Trigger warning! Please be aware that this article discusses suicide, self harm, and cutting. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingofSuicide.com/resources for additional resources and support. For cutting and self-injury support go HERE for support resources.
I can still feel the cold of the knife handle in my right hand as I made that very first cut. The world was quiet, but the noise in my head was overwhelming and complete gibberish. I sat there numb from the pain. Numb from the fear. I felt like I had been holding my breath for months and as the knife touched my skin, I could finally exhale. I cut again and again. Cutting was not a way for me to kill myself, but it was a way to remind myself that I was alive.
It was 2004. The world was dark. Exhausted both mentally and physically, I continued to show up each and every day. From the outside you would never know I was struggling. We are told to hide the pain or to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to just keep going. Looking back, I realize now I finally had become so numb, I had no idea how I even ended up sitting on my bed with that knife in my hand.
Lost, Lonely, and Numb
Surrounded by friends and working at a bar making more money than I knew what to do with, I thought I was living my best life. When I wasn’t working, I was partying, dating, each new guy, I thought was the love of my life, and attending classes when it was convenient. On the inside though, my entire world had crumbled. My parents’ divorce left me more lost and confused. I had a mom struggling with depression and a suicide attempt. Then there was me. It was my senior year of college and I had no plans for my life after graduation. I found myself lost, lonely, and numb.
If you ask me why I started cutting, I can’t tell you. I had never read about it or even heard about it. It is almost as if it just came to me naturally. The knife fit perfectly in my hand. It wasn’t a special knife. One that I had used to cut my veggies the night before. It came from the set that my mom had purchased when I finally moved in to my first place. The silver handle was rough and was a different color from the blade. The rounded edges of the handle fit in my hand, like it was the missing puzzle piece that completed me that night.
This new form of release became all too common for me. I didn’t want to die, but I needed the reminder that I was a living, breathing, and feeling human being. Cutting allowed me to release the tension and because from day to day I felt nothing, feeling the pain that came with cutting reminded me I could still feel. I mastered the art of wearing bracelets or long sleeves so nobody could see my truth. I had mastered the pressure to ensure I wouldn’t cut too deep, until one late night in the spring of my senior year.
This Cut Was Different
It’s a blur to me, but I remember calling my friend Brian telling him I needed help. I had crossed a line I never thought I would cross. This cut was different. This cut was too deep to simply just move on from. I don’t remember what Brian did or what Brian said to me that night. What I do remember is driving for hours in his car. I don’t remember where we went. My heart slowed and the voices quieted at some point, I fell asleep. I woke up to the morning light making its appearance through the front window.
My body and my wrist ached. My head throbbed. Brian’s voice was gentle. He wasn’t angry. I remember his eyes were sad and when I saw them, I knew I needed help, but saying those words out loud was too hard. We never spoke about that night again and sadly, life took us in different directions. After that night with Brian, I realized that eventually cutting could lead to death if I didn’t admit that I needed help. How do you admit you are not ok though, when you are buried in hurt, shame, and fear? Despite all of that, unfortunately, that was not my last experience with cutting.
I Am Not Ok
I don’t remember how many times I cut myself after that, but I do remember the last time. That memory is one that I hold close to my heart. You see, the person sitting next to me after she saw the fresh wound was my mom. We went to my favorite spot and watched the waves crash into the shore that morning as the sun rose. She held my hand walking me through her experiences of hopelessness and grief. She let me cry and she allowed me to be angry. For the first time in my life ever, I said out loud, “I am not ok.” She met my words with compassion and love.
I look down at my arm today, the scars have faded, but they still remind me of the sad girl I used to be. They remind me just how powerful hopelessness and pain can be. They also serve as a reminder of how powerful the words “I am not ok” can be.
So, if you struggle with cutting or self-harm—I see you and I want you to practice saying these words over and over again so you can finally say them to somebody that can help you.
“I am not ok.”
Say them with power. Say them with grace.
Take your power back because those overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and pain that only seems to be relieved by the act of cutting and those feelings of emptiness that hit the very core of your heart can be worked through. Maybe they won’t be worked through today or tomorrow, or even this year, but to start working through them you have to have the strength, grace, and most of all courage to say out loud “I am not ok.”
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