Maybe you'll be able to avoid your children going through the hell i've been through and am still going through. As I sit here, I know full well I have a box of play piercing needles that I now use to cut myself with. I also know I have razor blades in the same box, just sitting there, waiting until I feel the urge to use them. I haven't cut for about 3 weeks now and i'm really proud of myself. 3 weeks isn't much, i've a long way to go but it's a start.
In my mind, a self injurer is like an alcoholic. Alcoholics are never 'cured', they're just "9 months dry" for example. Some people can be 20 years dry, but they're always going to be alcoholics. SI is an addiction the same as alcohol and drugs. I'll never be entirely rid of the need to cut, but I hope in future, I don't need to depend on it just to get through the next day.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 23 Aug. 2006