“Curiosity killed the cat.”
Or I suppose in my case it trapped me in a vicious cycle. I started cutting because I was curious. I don’t remember exactly what triggered it – maybe a book, maybe a song – but I wanted to know how it could make you feel good. Perhaps I already had an inclination towards self harm, because I never really saw it as a bad thing. Sometimes, I still don’t.
My earliest memory of cutting is in sixth grade. In my culture we wear glass bangles and I accidentally broke one of mine. It left a scratch on my arm, and I liked the feeling so I dragged it across my skin in crisscrossing lines. The blood mesmerized me, and I couldn’t stop. I kept smiling and cutting, and every new line sent a thrill through my veins. I couldn’t stop.
At the beginning I only cut every few weeks, and sometimes I would go months without self harming. I never intended to use it as a crutch; I was just curious and I liked the pain.
Eventually though, the pressure started piling on. It was a combination of school, parents, and friends that really sent me over the edge. I’ve switched schools so many times so I’ve never been good at keeping friends, but there were three girls from one of my elementary schools who were super excited that we would be going to the same middle school. The promise that I would see them then was the only thing that kept me from being excessively lonely.
But on that first day of middle school, I walked up to their lunch table, bursting with happiness, and they ignored me. I tried to get their attention – I was sitting right in front of them – but they kept looking away. No apology, no explanation. They shut me out completely.
After that I stopped talking. I’d always been quiet, but now I would sometimes go days without speaking to anyone. I started eating my lunch in the bathroom to avoid people, but eventually I stopped eating at all. I would occasionally eat a single granola bar, and I would feel so guilty I tried purging it. I was falling behind in school, and as a previously straight A student I felt like a failure. I had frequent panic attacks, sometimes multiple times in a day, and the only way to stop them was to cut.
And then my parents were another issue. They weren’t abusive, and I love them very much, but I’m weak. I couldn’t take the pressure from them. If you come from a culture that values success and puts most responsibilities on women, then you know what I’m talking about. As the elder sister I was responsible for all my siblings, I wasn’t allowed to get mad at them, I had to set a perfect example, perfect grades, perfect everything. I hated myself. I thought the world was better off without me in it, I wanted to die. At this point my self harm had a dual purpose: to provide relief, and to punish myself. I would stare at myself in the mirror and try to carve out my imperfections. I cut up my whole body and still felt worthless.
My dad also changed, almost overnight. He always used to tell us that as long as we did our best, it didn’t matter what the outcome was. It mattered that we tried. Turns out that was a load of bullshit. He would constantly berate me for not trying hard enough, even though I was busting my ass trying to get perfect grades. When it came time for me to take the SATs he told me he expected a perfect score. After every practice test where I struggled to get above a 1300 he would yell at me for not trying hard enough. I wasn’t even trying, I was worthless and lazy, after everything he’d done for me I was ungrateful. He saw me crying after my last practice test where I’d gotten the same score as my last one, and he used that against me. That I was just faking it, crying won’t help me get a better score, that I was lying to myself about how much I practiced, that I was stupid. This specific incident was only last year, but back in middle school it alarmed me to see my loving dad turn into a constantly screaming, pressure inducing monster. There were times when I would try to avoid eating and he force me to eat extra. I would always purge it, but I could still feel the food in my system, like I was bloated. I wished I could cut myself to pieces to get rid of all of it.
My parents found out about me cutting in my freshman year of high school, the day before my first AP exam. I was stressed about it so I cut myself, and someone apparently saw the scars. My dad was yelling at me, saying I did it for attention, and my mom was crying. They wouldn’t let me be alone for the next couple of months, and they checked my body to make sure I didn’t cut. It was absolute hell. But the strange thing is, they never sent me to a therapist, not even for an evaluation. I heard them discussing it and my dad reiterated that I just wanted attention, and that only people with real problems need therapy. By this point my panic attacks were so frequent that my cuts were just layered on top of one another, and I was running out of space on my body to cut.
I tried to get clean after that, but it never lasted. Sometimes I would have a panic attack, black out, and wake up with cuts all over me. After a lot of other shit, I’ve gotten better, and now I rarely have panic attacks. I’m a lot stronger so I don’t feel the need to use self harm as a crutch, but I still crave it. I love the blood and the sharp stings, I love watching the red drip down my arm. I want it so bad. I’m trying to resist but honestly, I might cut today. I don’t know.
Sorry that this answer ended up being so long. I never meant to go into much detail, but once I started I just couldn’t stop writing. Anyways thanks if you’ve made it this far, and have a good day. 🙂