…the human i currently am.

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.

Somerset Art Journaling magazine, Spring 2012 (3-page spread)
Somerset Art Journaling magazine, Spring 2012 (3-page spread)

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.

no. 75

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.

19 Replies to “…the human i currently am.”

  1. while your post gave me the heebie jeebies, it was a great post on reflecting, growing and learning…! Also, it’s called “blood lust” – the psychological curiosity for seeing blood, and its pretty common, even in non-cutters, who knew??!

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  2. I admire your courage. I’m glad you figured out the reasoning for the cutting thing too. Or some of it (reasoning can change over years). I spotted an expression you used: ‘drawing blood’. Interesting connection between ‘drawing’ and ‘blood’. Hope you don’t mind me mentioning this.

    You’re not alone. At 61, you’d be amazed at the whacky and/or self-destructive decisions and ‘solutions’ I’ve come up with over the years!

    Art as personal exploration is something I relate very much to. I’m currently doing a series of projects: The Books of the Dead to grab back creativity lost/abandoned at the times of various bereavements. It’s revealing and surprising.

    Ann

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    1. Thank you so much. It was a strange post to write, but I think it has to do with my work–and who I am, so it is relevant, even if it isn’t very happy.

      I didn’t even think about the “drawing blood” thing. It was just the first term that came to mind. Although, I could certainly understand if artistic terms are sort of in the forefront of my vocabulary. :)

      Thank you so much for your kind words and comment, and thank you for even taking the time to read my post. I truly appreciate it. I will have to check out your Books of the Dead project–it sounds fascinating.

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  3. I had a girlfriend who was a cutter. Her father was a demanding minister, who verbally abused her. She even turned to black magic in an effort to rebel against him. Not long after I met her, she confessed to episodes of cutting. I found out that this is often an attempt to mask ones emotional pain by inflicting physical harm to one’s self. We eventually broke up, as I couldn’t save her from her demons and she acquired a nasty heroin addiction to boot. I am still emotionally ravaged by the experience and haven’t had a relationship in four years. My heart goes out to you, really. There is a very good organization I support called ” To Write Love On Her Arms “. I am glad you are doing well presently and you seem VERY talented as I look over your work. My name is Jeff Littrell and I’m a sportswriter and poet. I currently have a feature published on the front page of fantasycpr.com. I’m a regular freelance contributor to various sports sites. I also have poetry published and feature it on digthroughlife, my wordpress site. I think you might enjoy the poetry very much. You have inspired me to write a poem, regarding cutting. I have not wanted to re-visit those emotions until now. I’ll look forward to enjoying more work from you. You are a fascinating woman and I envy all the places you’ve visited ! I’m sequestered in a black hole called Indiana ! :) Have a great day, Carly !

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and share your comments and experiences–I appreciate your honesty and taking the time to relate to my past experiences. As I mentioned in my post, unlike your ex, I didn’t have any of those difficult life circumstances to overcome–I have been blessed with a pretty good life, which makes me feel a bit pathetic to have ever resorted to cutting, but such is life.

      I will certainly have to take some time to check out your work. Although, I have to be honest–a lot of poetry is lost on me. Some of it I do understand and relate to in a manner that makes me almost shiver–but a lot of it tends to go over my head.

      I traveled a lot in college, but my life moves about now because my husband is in the military. It very much has its pluses and minuses. I get to live in different places, but I also have to pick up my life and move it wherever they want–so that could be Italy or North Dakota. We have just been lucky so far.

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  4. I, too, struggle with depression, bipolar disorder, and more. Your blog is honest and fresh. Your artwork is beautiful. When clinically depressed, it is hard to fight through the depression to get help. I am happy that you fought for the right help. Not all counselors, therapists, or psychiatrists are the right fit. I reached my lowest point in January of 2011while seeing two psychiatrists who both had my best health in their interests. A psychiatrist with a terrible bedside manner where I was finally hospitalized, prescribed exactly the right medication. It turns out the med I was taking was sending me into a death spiral. The new meds worked after a time, and I feel like a new person. I hope that now you have experience with good and not so good therapists, you will continue to flourish. You have a bright future ahead of you.

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    1. Isn’t that crazy? How it is such a balance with the medication–that what works for one human will make someone else suicidal? I am excited to hear you new meds have brought you back to the better, happier, healthy person you want to be. It is an amazing feeling when you realize you are out of that hole. Thank you for your comment and thank you for taking the time to read my post.

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