Mutilation is the badge that can never be taken off, and sets us apart from all others. Pain is important to the bonding—a physical horror that bonds us ever tighter to all those who have partaken. The intensity of the experience helps to widen the gulf between us and those who have not shared. –Clive Barker, Pinhead
You might imagine that a person would resort to self-mutilation only under extremes of duress, but once I’d crossed that line the first time, taken that fateful step off the precipice, then almost any reason was a good enough reason, almost any provocation enough. Cutting was my all-purpose solution. My scars ought to be a charm bracelet of mnemonics, each a permanent reminder of its precipitating event, but maybe the most disturbing thing I can say about the history of my cutting is that for the most part I can’t even remember the whens and the whys behind those wounds. It didn’t take much to make me cut. Frustration, humiliation, insecurity, guilt, remorse, loneliness—I cut ’em all out. They were like a poison, caustic and destructive, as though lye had been siphoned into my veins. The only way I could survive them, I thought, was to keep draining them from my blood. I was trying to get equilibrium from two extremes: either I was so upset that I had to cut myself to relieve it, or I was so numb that I had to cut myself to get back to being there.
Mutilation is the badge that can never be taken off, and sets us apart from all others. Pain is important to the bonding—a physical horror that bonds us ever tighter to all those who have partaken. The intensity of the experience helps to widen the gulf between us and those who have not shared.
Some facts about cutting and self-injury:
- The definition of Cutting:is any socially unacceptable behavior involving immediate, deliberate, direct, and usually repetitive physical injury to one’s own body resulting in mild or moderate self-harm, and is usually without suicidal intent.
- Self injury is a “silent epidemic” that has only recently been paid any attention from the medical and mental health community. One reason for this is that “There are no diagnostic criteria for self-injury or established guidelines that are used by mental health professionals or medical doctors.”
- Approximately 2% of all adolescents (teens) and 12% of college students in the entire population in the United States self-harm.
- 41% of sexually or physically abused children will self-injure and 70% of self-harmers have been sexually abused.
- “The typical self-injurer is a white, middle-class female who started cutting around puberty. She is usually intelligent but with low self-esteem or depression. She also has a hard time expressing her thoughts and feelings coupled with an insatiable need for love and acceptance” (The Truth About Self-Injury, by Rebecca Gillingham).
- Although “self-mutilation” is the term clinicians use to describe this addiction, self-injurers often find it demeaning. They prefer the terms self-injury and self-harm. But self-harm is an umbrella term that includes a variety of behaviors that damage or cause harm to a person, such as drug or alcohol use, food related harm, or risk taking behavior. Self-injury falls under the umbrella of self-harm, and is a direct behavior that causes injury and damage to one’s own body, regardless of the method.
- Cutting is the most common form of self-injury because self-harmers usually start with it then gradually move to other forms such as scratching, burning, hitting/bruising or interfering with healing until they find their preferred method.
- A few reasons people may self-harm:
1. To distract themselves, alter the focus of their attention, or regain control over their minds when experiencing pressing, unavoidable and overwhelming feelings or thoughts.
2. Release tension associated with strong emotions or overwhelming thoughts
3. Feel something physical when they are otherwise dissociated and numb
4. Express themselves or communicate and/or document strong emotions they are feeling and cannot otherwise articulate
5. Punish themselves
6. Experience a temporary but intense feeling of euphoria that occurs in the immediate aftermath of self-harm
- “This basic understanding is not often there when people are confronted with someone who is cutting or burning or otherwise traumatizing themselves. People don’t have good reference points to use so as to understand what motivates self-injury or what people who self-injure are trying to accomplish. That acts of self-injury are so often bloody and horrifying makes it harder for people to be thoughtful about what these acts mean. There is a tendency to panic when you see someone you care about bleeding from self-inflicted wounds, or covered with scars. Such panic interferes with thinking, and makes it harder for people to understand the motives behind self-injury. Further complicating the matter is the way that self-injury looks like it must be a suicide attempt even though it usually isn’t. An act of self-injury which might make sense if understood as a suicide attempt becomes all the more difficult to comprehend when the self-injurious person denies that they are trying to kill themselves and is telling the truth” (Personality Disorders by Mark Dombeck).
- March 1st is Self-Injury Awareness Day and the official awareness color for Self-Injury is Orange. You can check out the website at: http://www.selfharm.org/services/wristbands.html
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This song is close to my heart. Recently, I have kind of adopted it as my “theme song” of sorts…It deals directly with the cutting. But the story behind this song is even more amazing. It is about this girl named Renee, who was deep into cutting and depression. She got into a rehab program and is now a Christian and freed from her cutting addiction. Her friend started a non-profit movement to find hope and help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. It is called To Write Love On Her Arms, or TWLOHA for short. This organization exists to encourage, inform, inspire and to invest directly into treatment and recovery from addiction and depression. I love this organization and the message it sends, since they deal directly with what I am going through. Check out Renee’s whole story at twloha.com. Rescue is possible.