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My Secret Addiction
Christina G.
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I first cut myself when I was 13. I was feeling depressed and dead inside. I noticed a box of blades lying on the kitchen shelf. I took a blade and carried it back to my room.

I closed the door, mulled it over for about a minute, and then made a small, vertical cut, about a centimeter long, to the underside of my left wrist. At first I felt nothing, as usual, and then came the pain—like a paper cut—and the feeling that a door had been opened. My heart beat really fast and I felt a rush; I felt powerful, and alive.

Two drops of bright blood appeared, darkening as they fused into one. I squeezed and scratched in order to make the cut bleed more. After about two more drops, the blood refused to come out. Then I went to lie down and soon after came down from the rush. I felt guilty about what I’d done.

But after about a week, I tried it again. Though it may seem hard to understand, it felt good to feel something after so long feeling nothing. And soon it became a regular part of my life.

A lot of the problems that finally led me to cut myself began back in elementary school. I was extremely shy and I found myself unable to go to school. At first it was the building itself I couldn’t enter. Then once I was inside the building, I couldn’t go into my classroom. I would become absolutely paralyzed at the entrance.

In junior high, I used to just sit in the stairwell and cry. Lots of days I’d decide to skip school completely. When I wasn’t in school, most days I’d stay home and watch television, read, write and play.

For the first two years or so, that was pretty much OK. But after that, I began to hate myself—the school situation, my weight and my shyness. I began not to care about the way I dressed, or if I got dressed in the morning at all. I’d stay up all night watching television or I’d sleep half the day. I almost never went out.

I was like this until high school. All along, adults called me crazy. In elementary school, one social worker even told me I belonged in the psychiatric ward of the hospital.

My junior high principal said that if I didn’t go to class I would be taken away from my house and locked up. He once shoved me up the stairs, dragged me down the hall crying, and pushed me into my classroom. He told my class that I had “psychological problems.” Needless to say, I ran out of that school and never returned.

Everyone tried to take control of my life and find out what was “wrong” with me. I was sent to a therapist against my will. They tried to push me and guide me, but they only succeeded in backing me further into the corner I was in. I began to trust only myself and became even more depressed.

By the time I was 13, I found myself growing more and more apathetic. The first therapist I ever liked had gone on leave and I got shifted to a woman who I hated almost as much as I hated myself.

It was at that time that I started cutting myself. I would think about it first and then finally decide doing it was better than not doing it. In the beginning I usually just made one cut at a time, every few days or so. But after a while I began to make more cuts.

By the time I was 14, I was doing it several times a day, and sometimes I’d even slash myself many times in hidden places, like my chest. Most of the cuts were in places where I figured no one would ever see or think that it was deliberate.

image by Thomas Yip

I could pass off cuts on my fingers for paper cuts, for example, and cuts on my arms as accidents. I’m a very private person, so I kept it hidden as best I could. (I guess there was also a little vanity, because I never cut myself too deep in places where I didn’t want scars.)

But sometimes I would open my cuts up again and make them bleed more, or poke at them with a pin or needle, all to feel more pain. Other times I’d only drag the blade across my skin just to feel the coldness and a slight burn.

Pain was something real—it was a way for me to jar my feelings, good and bad, back from wherever they had gone. I could turn to the pain whenever I wanted to. There I had ultimate power.

I started to vary my arsenal. Along with boxcutter blades, I began using things like knives, pins, needles, scissors, soda can tabs, razors, screwdrivers, and broken glass. However, the boxcutter blade remained my weapon of choice.

After I cut myself, though, I’d feel guilty about what I’d done. I wondered why I had done it, and when what I was going through would end. I decided that killing myself was the answer. I didn’t have any other control in my life, so death seemed a promising alternative.

I started to think a lot about ways to kill myself. I had begun to feel dead anyway. All I knew was that I didn’t want to continue the way I’d been living. Trying to kill myself didn’t work the first time, and I felt like such a worthless failure that I slashed myself many times.

I tried several more times over the next year and a half. After each time, I felt really bad and cut myself. Cutting had become a way to both help and punish myself. It helped me feel something again, but also became a way for me to take out my self-hatred.

I couldn’t tell anyone about what I was doing. I was afraid if anyone found out they would judge me and I would get locked up. People had already called me crazy and made threats.

Anyway, I’d seen things like that happen in movies and on TV before, too. I couldn’t afford to give up my freedom. I knew my family would only make me feel worse. I didn’t have any friends because I’d lost them all when I stopped going to school. I couldn’t tell my therapist because I knew she was required by law to report it.

On top of all that, I fiercely guarded my privacy, so throwing myself out into the spotlight and having to face probing questions was not something I was willing to do. I was alone. The only person I had was myself.

Two years ago, I was finally able to go to school again on a regular basis. It isn’t easy for me to explain what changed. School officials had tried all sorts of methods to get me to go back to school. They put me in special ed., held me back a year and changed my school on me. They even tried to send a teacher to my house.

But I didn’t want any of that. So I enrolled in high school and, after a week of trying, I was finally able to enter the classroom. Though it wasn’t easy at first, I began to attend classes regularly. Once I was more involved in school, I began to talk to other teens about my experiences.

Some said that I was crazy and needed “serious psychological help;” others could empathize because they’d done it too.

image by Thomas Yip

Last year, a friend and I were sitting in a locker bay after lunch. I was still getting used to going to school and being around my peers and was in a very blue month. My friend and I were sitting there talking and laughing, but I felt really bad. So I broke the tab off of my soda can and began scratching at my wrist with it.

He grabbed my arm and took the tab away from me, but I stood up, ripped the can open and used that instead. My scratches were swelling a little and burning. He pleaded with me to give him the can, which I did.

I felt like hell afterwards, between the guilt and having done it in front of another person for the first time. I just sat on the floor, silent, wanting to cry and disappear, but unable to do either.

After that experience I decided I wanted to stop cutting myself. I began to take control of my life. I started applying myself completely in school and doing well. I also stopped going to the therapist I didn’t like. I made many friends, and started going out and doing more things. I began to say what I wanted and to do what I wanted. I began to get things for myself.

Once I started experiencing life and improving it, cutting myself became more and more of a symbol of a loss of control. It had lost its importance and meaning. I no longer needed to do that because I was no longer stuck in a rut.

Because people weren’t pushing me anymore I had freedom to expand on my own. Probably most important, I didn’t feel like the walking dead any longer. I stopped cutting myself and eventually stopped feeling suicidal.

There were times when I was tempted to do it again, like when I felt bad after my boyfriend broke up with me. But I didn’t do it because I could be OK without hurting myself.

I had already come through a ton of stuff and the end of that relationship was actually one of the things that taught me that I wasn’t a weak person, and that I was capable of doing anything and being happy.

It’s been about a year and a half since the last time I cut myself. There was no magic involved in stopping, it just took time. When I got over my inability to go to school, many doors opened. I think that the rest all happened from there.

I don’t regret what I’ve done. I think that it was something I needed to do, at the time. My life got worse because too many people thought they knew what was best for me, but the opposite was true. It wasn’t until everyone really backed off and gave me my space that I was able to finally figure things out for myself and fix my life.

These days I am truly happy for the first time. Like everyone else, I have my highs and lows, but they don’t affect me like they used to. Now, I love to have new experiences.

This spring, a friend asked me what there is to live for. It was nearing the end of the school year and he was jaded by the large amount of work to do. I told him there is a lot to live for.

“This from the formerly suicidal,” I said. We laughed and continued walking.

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(NYC-1997-11-05)




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