Monday, February 3, 2014
I have been struggling to find the best way to write this entry. On the one hand, my life is the best that it has ever been. On the other hand, I am living with a mental illness that is hard to understand, even to myself at times. The purpose for this Blog has evolved since I first began this process. In the beginning, I was compelled to tell my story as a voice for all of us who suffer in silence. It then became cathartic for my own personal healing to release some of the demons that I had buried so deeply within myself. As I began to grow and heal, I wanted to show that it is possible to live with mental illness, rather than be imprisoned by it. Finally, my purpose was to show that women have many layers and we all, at some level, can relate to each other whether it is for the quest of eternal youth, or just managing day to day life with kids and a career. Yet, in the past couple of weeks, I am drawn back to my initial purpose in that I have to be wholly and completely honest about what goes on behind my closed doors in order to give courage to those, if even just one person, who are struggling with their own closeted skeletons.
In July of 2011, just after my 41st birthday, I wrote my first post. In that post I admitted my darkest secret. I am a cutter. I have been cutting since I was 11 years old. Through all that I have been through in my life, this one aspect is what I consistently come back to because cutting is the core of where my own demons lie. Through the years the degree of my cutting has varied from daily to sometimes years in between each cut. I have made up to 50 cuts in one sitting to as little as 3. At the beginning of this year, I prided myself in that it had been several months since my last cut. I felt I was at the top of my game. And I was. I am. Yet, the chemical inconsistency of what goes on in my brain doesn't stop. Medication, talk therapy, exercise, mindfulness, even the simple will to change does not stop those synapses from misfiring. With that said, I cut myself a almost 2 weeks ago.
I wish I could explain why. It would be easier to make other people understand. Granted there were extenuating circumstances that were going on, that I may go into more detail on in a later post. Yet, the most significant trigger in this particular event is that it came on suddenly and with no forethought. It was as if the past few months had never happened and the only thing I could think about was relieving the ache. I often get asked what it feels like. Why? Why would you do that to yourself? The best thing that I can say is that the relief that I feel when the skin is broken ,and I can see the blood, feels as if a great weight has been released. It's a feeling of pleasure, not pain. When I say pleasure, that doesn't mean it makes me happy. I liken it to if you have an incredible itch on your back and someone scratches that itch for you. Doesn't that feel good in that moment? You still feel the itch, but the act of someones nails scratching your back feels so good.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the aftermath of what you have just done, is ultimately what breaks your psyche. Once the cutting is done and you have regained your composure, calmed down, used your coping skills to get to a place of mental stability, the realization of the consequences brings a lot of shame. It has taken me years to get to the place where I can handle this with as much integrity as possible. This is mostly because I have been honest and publicly reveal what I do. I can show my friends. I can admit that I did what I did. As I write this, my dad just called and I told him the entire story of what happened. I couldn't do that before. So many can't and this breaks my heart. When I speak of living in silence, this is what I speak of. It is hard to say how many people self mutilate. What I can assume is that many don't understand it, they don't talk about it and those around them either don't know or don't understand it either. It is a horrible way to live. I know this from experience. Even if you are in a position such as myself to talk about it, the shame does not go away.
Just 3 days after I cut myself, I was meeting a new man that I have started seeing. I have known him for several years, but he lives in another state. We talk all the time and have formed a long distance relationship, but this was to be the first time we would see each other in over 12 years. Can you imagine how it must have felt to know that I had to show him what I had done AND explain that I really am OK? Fortunately, he has known me for a long time, so he is not ignorant as to my journey and he is way more understanding then I could have hoped for. I am lucky. I reitierate that so many are not.
When you cut yourself, you can't hide it forever. At the gym, my arms are there for everyone to see. When I went to weigh in for this weight loss competition I am a part of, I saw the nurse looking at my arms with concern. The other day, I was getting hot while grocery shopping so I took off my sweatshirt and when I got to the check out, I realized my arms were completely visible for everyone to see. People look away uncomfortably or they stare awkardly. I have seen concern, disgust or just simple confusion in their eyes. Here I am a 40 something woman, seemingly normal, doing seemingly normal things and they don't understand what could possibly compel me to hurt myself in this way.
So, there it is. I have put it out there for everyone to see, stare at, wonder... My purpose for this? Pay attention. Cutting knows no demographics. It could be happening to your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, daughter or son. I started cutting at age 11. Think about that. If you know someone who cuts or if you discover it is happening, please have patience. Even if you don't understand, support them and let them know that you are there for them and you can be a part of their safety plan if needed. Do not judge, do not blame yourself, do not try and fix it. You can't. Most importanly if you see a stranger with marks on their arms and legs and they are letting you see it, chances are they are doing what they can to deal with and manage it. It is their journey and your only role is to stand without judgment. I can promise you that if a cutter is not showing you their cuts, then they are still fighting their demons and they will do everything in their power to hide it until they are ready to reach out for help. That is their process. There is nothing that can be done to make it any different.
Life goes on. I wake up. I get my daughter ready for school. I go to the gym. I write. I do the things I have to do every day. I love, I laugh, I enjoy my life. Ultimately I know that I am happy. However, I also know that I can't promise you or anyone else that I will never self mutilate again. What I can promise is that if I do, I will wake up the next morning and find happiness again.
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