Continuing where we left off…
After I cut for the first time I was careful to hide what I had done. After a few weeks I slipped. I was washing dishes in the sink and rolled up my sleeves and my mom saw the cuts. I remember her seeing it and asking what had happened and then making up some ridiculous lie. I knew she didn’t believe me for a second. She looked devastated but we didn’t continue the conversation—and I understand that now. Honestly I was completely grateful at the time because as upset as she was, neither of us were prepared to have a conversation about mental health. What ended up happening was I got better at hiding the cuts. Apparently not good enough.
Roughly three weeks after I first cut and probably two weeks after the second time, I got called out of gym class. A counselor walked me into her office and asked me what was going on with my wrists. I made up a bogus story about doing gymnastics and stretching the skin on my wrists and scratching them. Again, I knew this woman didn’t buy it. But this time around I was pissed. I felt like people were trying to take away something that was mine, the only coping mechanism that I had. In hindsight, I know this woman was doing her job and reaching out to a kid who needed help. I just never wanted to admit that I needed help.
By this point I did anything I could to appear extroverted and draw attention away from any possibility that something could be wrong. When I was on my own I kept hating myself and hurting myself. I got creative and cut where people couldn’t see and where it was easier to hide. I even learned how to cut with minimal scarring after I read an article about what would leave a scar. I used to take tacks and push them into my fingers because that was quicker and easier to hide. It worked for a long time.
Once I entered high school, I did let up for almost a year. Maybe it was new things, new distractions, new people. But the urge came back after a horrible experience with a group of friends and an ex-boyfriend. This time I cut and my sister found out. She demanded I go get help. I spoke to a guidance counselor at school and he referred me to the school social worker who referred me to a counselor.
The office looked like the waiting room in a pediatrician’s office. Books and toys littered everywhere. The only thing missing was the tacky clown paintings on the wall. The counselor was a medium height, medium build, shoulder-length blonde haired woman. The first meeting went well. She gave me a blank journal and gave me some prompts to work through anger, anxiety, and self-loathing. The second session she asked me about my previous cutting and wanted to know if anything I had done had left scars. I told her yes. She asked to see them so I walked across the room and showed her the scars from my earlier cuts. She looked at them and looked at me and said, “oh, those aren’t that bad.”
By this point I’m almost 15 years old, I’m lonely because I just lost an entire friend group, I have the wherewithal to know what I’m doing isn’t normal, I gave in after two years and sought help, and the woman who is supposed to be helping me just told me that what I did wasn’t that bad. She dismissed what I had done to my body as not that bad. I went to one more session with her and she sat me down on the floor and told me that we were going to play games today because she needed a break and didn’t need to talk.
Let me tell you what I learned from that part of my experience: you don’t need a visible scar to prove that you’re hurting. And let me tell you when you have any kind of scar, there is no qualification that makes it “bad enough” to be worthy of attention. We all hurt and we hurt in different ways. When you hurt bad enough to take it out on yourself, there isn’t a need for someone to tell you it’s bad. I learned to own what I was feeling. Yes, it would still be many years after this point for me to integrate and understand that lesson, but when I learned that it was ok to feel what I was feeling, I cared for myself more and I didn’t let other people talk me out of it. I learned to sit with my feelings rather than cut them as a physical substitute for the emotions. I did all of that in spite of people I was supposed to trust telling me I wasn’t damaged enough to warrant help. To be continued.