Emptiness. Vacuum. Darkness. Guilt. I could feel nothing but the tide of sorrow and shame washing over me, drowning me in a wave of endless white nights.
Then suddenly a spurt of red brought focus back in my flickering eyesight. Colour flooded my vision as agony coursed up my arm.
Droplets of crimson dripping. Tears of ruby trickling. A rivulet of beautiful life spilling down my sleeve, riveting my eyes by the stark red.
I gasped in pain and I smiled. This was more like it.
I was a cutter. A masochist, taking pleasure in my own pain, revelling in every drop of blood that emerged, every stroke of pain I inflicted on myself.
It was the only way I knew to deal with the pain inside.
Most people don’t understand what being a cutter really means. They call us selfish cowards, emo punks, and a good deal more. They mutter and point at us like we’re some freakish animal. They don’t know what it’s like. People like to pretend that there’s something wrong with us, that normal teens don’t do this. That it’s our fault. The real tragedy is how many cutters believe them.
Nobody likes unhappy people. They avoid us, the broken problem people. That’s why most of us hide it.
We say that an imaginary cat scratched us, that it was an accident. We pretend to be normal just to avoid the mocking eyes and cruel words that drove us to it in the first place.
Do you know what it’s like, having to say everything’s okay, when you want to scream it’s not? Placing an artificial nylon smile on your face? Pretending every single day of your life, with everyone. Getting up and facing the world when the only thought in your mind is the knife you hid in your room. The beautifully sharp knife, the only escape offered you. Your only friend. Do you know what I’m trying to say?
No, you don’t know. You can’t know unless you’ve been there. So don’t give me that I know what you mean ######.
I know what you’re going to say. I should see a psychiatrist. Do you think I haven’t? I know all the doctors in the hospital by name now. They just want you pop packets upon packets of pills, they just want to medicate you out of your mind. Change you in someone else.
Well, that’s alright, you say, surely being someone else is better than having so much pain? It isn’t. It never will be. Because when you stare into the mirror and see a stranger in those blank eyes, that’s the worst pain of all.
Your friends cry and cajole, plead and pray. Pray for someone to fix this problem. Pray for someone to fix you. Coaxing promises out of you that you know you can never keep. Raging at you when they see a fresh bandage, even though you tell them it wasn’t intentional. Blaming you for not trying hard enough. Then slowly turning away, until you just become a piece of gossip to them, no longer a person, no longer a friend.
And that’s how you have no one to turn to. Every night, you feel the hurt and sorrow well up inside, bursting its banks like a river flooding. But you can’t cry until you release it somehow. So you do what you must and feel the pain wash over, gasping with relief.
It’s easy to become a cutter, hard to stop. The brain produces endorphins in response to the pain and soon, you need it. You need to hurt yourself, just to feel the blessed cure. You need the pain.
But then they take away your knife, pencil sharpener, water glass, anything you can use to hurt yourself. They file your nails so you can’t scratch yourself. They give you blunt pencils. So you learn to hurt yourself with the only things they can’t take away: your teeth. You bite your tongue and cheek, savouring the rich metallic tang that fills your mouth.
Cycles of pain, cycles of blood and cycles of secrets and lies.
You never talk about it. You have no way of getting help, because if you try, you’re an attention-seeker. But you need it desperately. You need a hand to pull you from the abyss. No man is an island entire of itself.
You need someone to help you. Not to judge you, not to pity you, not to fix you. To help you as an equal. To treat you like you’re normal.
I had someone.
It wasn’t an easy journey but today it’s been three years since I last hurt myself deliberately. It took three years to learn to accept myself. It took three years to stop eyeing others with suspicion and fear. It took three years to realise I had no reason to be ashamed for who I am and that I am more than they say I am. Laugh at me now and I won’t wince. Insult me and I’ll smile. Call me a cutter now and I’ll positively beam.
Because I’m glad I was a cutter. Now I no longer hide my scars, both within and without. I am who I am and the wounds remember who I was. They are disfigurements to most eyes but I wear my battle scars with pride, because to me they spell out a simple message. I made it. I fought for my life and I won.
I’m alive. People all around me have died, but I still live, happy and whole once more. Can there be a greater victory than the battle within yourself? It has been dark but it is now dawn.