Nobody ever said that life would be a picnic in the park. Everyone in the world has good days and bad days. Some people may go through more bad days than others, and in return, they often know how to handle a stroke of bad luck better. This doesn’t mean that anyone is better than anyone else and it certainly doesn’t mean that drastic measures need to be taken. Most teenagers and young adults, at some point or another, feel as though they can not handle their bad days anymore. A growing number of these people channel their anger into what is known as cutting. Cutting isn’t the answer. It not only hurts you, but those who love you.Before the age of twenty, the average young adult goes through typical hardships. Heartbreak, death of a loved one, not getting into a top- choice college, and moving away from home are just a few examples. Most young adults experience at least one of these during their high school days. Family, friends, and other loved ones are generally there for those hardships, but what happens to those who keep their emotions bottled up.
On the surface, someone may appear happy, content with their life, emotionally stable, and well rounded. For some, this is true for their outside appearance as well as how they feel on the inside, but this isn’t the case for all people. I personally know that this isn’t true, for I was once what some would call a cutter.
As an ex-cutter, I can understand where those who do self-mutilation come from. Loneliness, anger and fear are all emotions that flood your mind. Those feelings seemed to be erased as soon as the razor cuts the surface of the skin and the soothing pain takes away all of the unwanted feelings. Is this something that you really want for yourself? Ten seconds of neutral emotions in exchange for mutilated arms, long term mixed emotions, and a life full of painful secrets, or worse yet, death. Cutters usually don’t want to kill themselves; they just want the pain to go away and for someone to understand.
I was a happy child. I grew up in a loving household, had a lot of friends, and had everything within fingertip reach. Life for me was like any other middle to upper class child. When I was about nine years old, my parents decided to move into a larger house in a town with a decent school. The thought of moving didn’t phase me, in fact, I didn’t care. Once I entered fourth grade at Birches Elementary School in Washington Township, NJ, I knew that things would be a bit different.
Starting at a new school and not knowing a single person was something that didn’t bother me, or at least I thought it wouldn’t. It wasn’t until the first day of school that I realized something – I was fat. I welcomed everything and everyone with open arms, but I didn’t get the same reaction in return. I had few friends because no one wanted to be friends with the fat new girl that wore cartoon sweatshirts and stretch pants everyday. Yet, with all of this criticism, I was still a happy girl because even though I was fat, I had a family that loved me.
Two years later when I entered middle school, I was still the same girl, possibly a few pounds heavier. I had a handful more friends and I was happier than I was in elementary school. It wasn’t until I was about thirteen that I really started to get picked on. I was 5″2′, weighed a whopping 170 pounds, had giant teal octagon shaped glasses, and had developed an intense case of acne that covered my face with large zits. The happiness slowly drained out of my body. As if my appearance was not horrible enough, a very good friend of mine had passed away in a car accident that year. This was the first death of a loved one that I can remember. Thanks to my guidance counselor at school, I was able to contain my emotions about the loss of my friend as well seek help about my appearance.
By eighth grade, a year later, I had grown two inches, cleared up some of my acne, purchased smaller glass, and had lost about forty pounds and was able to purchase new clothing, that for the first time, included jeans. I started gaining more and more friends, joined more school activities, and started to love life again. I was the happiest I had been in years, until that fateful day in January.
Prior to the last day in January, I was a part of what I would consider a great family. There was one strange thing about my family though; my mother sure did have a lot of male friends. This seemed a little bit weird to me and I even approached a friend a school, asking her what I should do. And just as I suspected, my worst fears came true; my mother was cheating, my father found out, and my family was falling apart before my eyes. This completely changed who I was, and am today, but there was one upside to that, my older brother became one of my best friends.
Entering high school, I was popular, smart, and a part of numerous activities, but that cloud of being a part of a broken family was always in my mind, and the horrible years of middle school were stuck in the back of my mind. Sweet sixteen, for me, was not so sweet sixteen. In fact, it was awful sixteen, the year that killed me. My friends started doing drugs, drinking, and having sex, which I wanted no part of, my beloved grandfather died unexpectedly, my first boyfriend dumped me, and my brother, my best friend, had moved away to college. I was alone. I lived with my father who didn’t understand me; my friends were too busy getting high to be there for me.
I was the girl in high school who everyone thought had it all, but underneath my fake facade, I felt like I had nothing. I had no one to turn to and no where to go, so my escape had turned into the form of cutting.
