Sunday, November 22, 2009

22

First - thank you to everyone who commented on Lex's entry yesterday.  She loved writing it, and reading the comments.  I predict it won't be long before she's bugging me to set her up with her very own blog.  It amazes me how quickly today's generation grows into this kind of thing. 

For today, I figured I'd tackle a deeper topic, just for the heck of it.  I've mentioned self injury on this blog before, but not really talked about it. 

Growing up, I wasn't allowed to be angry.  Not outwardly at least.  Any signs of anger were immediately punished.  So I learned not to be angry.  Other negative emotions weren't exactly welcomed around my house either.  I was put on Prozac at 13.  I remember telling my therapist that I just chose not to feel.  It was easier that way.  It was somewhere around this time that a boy I knew, trying to prove he was all big and bad, cut himself with a razor in front of me.  Not ever one to be daunted, I grabbed it from him and did the same.  I still remember distinctly the feel of the blade, the fact that there was really very little pain - that it felt good to have that control.  It impressed the hell out that boy too, but that was beside the point by then.  It was my reaction that I was interested in, not his.

I bought my own pack of razor blades shortly thereafter.  I started small.  The tips of my fingers.  The backs of my fingers.  Until someone noticed.  I said a cat had scratched me, and could see the skepticism on their face.  I was more careful after that.  Only small cuts, only when I couldn't stand the build up of emotion anymore, and only where I could hide the evidence.  In times of really severe stress I would bite my fingers and knuckles, but people generally didn't notice that.  I managed to never break the skin.  Until at 16 I was sent to a psychiatric inpatient hospital.  On Orcas Island, where I grew up, I was the only one who was doing this kind of thing.  In the hospital, I was surrounded by it.  Hell, I was a baby by SI (self injury) standards in the hospital. 

There was one girl, who had tried to kill herself by stabbing herself in the stomach with a kitchen knife.  But it was a paring knife, so it only hurt, and made her bleed.  She said she knew what to do different next time.  There was Amber, who pulled out all her eyelashes, and had scars on her legs that read bitch and hate and fuck you and worthless mixed in with the more utilitarian straight and jagged scars she'd done with razors, knives... anything she could find.  And Holly.  Who had more scars than skin.  Her arms, her legs, her belly... She'd cut herself so much so often you could barely see her skin anymore.  And you couldn't give her anything metal.  Staples, pens, a notebook with a spiral binding, nothing.  She would tear it apart and insert it deep into herself.  She hated herself more than I could fathom.  Her stepfather had been raping her since she was a child and had given her pelvic inflammatory disease, and she'd recently found out that she'd been made sterile for life because of it.  

These are just three of the stories there.  There were many more.  Cabe with his letters written in blood,   Callie, a victim of Satanic Ritual Abuse at the hands of her father, my roomate for the first few days, whose name I don't even remember anymore, who, at the age of 11 was a strawberry (someone who trades sex for drugs)... an entire locked ward of damaged kids.  And in I come with my few little cuts, and my knuckles chewed raw from the stress of the drive to the hospital, my own history of abuse and my naivete.  Within the first 2 weeks I'd learned more about how to hurt myself than I'd ever thought about back on the island. 

When you're committed against your will (at least in the mid-90's), you're only allowed to be held for up to 2 weeks without a court hearing to determine whether or not you're a danger to yourself or others.  I was 1 day away from that hearing, from being released, when my roommate and I got a hold of a plastic ruler.  So what?  Well, when everything else you own is on lock down, you'd be amazed how much damage you can do to yourself with a broken piece of plastic.  I managed to carve up both arms.  I did it high up on my arms, where I thought I'd be safe.  I always had been before.  I didn't realize that before taking you to court they'd do a full body search, especially if you came in chewed up and marked up.  I earned myself an automatic 180 with that.  (180 days committal - they could keep me locked up for a full 6 months without another court date) 

The last time I cut myself I was 17.  I was out of the hospital, living in a halfway house.  I broke a lightbulb in my closet, and sliced up both lower arms, pretty badly.  I still have scarring, 16 years later.  At the time I had over 100 cuts on each arm.  The ones you can still see are the ones that should have been stitched, but the staff at the house was fed up by my acting out and refused to take me to the hospital.  Instead they started the process to have me readmitted to an inpatient facility.  That was the end for me.  I was tired of being passed around and decided to play the game so I could be released.  It worked, and I was was out about 4 months later.  And on the streets of Seattle, shooting drugs, living on a mattress under a bridge, set on an entirely different, but no less destructive lifestyle just a few months after that.

That all changed in my early 20's.  I've been clean since I was 22.  Met S when I was 23, moved to Oklahoma, and have had an amazing life.  But even now, I have a hard time dealing with negative emotions.  I lack healthy coping skills.  No, I don't cut.  But sometimes, when I get really stressed, when I realized that my antidepressants need to be adjusted, I get the urge.  It's insidious.  I remember the feeling of release, of relief.  That feeling of having control over the emotions, and wish I could have that again.  But I know it's not healthy.  And I won't do it.  I talk to S, call my doctor, adjust what needs to be adjusted.  And it goes away.

So, that's my history with SI - I hope that if you have someone who has issues with it in your life, maybe it has helped you understand them a little better.  If you're having trouble with with it yourself, please feel free to contact me.  I understand.  Email is in my profile.

6 comments:

won said...

Jennifer,

Having known a few cutters in my life (from Noah's time in the desert program), I understand needing the pain to go somewhere...the pressure valve lifted, so to speak.

You wrote about your own journey with such honesty and vulnerability. I hope it reaches someone and makes a difference to them. I acknowledge you for doing this.

Amelia Sprout said...

I had a girl who was a cutter that my mom took in when I was a teen. I never cut, but I had the urge. It is nice to know that even those of us with screwed up youths can go on to live normal lives, but that we are aware that it is always there. I think knowing you can, and that you don't, is the best feeling.

Really Frugal said...

Your strength to come from where you were to where you are is awe-inspiring. I have a niece who started cutting after a date rape. The pain for her family has been enormous, but with continued therapy they pray that it is in the past. Your post took my breath away in its raw honesty. Thank you for sharing.

Ami said...

Wow! Thank you so much for being so open and expressive in sharing your story. ((())) I've met a few people who have similar stories, but none that have been able to express the feelings behind it all so clearly. You've made it so much more 'real,' in a way, than even the case studies and stories I've read in counseling classes.

Mrs Bee said...

I'm passing through from ICLW...
but I'm going to email you.

Sass

Jessica said...

Wow, thank you so much for sharing this. It was beautifully written and so raw.

I never cut, but I did abuse myself in about a thousand different ways: promiscuity, tons of drugs, and just general, insidious self-loathing.

Years later I realize, just like you, that I was not taught to deal with my emotions, especially anger. Any emotion I had that my parents didn't approve of had to go, and well, since I wasn't THEM, that pretty much meant all of them.

Even now, at 34, my mother can still get to me when we're alone together (which, sadly, I try to avoid, despite loving her dearly). If we're shopping and I seem distant she withdraws and pouts and "punishes" me by being hurt. If I'm at her house and feel quiet, she gets on my case for "not talking." God forbid I ever express hurt or anger... It's a lose/lose situation and one I don't think she could ever understand.

I'm just grateful I've found new ways of coping that don't include hurting myself, numbing all my pain, and running away from my family (because, despite her issues, my mother is a decent human being).

Anyway, I rambled... I just wanted to say thanks again.

 

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