Self Harm: For Cutters, Recovery is Often Difficult
I am a cutter.
I have never and will never be proud to say those words but it is the truth and there is no running from them.
I have an addiction. I say I have an addiction because I am still struggling with it even after almost nine years. My addiction makes me hide parts of myself every day and to live a secretive life. I bottle up my emotions, my thoughts, all my self-hatred and release them by opening my skin with a knife. I hide behind layers of clothes to cover the evidence. I plaster fake smiles to disguise all the pain I am in, and it continues over and over again.
Self-harm can turn into an addiction just like anything else, and I am proof of that. It does not only hurt me but it also hurts those around me.
Psychology Today describes an addiction as a condition that results when a person ingests a substance or engages in an activity that can be pleasurable but the continuation of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary responsibilities and concerns.
An addiction completely takes over you. You forget who you are and which thoughts in your head are your own.
My brain has trained me into thinking what I was doing was okay, that I deserved it. The voice in my head kept saying, “Just one more” and I listened every time.
I never intended for things to get so horrible.
The harmful act became a habit which later turned into an addiction. The urge to get a blade and hurt myself started becoming so strong, the only way to make it go away was to eventually give in.
Hurting myself became a normal action and a way to survive. Each year would keep on getting worse. It became so bad I couldn’t realize what I kept doing to myself. Whether I had good days or bad days I would always end up hurting myself. I lost reasons to fulfil cutting, I just did it because I was supposed to.
The summer of my sophomore year in high school my parents made me get counseling. I did not realize what I was doing was hurtful and cruel, I was in denial and did not want to go.
Since I did not want help I did not work at improving, actually I only got worse. I learned how to hide my cuts and scars better, and how to further convince people I was okay.
After a few months I stopped attending counseling and instead kept on struggling.
I am not struggling alone.
Research from Mental Health America indicates that self-injury occurs in approximately as many as four percent of adults in the United States. Rates are higher among adolescents with approximately 15 percent of teens reporting some form of self-injury, and studies show an even higher risk for self-injury among college students with rates ranging from 17 to 35 percent.
For outsiders, it may be hard to understand why and how someone can engage in an act that is so painful and dangerous, but there is no one single or simple cause that leads someone to self-injure.
Mayoclinic.org says self-injury is usually the result of an inability to cope in healthy ways with psychological pain. The person has a hard time regulating, expressing or understanding emotions. The mix of emotions that triggers self-harm is complex. For instance, there may be feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, panic, anger, guilt, rejection, self-hatred, or confused sexuality.
Individuals who engage in self-harm have different lifestyles and experiences, so their reasons may differ from others.
As for me, I have used my cutting as a punishment. I blame myself for everything that goes wrong, and the fact that I take up space by being alive. It was never because I wasn’t able to cope but because I held so much self-hatred. There will never be enough scars on my body to count all the reasons why I hate myself.
Unfortunately, self-harmers are not the only ones affected. My addiction affects my family and loved ones as well.
The first time my mom saw my cuts she was shocked. For her, shock gave way to so many other feelings like confusion, disbelief, anger, and complete heartbreak. As my self-harm intensified she became so angry that something so devastating could take a hold of me, and completely change how I see myself and the world.
“There were countless times I sat in her room, just wanting to feel close to her, to understand. My heart completely in pieces and feeling physically ill with each thought of her having to run a sharp blade over her precious skin to quiet the voices. I would cry all the tears I could,” she said.
I feel absolutely horrid for bringing such negative emotions on my mom and the ones I love most. I wish they didn’t have to experience so much pain, but without them I would not be able to make it.
I am thankful for the things my parents do for me, every sacrifice they had to make for me throughout their life, and the endless love they give me. I am thankful for my boyfriend and when he holds me while I soak his shirt with tears, the times he helps bandage me, and the way he still looks at me like I am the most beautiful girl in the world despite all the scars covering my body.
My addiction tries so hard to make me forget there are people who love and care about me. It pushes me to do hurtful things to myself because I don’t matter. The voice in my head fills me with fear and I understand if I don’t fight it, it will kill me.
To stop my addiction the first thing I have to do is realize it is even there by confessing the darkest part of me. It is extremely hard and painful but I need it to heal.
As of right now, I am in the middle of finding a therapist and treatment that will be effective and right for me.
I will not be recovered, not for a while. Recovery for me requires patience, courage, determination, love, and self-acceptance. I know there will be lots of ups and downs in the process, but I am ready to try. I am willing to work on myself to live another day.
I am not writing about my life to upset or trigger anyone. I am not asking for sympathy or attention, so please don’t give it. I am sharing a part of my life for those who feel like me, alone
I am a cutter.