Please note that the following blog post discusses self-harm, specifically cutting, and includes details of the author's experiences and actions. The post also discusses anxiety disorders, paranoia, and hypochondria
I cut myself.
I use shaving razors that I break apart with pliers and when my roommates get to those and hide them I pick at scabs with pins, make scrapes with dull knives, snip at my skin with scissors.
I cut myself, and the weird thing about this is how quickly it happened and how easy it was to continue once I started. I even hesitate to write this for fear of giving you, the reader, ideas because it was so easy.
It’s something I’d thought about for a long time. In moments of intense anxiety and stress in high school I’d pinch myself hard. Clench my fists and dig my fingernails into my skin. I was a paranoid hypochondriac back then and sometimes it was the only way for me to deal with my worries. Cancer, ALS, schizophrenia, you name it: I thought had it. It was maddening and I did everything in my power from school work to long distance running to distract myself. When distraction failed I stayed inside my brain trying to reason myself out of unreasonable thoughts. Thoughts like “I will become a pedophile,” or “I will become a psychopath,” or “I will hurt someone close to me.”
But I’m over those things now. Instead, I cut myself.
What bothers me most about this recent development in my life is that I feel I should know better. The cutter still exists in my mind as an angsty lonely teenager sitting in their room listening to the Smiths. A teenager with no friends and no access to mental health resources.
This isn’t the case for me. I have a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder that I can use to explain myself to myself. I am 21 years old. I am a fourth year journalism student, with friends who love me and support me and hide sharp things from me.
I’ve spent these four years of my undergrad trying to read and write and learn my way out of mental illness. I feel responsibility for my problems because I have education and privilege that so many people with mental disorders don’t have and yet I still don’t do the things I know I should do to help myself. I don’t exercise, sometimes I don’t eat at all, and I don’t sleep when I should.
Therapists and doctors give helpful suggestions and I;m putting them here because they might help you, the reader. Distract yourself they say. Play your guitar when you feel like doing it they say. Put an ice cube on your arm if you have to cause pain. Snap a plastic band against your wrist. Take a walk. Usually I run through all of these things and *then* I cut myself.
Today the doctor told me to go home and throw away the razors I keep in a kleenex box under my bed. But in complete and utter anonymous honesty I don’t think I will. Because right now in this moment I don’t want to do what’s good for me.
I want to cut myself.
Here’s why I cut myself.
Because it’s fast and I don’t have time for anything else. I have to interview a source and I’m inexplicably nervous about it. I have multiple stories due in the morning and in my mind if I don’t finish them, something horrendous will happen.
Because I can’t sleep. Because I didn't do the dishes. Because I can’t concentrate. Because I can’t get rid of this vague overpowering feeling of panic any other way.
Because I just want to.
The obvious solution to my problem seems to be to quit all this. I could take a break, drop some more classes even step off the treadmill entirely, but the prospect of unfilled hours doesn’t appeal to me. I learned to escape my paranoia and hypochondria by never stopping, never pausing, and throwing myself zealously into everything. And I love what I do. I love writing and interviewing and crafting stories like the one I’m telling you right now. I just don’t know how to live a life where I get to pursue that passion without panicking and/or slicing my arms open all the time.
Pretty melodramatic right?
I decided to write this because I thought it might be cathartic. Most people who know me don't know this about me. It's not the sort of information you want to burden people with. But I also, more importantly decided to write it because I know I can't be the only one stuck in this weird middle space.
Every time I go to the doctor she asks if my school work is suffering as a result of my problems and I say no. She asks if I’m suicidal and I say “No, I just cut myself almost every day that’s all.” It’s bad but not urgent, unhealthy but not life threatening. And so I am just dangling here in purgatory, leaning on very good friends, going to therapy, taking my medication, enjoying life sometimes and hating it other times, wearing long sleeves and using a lot of Polysporin.
I think a lot of students are in this middle space where they’re just dealing with it, maybe not in the best way and not in the worst way. They’re just keeping their heads above water however they can.
That’s really all I want you to know if you’re at all like me. I think you can keep your head above water for today and tomorrow and on and on and on. If you’re like me I hope you disinfect your razors and I hope you tell your friends what’s going on, and I hope you don’t feel too ridiculous.
You and I reader, we’ll both be resilient, and we’ll be happy and maybe someday we’ll at least throw away all those sharp things. We might not “recover” but we’ll keep finding better ways to handle our inexplicable minds and we’ll do that for the rest of our lives