Some one once said “no pain, no gain”. This was my philosophy that I had adapted every time I picked up the blade. Cutting was my outlet in life. It was something that I could control. And what was better than being able to control something in my life, was that it felt good. In my mind, the pain was so much more soothing and relaxing than the heartache I was feeling inside.
There are two kinds of cutters; ones who hide it and ones who show it off. Me, I was a closet cutter. By my last two years of high school, I had gained a large group of friends who I am still friends with today, my brother had come home from college, and I started to love high school. One would think that all of these positive changes would make me happy. That wasn’t the case. For me, and for most cutters, cutting is an addiction. It’s almost like a drug, and it was my choice drug for when things went downhill. Until this day, a lot of people in my life do not know about my cutting, and there is a reason behind that.
Being that I was a closet cutter, I did not want anyone to know about my addiction. A lot of people who see others with razor scars on their arms immediately assume that they do it for the attention. That isn’t always the case. I went through extreme measures to hide my scars, from long sleeves to bracelets to watches. This was not something that I did for attention, but out of anger, towards myself.
At the age of twenty, four years into my addiction, I was in a wedding. A close friend and coworker of mine had asked me to be a bridesmaid. One day at work, I was helping her with a wedding detail when she noticed my arm. Her reaction will be imprinted in my mind for the rest of my life. She was shocked, horrified, and very upset. This was the first time, to my knowledge, that someone had noticed what I was doing to myself. It’s because of her that I am now clean of cutting for three years.
After my friend had noticed what I was doing to myself, we sat down and I told her everything. From that point on, she became my rock. Unfortunately, that fall I was moving out of state to attend West Chester. Adjusting to life away from home was very hard for me. I was away from my family and friends and worse yet, I had extremely low self
esteem which led me to pick up the razor. Within a week of moving to West Chester, I hated myself more than ever. Thankfully, my roommate of one week noticed my dramatic mood change as well my arms. She was the second person I told my secret to, and with her help, the help of my friend from home, and the support of a counselor, I was able to overcome my addiction.
I was able to learn that what I was doing to myself was wrong on all levels. Not only was I hurting myself, but I was putting myself in a position of suicide. If I cut myself too deep and didn’t seek medical attention, I could have died. And that was something that I had never thought of. I was able to see my life from a totally different point of view than ever before. I focused on the better things in life rather than the bad things. Even though my parents were no longer together, I had the most amazing father who did a more than fantastic job in giving me everything and anything that I ever wanted. I had amazing family members and friends who love me unconditionally, I attended a great college, maintaining good grades, and for the first time in my life, I was able to feel pretty.
Now I sit here any wonder how I could have ever done that to myself. I was selfish. I saw the world according to someone else, not according to me. I never realized how amazing my life was until I acknowledged who I was. I was oblivious and na’ve to everyone and everything else that wasn’t me or in my life. Not once did I think about how my family would feel if they saw what I was doing to myself, let alone if I had died. I never once thought about other people in other countries with no food, no water, and no homes. Life is never bad enough to the point of self mutilation. I can see, I can hear, I can smell, I can touch, I can think, and I feel emotion, this is what life is about.
Telling someone about my problem was the best decision I have ever made. I fear that if my friend did not find out, I might not be sitting here today. Letting loved ones into every aspect of my life, having them know and understand who I am is a great sense of satisfaction and relief. With that satisfaction and relief, also came shame. How could I not once think about my father, my mother, my grandparents, or my best friends when I was hurting myself. I didn’t realize that with every slice of my wrist I was not only losing myself, but I was losing my loved ones. I was so wrapped up in my own emotions, it fogged my ability to see how much my family and friends loved me.
Family and friends who have concerns that a loved one is cutting should be looking for specific things; once happy person is more somber, they get easily aggravated, they spend a lot of time alone, they stop doing things they once did, or they change their clothing style or cover their wrists, even in the summer. If you notice something strange on someone’s arm, even if it appears to be a scrape, ask that person what happened. If you feel like they might not be telling the truth, talk to them. Let them know that you’re there for them and that you will love them unconditionally, no matter what.
Life is not about comparing what I have to what someone else has, life is about embracing what life, and what God has been able to give me. For those who feel the way that I once did, need to realize that they are not alone in the world, that there are millions of others who feel exactly the way that they do. There is at least one person in this world that loves you, and that alone should be enough to put down the razor and realize that cutting is not the answer, because it not only hurts yourself, but those who love you.
K.L. is a student at West Chester University.