I was a cutter. There is no other way I can really say it. I mention this fact because it’s relevant, not because I’m proud of my previous self-destructive behaviors. I’m not ashamed either. It just is. Something that is part of my past; and honest self-reflection is important.
My depression and anxiety–on those darker days, (like the beautifully positive moments in my life), have contributed the human I currently am. Generally, I’m pretty content with that person.
I can’t pick and choose my past. Therefore, I try my best to not dwell on past poor decisions.
Last April, Somerset Visual Journaling published several pages from a visual journal I created based on expressing both the positive and negative aspects of myself. I assumed my darker pages dripping with red acrylic ink and lingering skulls, reflecting on my issues with depression and self-harm, would be the least likely to be selected. I was a little floored when I saw the works they had chosen.
My creative process is enjoyable, but it’s also very much a form of introspective healing. The act of physically producing artwork helps to create a tangible closure for my regrettable choices. My art provides a visual for my frustrations, and outlet for my curiosity.
In reality, I only cut about six or seven times over the course of roughly three years. Initially, I didn’t fully understand the motivation that caused me to want to break open my skin with the (sterilized) x-acto blade. I knew it wasn’t the pain. I don’t like pain. (Despite my numerous tattoos, I do hate pain.)
I do know now, I did it for the blood. I had absolutely no desire to end my life, nor did I intend to cause any serious injury to myself. I realize now that I craved the visual. I felt an urge to see tangible evidence that my internal pain and sadness was real.
I have been in this constant battle with depression for about a decade. I didn’t have a traumatic childhood or intense tragedy that would make sense as the cause of my lingering negativity and sadness. My brain just doesn’t make the chemicals and connections the way it should.
It’s a complex and ambiguous aspect of my life that I need to persistently keep in check. With my antidepressants, I’m usually more on a nice normal level with my emotions and reactions–with understandable ups and downs, but generally quite content with life. Some weeks I thrive, completely motivated in my art and exceptionally productive in my daily life. In turn, sometimes I just feel swallowed up. It’s difficult to maintain focus, everything feels utterly futile as the human race continues in a devastating downhill spiral towards our inevitable destruction–you know, that sort of healthy response to being a human in the world.
I would curl up in the fetal position on the floor of the shower sobbing. Logically knowing, where I was mentally, emotionally, and physically wasn’t beneficial to me or anyone–yet doing anything else in those moments felt insurmountably difficult. Then, when those moments would turn especially bleak—that was when the blood helped. (I suppose I should say, that is when I felt the blood helped. Objectively, of course, the act of self-harming had no actual benefit and thus didn’t really help.) But deep in the recesses of a depressed frame of mind, cutting made sense. I fully understand how a rational human who has never struggled with depression would think this sort of logic is beyond absurd. But to anyone who can relate to it, there is a comfort and vindication in knowing you aren’t alone.
I didn’t glamorize it, I honestly didn’t want anyone to know or notice. I didn’t want their sympathy, and I certainly didn’t want their judgment. I never wanted to burden anyone with the futile internal struggles that left me emotionally drained. I did finally confide in my college boyfriend. At his request, I promised I would no longer harm myself—those promises in this type of situation are usually effective. In that flawed state of mind, I may not have cared much about myself, but I didn’t want to hurt the humans I loved. He supported me through my visits to the student health clinic.
My first counselor was a pathetically bad match for me—I realize this now. At the time I didn’t particularly care for him, but I assumed he knew best-given this was his profession and his higher level of education. When I awkwardly, vulnerably (and warily) confided my situation to him, he never made me feel at ease. But! He did offer alternative methods for hurting myself!—Why don’t you hold an ice-cube for a long time? Or snap a rubber band repeatedly against my wrist? And, Ta-Da! With that unhelpful (and unused) advice, I could cause myself pain like a champ!
Seriously, this man was the human who was supposed to help me find a healthier state of mind? Maybe help me find healthy and safe ways to cope with my severe depression. But nope. Snap a rubber band on my wrist. His horrible suggestions, condescending attitude, and lack of empathy caused me to find a different counselor.
Luckily, the new one was far more beneficial. It’s been over six years now since I last cut myself. It would be a lie to say I never consider it. That the idea of cutting has never crossed my mind since. On rare occasions I’m still tempted, but a similar promise to my husband helps me to keep myself accountable.
This has been a somewhat tricky post to write. I suppose that’s why it has taken over a month for me to post and explain these recently published pieces. Ultimately, I’m not the same girl I was then. I’m stronger and can maintain my positivity for longer periods. But it is still a depression is always lingering in the background, waiting for the opportunity to cleverly creep into my mind and make himself at home.