Confessions of a “Cutter”

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by Joanna (JuJuBe)

I was a freshman in high school when I discovered “cutting”. I was being constantly bullied and harassed by classmates. At home, I was reluctant to share what I was going through, because, while my mother was my best friend and the best parent I could ever imagine, she struggled with her own (undiagnosed) depression and was recognizably fragile emotionally. I knew if I started to cry about what was happening at school, my mother would break down with me, and I would end up feeling worse for upsetting her. So, my only respite was the 42 minutes per week I spent with the social worker at school. And the food I constantly gorged on.

Until I discovered “cutting”. Unlike the image most people have, no one taught me how to “cut”. None of my friends practiced self mutilation. I never saw any images on television. The internet did not exist back then, so I was not influenced by any website. I just knew I was in pain. And one day, I just discovered that using a pocket knife to slash my forearms made me feel temporary euphoria. It pleased me to “punish myself” and watch the blood bead up from the cuts I had made. It gave me a temporary “high” sensation. So, I did it. Over and over again. I usually kept my arms covered, so people didn’t realize I what I was doing. It was my tried and true coping method.

I got depressed. I cut myself. People made fun of me. I cut myself. The only person who knew was my social worker, and she could not tell anyone, because technically, I was not endangering my life.

When I went to college, I met a man who I became obsessed with. He and I were just friends, but I was so upset I ended up cutting myself. On the face. And my dirty little secret was out. Of course, no one really reached out to do anything but laugh. No helping hand was offered. I was laughed at. I was thought of as a freak. And the more people degraded me, the more pleasure I got from cutting myself.

So, I kept cutting. Every time I got down, I cut myself. The only time I stopped was when I was dating a man who threatened to break up with me if I did it again. Then, as soon as we split up, after four years, my first reaction? Cutting. A few months after our break up, I was in the psychiatric hospital, my arms, breasts and stomach completed covered with shallow scars from a pocket knife and a box cutter.

In 2006, not only did I cut myself, I started to burn myself with cigarettes too. I ended up in the hospital for 2 months. Then I entered a day treatment program, and with the help of a good therapist a psychiatrist, I learned ways of coping with stress that did not involve mutilating myself. My big breakthrough came the day after I conned my grandmother into giving me a set of box cutters I found in her apartment. I fully intended to save them to use when I felt too stressed to use my new coping mechanism. But, instead of keeping them at my place, I walked into my psychiatrist’s office the next day with a bag full of box cutters and told my psychiatrist that I was sick and tired of the pain.

I was a freshman in high school when I discovered “cutting”. I was being constantly bullied and harassed by classmates. At home, I was reluctant to share what I was going through, because, while my mother was my best friend and the best parent I could ever imagine, she struggled with her own (undiagnosed) depression and was recognizably fragile emotionally. I knew if I started to cry about what was happening at school, my mother would break down with me, and I would end up feeling worse for upsetting her. So, my only respite was the 42 minutes per week I spent with the social worker at school. And the food I constantly gorged on.

Until I discovered “cutting”. Unlike the image most people have, no one taught me how to “cut”. None of my friends practiced self mutilation. I never saw any images on television. The internet did not exist back then, so I was not influenced by any website. I just knew I was in pain. And one day, I just discovered that using a pocket knife to slash my forearms made me feel temporary euphoria. It pleased me to “punish myself” and watch the blood bead up from the cuts I had made. It gave me a temporary “high” sensation. So, I did it. Over and over again. I usually kept my arms covered, so people didn’t realize I what I was doing. It was my tried and true coping method.

I got depressed. I cut myself. People made fun of me. I cut myself. The only person who knew was my social worker, and she could not tell anyone, because technically, I was not endangering my life.

When I went to college, I met a man who I became obsessed with. He and I were just friends, but I was so upset I ended up cutting myself. On the face. And my dirty little secret was out. Of course, no one really reached out to do anything but laugh. No helping hand was offered. I was laughed at. I was thought of as a freak. And the more people degraded me, the more pleasure I got from cutting myself.

So, I kept cutting. Every time I got down, I cut myself. The only time I stopped was when I was dating a man who threatened to break up with me if I did it again. Then, as soon as we split up, after four years, my first reaction? Cutting. A few months after our break up, I was in the psychiatric hospital, my arms, breasts and stomach completed covered with shallow scars from a pocket knife and a box cutter.

In 2006, not only did I cut myself, I started to burn myself with cigarettes too. I ended up in the hospital for 2 months. Then I entered a day treatment program, and with the help of a good therapist a psychiatrist, I learned ways of coping with stress that did not involve mutilating myself. My big breakthrough came the day after I conned my grandmother into giving me a set of box cutters I found in her apartment. I fully intended to save them to use when I felt too stressed to use my new coping mechanism. But, instead of keeping them at my place, I walked into my psychiatrist’s office the next day with a bag full of box cutters and told my psychiatrist that I was sick and tired of the pain.

But, I have to confess it is a struggle every day. I spend many months with a rubber band around my wrist, snapping it when I had the urge to cut. I read a lot of books, trying to distract myself from self destructive impulses (it is a good thing I have always been a big fan of reading). I made a lot of phone calls to a lot of friends. For a while there, I even had my shrink’s number on speed dial. But, I had a great therapist who worked diligently with me to get past this issue. It has been two years since I last resorted to cutting or burning myself. And I strive every day to make sure it stays that way. It has been two years since I last resorted to cutting or burning myself. And I strive every day to make sure it stays that way.

Some Alternatives to Cutting

1. Draw on yourself in the place you would cut using a marker or pen

2. Hold an ice cube against your skin or run cold water over hand/arm

3. Wear a rubber band on wrist and snap it whenever the urge is there to cut

4. Breathe deeply and slowly

5. Write down feelings in a journal

6. Remind yourself out loud that you are in a safe place and go to a safe person to talk

7. Play a sport or musical instrument

8. Get active—swim, walk, run, clean, sing

9. Allow yourself to cry

10. Write or say a word that best describes your feelings-over and over

11. Recite a poem, prayer, or anything that comforts you

12. Listen to music

13. Take the tool used for cutting and use it on something else

14. List the reasons you should not cut
Resources:
To Write Love on Her Arms
S.A.F.E. Alternatives
Recover Your Life
First Signs (UK)