Her name was Ally. She was my best guy-friends’ sister. She was older than I was by two years. Ally carried one of those black messenger bags adorned with pins, buttons, and patches. Her jeans were always ripped and her Slipknot shirts were always one size too big. I never spoke to her much. Her brother, Jose, adored her.
Jose and I met in seventh grade in drama class. I was sitting in the second-to-last row and Jose sat directly behind me. Our first day there, all of the students had to whip up a comedic skit and present it that same hour. Jose and I were paired. I forgot what the skit was about, but I do remember it being hilarious. We were friends ever since.
Being the 13-year-olds that we were, we shared secrets, feelings, dreams, and confessions. By this time, I was already being abused and was having an understandably hard time with life. I told him one day on the swing set that I wished, more than anything, to find a way to make the pain stop. He held my hand and thought very hard for a few minutes. Then, gently, he offered a possible solution.
“Ally cuts herself.”
Surprisingly, I had never heard of such a thing. I had self-mutilated my body before in different fashions, but I never knew that there was a name-not only a name, but an entire subculture. I looked at him inquisitively.
“I don’t know. She says it helps her go numb or some shit. She uses a razor blade.”
And just like that, I had found my solution.
That same night after our long talk on the swing set, I retreated to the safety of my bathroom. My grandma was sound asleep in her room and my grandpa was watching telenovelas. I carefully pulled out a razor blade from the medicine cabinet. Sitting on the toilet seat, I raised the left sleeve of my pajamas. My hands were clammy. I rested my arm on the porcelain, pressed the blade against my skin, and pulled. At first, I had only made cat scratches. But as I went on, the deeper the cuts became. My pajama bottoms became stained from the droplets of blood.
I felt an empyreal high. Jose was right. It had brought me great relief. I washed the blade off, and tucked it in a lock tin box I had, where I later kept an arrangement of blades, gauze, a small pair of scissors, and tape.
Now, I know how awfully clichéd this story is. I get it. Half the school, it seemed, listened to My Chemical Romance and wore black and pink checkered wristbands. The campus was full of them: emo kids flipping their bangs out of their face just enough to be able to see the dark poetry they would be scribbling on their hands. For a period of time, I was one of them. I purchased a God-awful amount of merchandise from Hot Topic. Chokers, black and green striped knee-high socks, black bracelets, safety pin earrings.
Cutting was a thing. It was subculture that quickly bloomed like red plush beneath an Exacto-knife. It gave people a sense of community. Misery loves company, I suppose.
I admit at first that I had felt some pride about being a “cutter.” As the scars developed, I was satisfied with myself. It wasn’t until my cousin draped my body over the bed that I realized I had a problem.
It was just like all the other nights. It was 12am. My grandparents were asleep. My cousin, who worked from home nocturnally, took a break. I had done this several times before. I knew exactly what to do. I escaped my body momentarily and watched us from the ceiling. Watched numbingly as he peeled articles of clothing off of me. Off came my pants. A gasp escaped from his lips and he pulled back. I was jolted back into my body. His face softened and I felt a lump in my throat. I had missed this tenderness.
“Baby, what did you do?”
It had been fine before. The cutting, I mean. I never thought it as dangerous. He ran his fingers over hours-old welts. He was shocked. I had at least 300 cuts on my body… my thighs, arms, hips, stomach, chest, anywhere I could reach. “Why did you do this?” I had no words for him. I knew he knew why. He wasn’t stupid. He’s a rapist, a pedophile, and a destroyer- but not a stupid man. He pulled me into his chest and I could hear him begin to cry.
A seemingly juvenile coping mechanism had turned into a ten year addiction.
Despite the countless nights of enduring my cousin, I had missed and longed for this paternal part of him. Perhaps it was Stockholm Syndrome. I let him cradle me and I felt safe. Little did I know that this act in itself was potentially more dangerous for me then the abuse; I quickly learned that my self-inflicted wounds served as a protective shield. The cuts bought me time. With each gash, he took on the paternal, caring role. Now, I realize that this was HIS game. I would take my clothes off willingly, because I was under the notion that he would check me every night out of concern. I thought that he cared. I often look back on my very visible scars on my thighs and remember that night on my bed, as my cousin held me, weeping.
I’ve read somewhere that the victim of incest and early sexual abuse can become wildly sexually confused and could essentially muddle compassion with arousal, so on so forth. I am ashamed to say this, for multiple reasons. However, I will say it in hopes that A) I’m not alone and B) maybe someone could know THEY’RE not alone. During some of these nights of check-ups, cuddling and “therapy” talks, I became aroused.
The cutting continued. Slowly, my family members began to notice the scars and long sleeves. Multiple interventions were held in my living room in efforts to get me to consider going to a adolescent rehab facility. While each person read words of concern from tiny sheets of paper, my cousin sat next to me, hand on my knee, making sure the family knew that he was my foundation. And no one suspected a thing.
This post was inspired by this Tumblr pic:
It made me think. I had never seen a self-harm picture that resonated with me like this one.
I am still addicted to cutting. The blade, ironically enough, has saved my life on many occasions. I struggle with it nearly every day. It does bother me that cutting has been equated to a fashion trend. It’s not. It’s cunning, dangerous, and destructive.
If you’re reading this and you also struggle with self-harm, I’d like to personally let you know that you are worth more than this addiction, and I love you.