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It's A Family Affair

Cutting - My Private Hell

Warning! If you are a recovering self-injury victim who wants to stay that way and if reading about it may get you started again, do not read this story.

If you are like most people, the thought of inflicting harm on yourself is indeed strange. Most people would rather hurt others if given a choice between hurting themselves and someone else. There are a small percentage of the population who have a problem where they do inflict pain on themselves and I am one.

Why am I sharing this very personal, private and extremely embarrassing condition with you? It is because most people have the wrong idea about people who do these kinds of things. It is not a death wish, it is a coping mechanism, a poor choice of one, but it is the only way many feel comfortable in coping. When the emotional pain is so intense and it has nowhere to go and no way to express it, the physical pain serves as a distraction to the emotional pain and the physical pain is easier to deal with.

This is something I started doing back in the 70s. It was way before there was any public acknowledgement that this was an official "disorder". Those who would do something like that MUST be crazy and have some severe psychiatric disorder. One would not dare talk of such things in polite company today, but back then it was incomprehensible to discuss at all.

The media would portray "cutting" as something done by teens or young adults and is seen as sort of a "fad" way of coping with situations. I am certainly not a teen now and started self-injury when I was a child. Yes, it was a way to cope with difficult situations, but it was by no means a fad.

If self-injury were merely a fad, most of those who do it would be quick to brag about their injuries to the world instead of trying to cover it up or make up lies about how it happened or merely avoid the subject quickly. While there are some who do show off their handiwork and scars as a badge of honor, most do not.

Self injury is more than just cutting. Some people burn themselves. Some people beat themselves up or bang themselves up against walls or fall down stairs or break bones...the list is endless. I just cut.

What got me started? I was confused, depressed, scared, anxious, and under the burden of keeping secrets and guilt. Back in the summer of 1978 I was a typical happy child. The thought would never have crossed my mind back then to cut myself, but life would change. I did have a tendency already to pinch myself until I got a bruise in order to cope with difficulty, but that ended and turned into something else.

After a summer assembly where it was further embedded into our heads that the world was going to end soon and planning anything for the future of this world was futile, I was starting to give up on a sense of purpose.

I wanted to do something big with my life. Perhaps I could have been a dancer or a singer. I would have loved to become an architect or maybe do something to travel around the world like being a stewardess. More than anything, I wanted to be a famous writer. Those were my childhood dreams. What does a kid do when they are basically told not to follow their dreams? If you don't want to die, you give them up if it meant pleasing God.

I suppose all of it would not have been too bad if for the fact that later that summer I would hold in a secret that I thought would cause God to punish me and kill me at the upcoming end of the world. I kept a secret no child should be expected to keep because I was too afraid to tell anyone. I was afraid for my family and especially for my youngest sister if I told. I did not tell anyone for years, not even my closest friends, that I was molested and eventually had sex with my mother's best friend's husband.

He actually started doing odd things with me when I was nine. It started with touching and exposing himself or him wanted to see me. He would rub himself up against me. I had a hard time dealing with it and in those moments, I would merely pinch myself until I created a bruise as a form of punishment.

That particular summer it was above being molested. He had sex with me, several times. Even when I was outted into telling what happened, I could not bring myself to admit to it. It still makes me sick to think about it.

I didn't know too much about the world, but I did know that sex outside of marriage was a sin. I was not married to him, but he was married to my mother's best friend and his kids were my friends. I was told not to tell anyone by this man. To this day, I still re-coil in disgust to think about it too much. That was part of the problem. I was not dealing with the feelings behind it.

Not only was I expected to give up on dreaming of a future in this world, but felt as if my sin would keep me from any future at all. To say I was having a hard time coping with it was an understatement.

I thought perhaps things would be better once I got to school. I would start going to another school where no one knew me. I thought it would be a good thing, but it was awful. I was going to a school where most of the people were racist and resented us being there.

My cutting pretty much started the same day I started the new school. Out of nowhere, I was hit with a big rock when I got off the bus. I was shuffled into the principal's office who wanted me to identify who did it, but I could not tell because they all looked the same to me - one big angry mob. He gave me a button that I could pin on my clothes.

I arrived at my class a little late and felt awkward enough, but what happened next sealed my fate at the school. They were about to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I was used to being in a school that not only knew of Jehovah's Witnesses, but were tolerant of our differences. This school was completely the opposite.

I had to decide quickly if I wanted to stick out further as being different or to honor my religious values and stand up for what I believed to be the right thing. After all, I had a heavy point against me with my sins I could not disclose to anyone.

I explained to my teacher I could not salute the flag as it was against my religion. She asked me, in front of the class, what was my religion. I told her and then the class half laughed while the others looked at me as if I came from another planet. From that point on, I was the "weird Jehovah kid".

She then had me explain a little about it and other things I could not do. It seemed as if I were getting a lot of gasps of horror from the kids who have never heard of that religion before. I was humiliated in front of a bunch of strangers and felt guilty about that because I should have taken it with pride and honor. I felt this put me further away from God who was now sure to kill me when the end would come soon.

I played with the button fingering it at first to deal with the feelings I wanted to avoid. I wanted to cry, but I was not about to let them see me cry. Then in an instant, I have no idea what came over me, I took the sharp pin edge of the button and cut my arm as if by instinct.

In that moment, I was stunned by what I just did. Those people thought I was weird enough and I did not need them to see it, so I put my sleeves down to cover up. Actually, in the moment I did it, I felt relief. I was in physical pain and the emotional pain immediately stopped. Physical pain was something I could deal with and understand. What was going on in my head was too scary to deal with and I could not understand it.

When I got home, my mother noticed the scratch on my arm, but I told her I ran into some bushes. She bought it. I did not even know how to breech the subject to her and say, "Hey mom, I took a pin and scratched myself on purpose." How on earth does one admit that to anyone? It's hard enough to admit to yourself, especially when this kind of thing is NEVER spoken of anywhere.

Whenever confronted with overwhelming situations with highly charged emotional feelings, I would cut instead of dealing with it. It only got worse as I got older and forced to deal with what happened to me when I was a kid. To this day, I still have not completely dealt with it. And since that time I have been put through other traumatic events such as being mugged on the streets, getting raped in college, losing my only identity when I quit the religion and not having anything to fall back on, and even being in a marriage that can be abusive at times.

Do I still cut? Yes, but not as often. I am getting better at dealing with emotional issues of the present, but still cannot get over the past as hard as I try. The pictures below are examples of what I have done to myself on one session. Don't click on them if you are easily squeamish or feel it might get you to cutting and you want to stop it.

Self Injury Example 1 Self Injury Example 2
Self Injury Example 3 Self Injury Example 4