I watched my husband’s eyes fill with tears after he discovered the self-inflicted cuts on my thighs.
At the time, I didn’t understand why others got so upset about my self-harm. I thought the physical wounds were minor compared to the cavernous emotional wounds that existed on the inside.
As a young child, I couldn’t understand why I was being abused. Not being able to make sense of the trauma, I had come to the conclusion that I had somehow caused it. In my mind, I was being abused not because the abuser was bad, but because I was.
I became afraid that those I loved would stop loving me if they found out, so I kept the abuse secret. I told no one about my abuse when it was happening, not even my family. I tried to always appear happy and carefree so no one would suspect anything was wrong. In a sense, it worked. No one close to me ever suspected a thing.
I viewed my cutting as a release from my pain. But gradually I began opening up about my abuse and accepted that I needed counseling to cope with it. One evening, at my therapist’s prompting, I thought more deeply about my cutting as a response to my abuse.
I wasn’t entirely sure why I did it myself. I thought about my experiences as a child and as an adult and tried to be completely honest with myself. As a child I was sexually abused I thought. Now, as an adult, I’m physically abusing myself.
I knew my previous belief that it was somehow a release from my pain was a lie.
Instead of reaching out to others when I was feeling sad or overwhelmed, I cut myself. It was a way for me to keep people at a distance.
As a child, I was silent about the horror I was going through, I thought to myself. Now, as an adult, cutting is keeping me silent.
As I sat staring again at my worksheet, I knew I had discovered the truth. I said the real truth about cutting aloud. Cutting continues my abuse and keeps me silent.
Some people try to numb their pain with alcohol or drugs. Others spend excessively, or watch porn. I chose to cut. We will never be able to heal from the abuse of others when we are abusing ourselves.
Trying to escape our difficult feelings will not make them go away. Through counseling, I learned I need the presence of others to truly heal. Our most powerful feelings are unbearable when we feel alone and isolated in them. Only the love of others will really teach us that we don’t have to be alone, that we are worth love and respect. I realized that if I could connect with others, I could learn to truly cope.
After this discovery, I spoke to my husband. I have no doubt that he would sacrifice his life to save mine if I were ever in danger. But in this instance, I myself was the one harming me, and he told me he felt powerless to protect me.
He had suggested to me before that I should come talk to him when I felt like cutting, but I was so used to keeping things in. His suggestion now made complete sense to me, and I vowed to come talk to him when I was feeling overwhelmed.
It has been over four years since I last self-harmed. The times I am tempted to cut when I am upset about something, I reach out to others instead.
Usually my husband is still the one I go to if I’m feeling overwhelmed by something. Just getting my thoughts out of my head is incredibly helpful and that is usually all I need to do. The feeling that I am not facing life alone, that there is someone there who has my back is all I need to give me the courage to face the challenges that come.