what I want you to know: using self-injury as a coping mechanism

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by Andrea.Photobucket

the first time i became aware of self injury i was in junior high school. there was a boy in my class who cut his name into his arm. (which is why you should home school your children and prohibit all play-dates.)

i don’t remember anything too much about why i dabbled in it – how, when, or for how long…i’ll just say that this is my first memory of an example in how to not cope appropriately with life stressors.

“it” faded away for 15 years. never disappearing but apparently always waiting.

after the last few years of self reflection, i can see how my mental disease has affected me from as far back as my stupid (and practically non-existent) memory can flicker significant moments to me. like what sweater i was wearing the first time a guy ever felt me up.

i never knew how to deal with life difficulties. a lot of time was spent on the bathroom floor (remember that scene from grey’s anatomy where that hot guy denny died and izzy lay on the floor for hours? like that…but without the hot guy). “being overwhelmed” is not nearly a good enough description. (also, unless you clean your bathroom floor every day? it’s nasty.)

why did i turn to self injury later in life? who knows. i guess the seed was there…just waiting for the right combination of food, water, and fertilizer. guilt, anguish, and an inability to cope with my failing marriage…unable to see a way out of the life i had created for myself. not to mention dissolving my family…and oh my god, my children. i will never lose the self-hate for affecting my children that way, ever. (probably this is why my house is infested with fruit flies: karma.)
and so it began. i would cut, scratch, burn, rub…whatever. it was fabulous (no, not really), like being able to just scream and release everything that was bottled up inside…but without sound, without alerting anyone of there being anything wrong. so nobody knew. problem solved. i always had a good excuse reason for the marks…this was crucial to maintain my “everything’s fine” facade…i even went so far as to place them appropriately on my body in order to match my tale.
i would feel guilt and regret afterward…suffice it to say that my stock of fast healing band-aids, antibiotic cream, and scar oil was always at the ready. but guilt and regret did not stop me…and more often than not, every time there was a trigger (usually while i was drinking alcohol. yay! another numbing and dysfunctional comfort) i would pull it.
and then the boyfriend came into my life. he’s also known as the best friend who became more and the person who would make me see that there was (and is) always a solution to problems. that i did not have to settle. that i deserve to be happy.

telling him was the first time my dirty little secret passed through my lips. but old habits die hard and slow (like oj simpson). he would see and he would be angry – he couldn’t understand.

and then one day, a friend had scratches on their arm. along with a half-assed excuse for where it had come from. and i knew. because it takes one to know one.

it was then, and only then, that i knew exactly what the boyfriend had felt every time i self injured: fear, anger, confusion, frustration, helplessness. this was the pivotal moment when i began my recovery – because of this person.

did i relapse? duh. but i picked myself up.

do i still think about it, even now? again, duh. (“duh” means “yeah”)

but i get it now…and did you know that knowledge is power? so this makes me one powerful bitch.


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