Trigger warning: Self-harm and suicide
I lost myself a long time ago. I was young. It’s hard to pin point exactly where, but I knew something wasn’t right… I carried a heavy pain in my chest. A constant stream of confusion and sadness ran through my brain. I would look at people and constantly wonder why. Why they did the things they did and words they said. I couldn’t process it, all I felt was fear and pain. A desire to run and hide. I never knew where I would go so I just hid inside myself. It stays with me to this day.
I was 13 when I first held a knife to my arm. I had moved back to Colorado from California. I remember my aunt, uncle, mom and I piled in a van and we drove across the states until we got back home. My aunt and uncle continued on their cross-country vacation and mom and I settled in. I knew I wasn’t myself anymore, I wasn’t that girl that existed in California. She died somewhere along the way.
The night I pulled the knife out of the kitchen drawer, I was watching a TV show called Degrassi. There was a character on there, Ellie, who I related to right down to a T. She had an alcoholic mom, dad wasn’t present, and she even dressed the same as I did. It was hard relating to people when I felt the things I did at such a young age with hardly any friends.
The episode was about Ellie’s daily struggles with her mom, her dad being gone, things in school, and how the weight of the world began to bury her. One night, she came home and her mom was drunk on the couch. She had stopped to get dinner for herself and her mom. Her mom turned away, complaining about the smell of the food. Ellie got up and went to her room, shut the door, and dropped her backpack on the floor and began to pace around. She finally collapsed on the floor, and noticed an object that slipped out of her bag: A compass (a tool used for math).
She slowly took the compass and stared at it in her hand. At this point, you knew something was going to happen and she’d never be the same. I couldn’t take my eyes of the TV. Ellie rolled up her sleeve and held the sharp edge of the compass against her skin, hesitating… Then her face changed. She cringed and tears began rolling down her face. That was her first time cutting.
The rest of the episode surrounded her and her newfound coping mechanism. Eventually a friend walked in on her cutting in the girls’ bathroom at school and tried to get her help. Obviously the episode ended on a more positive note… But I sat there and soaked in everything I just saw. Everything I saw, I related to… And if pushing a sharp object into my flesh helped her relieve some of the emotional turmoil she was drowning in, then it could help me, too.
I was alone at home. I was most of the time. I left my room and walked to the kitchen and opened the drawer with the sharp knives. I held it in my hand, staring at it, then staring at my clear, scarless skin. I was afraid, but I knew I had to do this. I didn’t know what I was doing, I cut the top of my arm a few times and just stood there and watched as little beads of blood began to ooze out of the slices I made. For once, all I was focusing on was this. Nothing else. I rinsed the knife off, put it away and ran back to my room.
That was the beginning of a very long and endless road.
It was easy to hide. I wore long sleeve shirts, and when I wasn’t wearing those, I wore arm warmers that I bought from Hot Topic, since that’s the only place I’d buy clothes at anymore. After that night, I tried different tools to push into my skin, figuring out which one I’d use moving forward. I went from that knife, to a push pin, to a metal bandage hook, and then to razor blades- which was all I used moving forward.
Throughout the years, people wondered and probably knew what I was hiding underneath the clothing I wore. But no one asked. No one does still, to this day. Nobody discusses it. I know it’s a sensitive subject, but still. I was teased by a few people in my life about it. Even today, I still hear jokes about cutting/self harm in general and it gets under my skin almost as much as the razors I used. Their words brought me shame, embarrassment, confusion, anger, but always this deep sorrow. Because there I was again… alone and misunderstood.
All that really comforted me anymore was music. Cutting just became this ritual I would do to not think about my reality. At least I had control over the pain I felt. At least I had that. Then I could lie there and stare at the wall until I fell asleep.
I’ve carried this ritual through my life. I don’t know when it will ever end. I wish I could promise the world that I will never ever cut again. But the reality is, once a cutter, you’re always a cutter. There’s been large spaces between the last cut and the next. I resist the urge as best as I can. But when I look at my arms and thighs, they’re battle scars. And I’m still battling, and I’ll never stop fighting. I’ve tried twice to end it all, because I just didn’t want to hurt anymore.
But I’m still afraid. The little girl inside me still pulling the shell of an adult that I’ve become back inside because she doesn’t want to be alone. I don’t want to leave her alone anymore, I know how it feels to be abandoned by the ones you love. She was pushed aside and left alone. Her feelings were never validated. She was seen as dramatic, “too much,” attention seeker, worthless, useless. She felt so insignificant, she could never believe people actually loved and cared about her… And now the shell that I am carries that same pain, as if it’s embedded in my DNA. I’m trying to undo a lifetime of coping mechanisms, thought processes, inner dialog, emotions and feelings that I swear are swimming in my blood and can never be drained unless I get a blood transfusion.
So I’m sorry if you say you care about me, if you say you love me, and I look away. I don’t know how to absorb it. I love to love people, but when the tables are turned, it’s as if I’m not worthy of it and they’re only doing it so they don’t feel awkward around me. It’s just that it’s so hard to believe what people say because the moment it leaves their lips, they can’t take it back. And if their feelings and thoughts change, then it’s as if they lied to my face the whole time.
I was let down so much in my life. People who said they loved and cared about me failed me, I failed myself. Now when I look into someone else’s eyes, I’m holding back the feelings that are so clearly laid out if you looked deep enough. But eye contact isn’t my best quality, I guess for that reason. Eye contact makes you want to trust someone, you’re letting them in through the windows of your soul. You’re vulnerable. You’re showing them the other side. But the windows in me are broken and boarded up. Only some light escapes through the cracks now.
Someone that has come back into my life told me they cared about me. It was really difficult to hear. Not because of who they are, but because I don’t hear those words often. I couldn’t look them in the eye when they said it. The little girl in me is trying to shake me now, telling me to accept those words because I need to try to resuscitate the part of me that knows I matter and am allowed to feel good feelings without fear of abandonment. I looked at that person in their eyes for the remainder of our time together. I felt just a little bit more alive than I’ve felt in a long time.
I can’t undo what has happened, I can’t forget, I’m learning to forgive myself. I’m like a car battery, sometimes I die at the most inconvenient of times, but then something comes along and jump-starts me and I’m alive again. Sometimes it’s myself, sometimes it’s someone else. Lately I haven’t been able to bring myself back to life. But this person did.
But now I’m here, writing this post. And that feeling is gone, as if they were never here. I can’t remember how I felt when they were with me. I’m trying to remember, because it was a good feeling. I’ve learned it’s a Borderline symptom, it’s called emotional permanence.
“It is a phenomena that is actually very common among people with BPD, but for the most part, is classified under another subset of symptoms or never spoken about directly.
Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed.
Emotional Permanence, is the understanding that emotions (and other abstract concepts and expressions like love) continue to exist when they cannot be observed.
Many people with BPD have difficulty recalling or recreating any given emotion without the stimuli behind that emotion being present.
Issues with Emotional Permanence are particularly noticeable in our relationships with other people. I think that this is a major reason why we constantly seek reassurance, and why we are so often plagued by fear of abandonment. When a person in our lives removes an emotional stimuli via the absence of their presence or reassurance, we find it difficult to recall if that reassurance ever existed.”
Another wonderful part of being me. Another wonderful part of knowing me and what/who I am. That’s why I’m afraid to get close to anyone now. I don’t want to place this burden on that person. I don’t want to lose myself further down the rabbit hole.
So now here I am, an old dog who’s slowly learning new tricks. Resuscitating the parts of me that have been shut down for so long.
This is who I am. Am I good enough for anything/anyone… I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to convince myself that I am.