My first encounter came on without reason or without warning. I was in my room, alone (as usual) with an entire world right outside my bedroom door. My mother was somewhere in the house doing mother things. The Old Man, my Father, was working like most working fathers do. I was a small boy and always smaller than everyone else. I was skinny too—I was painfully thin, to be exact. I was awkward, uncomfortable, and wondering what life would be like if I lived like someone else or in someone else’s body.
My bedroom was like any other young boy’s. I had a dresser and comfortable bed with sheets, pillows, and blankets. I had a desk in my room, a chair to sit at, and an old computer known as the Commodore 64, which I used for gaming purposes only.
I had secret hiding spots for things, which I thought needed to be hidden. Some of the things I hid were only less than innocent and some were a bit more darker in nature.
I had a sliding-door closet with a secret hiding spot as well, a hole in my wall, which I kept covered so no one would see, which is where I kept some of my darker secrets buried, and I had a television, a small stereo, and a bedroom door, which I usually kept closed.
As for a social life, mine was the kind which always seemed to struggle. I had a low self-esteem. I was bullied at school and I could not defend myself. I wanted to be tough but I just wasn’t.
I was neither athletic or book smart. I struggled in school with learning disabilities that were never addressed or diagnosed. I was always thinking too much—always thinking too deeply about everything.
I literally analyzed everything, always wondering, worrying, and always thinking that there was something not right about me.
I wholeheartedly believed that I was out of place or somehow or off-center in some way. I never knew why this was. I never knew if I thought this way because I was smaller or younger looking than the others in my class.
I never knew if I felt this way because I couldn’t play sports very well or because I never did well in class.
Socially, I was uncomfortable. I felt vulnerable and weak-which is painful to a boy that wants nothing more than to feel as if he fits in or belongs somewhere. There was something different about me. I knew it.
I just didn’t know what it was.
At best, I can say I felt as if I were naked in some way; as if I was always in threat of being or feeling exposed. I was untrusting and always believing that somehow, people turn, that no one is loyal, and in my world of preteen status while trying to find my place of popularity, the words “They” and “Them,” meant everything to me.
I thought real friends were something that only happened to other people—and not me. I was leashed to the need to feel like I belonged but the collar around my neck was too tight and I could never seem to breathe. I was leashed to the idea that I had to be someone or something else—but no matter how I tried or how I “Practiced,” to be someone else—the only person I could be was me—and to me; this was simply not good enough.
To the eye, I suppose I was seen as a normal, precocious, everyday little kid. But what people saw on the outside was never closed to an honest view of how I felt on the inside. I was alone. I was frightened. I was angry. And I was always hurting in one way or another. At my worst, I was afraid to smile because A) what if I look stupid? What it I laugh at the wrong time, what is everybody going to think or say about me. And B) what if I smiled and then it was just totally taken away from me? Or, what if I smile and the depression returns/
I remember my first cutting encounter quite well. I was not necessarily thinking of anything harmful. I knew what the word depression meant but I didn’t know that this was a clinical problem. Besides, if I were simply depressed, that would be too easy of an answer and at the time, I felt way too complicated to be diagnosed with anything simple. There had to be something wrong with me.
I swore there was something wrong with me, but whatever it was, whatever my problem could have been—it could never be anything simple or felt by anyone else.
I was painfully unique, of course. And I would never dare tell anyone about the way I thought or felt. I could never tell anyone—least of all my parents, who in my eyes, were not even real people. And how could they be real people?They were my Mother and father. Mom and The Old Man were separate entities from the world. I wasn’t even sure if they were human. No, to me they were just Mom and Pop.
I’m not sure what caused my reaction to be what it was. I’m not sure what triggered the idea to watch the tip of my little scout knife to cut my finger. I was curious. At first, the blade stung. But the cut was not deep. It was just deep enough to create a reaction. The cut itself did not hurt the way pain usually feels. I felt a sort of sensory deprivation; I mean, I felt the blade and I felt the cut, but the pain was an entirely different sensation. It was more intriguing to me than anything else. This was something I understood. Whereas the feelings I felt inside were too complex for me to, the slice in my skin was something that made sense. When it came to pains of the heart and frustration, I was always lost and confused. However, when it came to physical pain, at least wit this, I knew about the rules of engagement.
I remember . . .
I watched the way my skin separated. The line was white, at first, until the blood came. There was something about this, which made sense to me. And aside from the fact that I was cut, beside the fact that I was bleeding, and that line sliced in my finger was burning in a strange cool way—somewhere in this transfer of energy, I was able to see something, which I could never verbalize before.
I was able to see pain in a visual and understandable way. I was able to cut and control the range of my emotion. I was able to understand the sting. I was able to identify the physical sensation. Put simply . . .
I was able to feel.
No one ever explained to me what “Cutting” was. I had no idea other people did this. I didn’t know this was my way of responding. I was too young to even spell the word frustration, let alone, understand it.
At the moment of incision, I felt something, —and this was something that made sense to me. This was my new invention, which I swore to never tell anyone because of course, if anyone ever knew, —then they would know I was crazy for sure
When I wondered when I would fit and worried about a long list of problems, fears, situations, people, classrooms and teachers, people-pleasing issues, rejection problems, and worrying that I would never live up to The Old Man’s expectations, that I would always be a disappointment to anyone and everyone that knew me, and when I felt all of these feelings that made no sense to me at all; when I felt the gash in my skin, at least finally, I was able to feel something that I can understood.
On occasion, I speak with parents of children that cut themselves or hurt themselves. To those who do not understand, I explained that in my case, the cut in my skin was a way to bleed my emotion. I compare this to a boil in the skin that was lanced to let the puss flow out. I cut myself, burned myself, and placed myself in punishing, harmful situations because I lacked the ability to communicate the depths of my feelings. Besides, even if I were able to explain, it would be too much and too daring to honestly admit what I was doing, thinking, and feeling on a daily basis.
I have spoken with parents and loved ones of those who have undergone their own battles with self-harm. I have listened to parents blame themselves. In my case, my parents were not at fault. As far as they knew, why would I have any reason to be depressed? They had no understanding about chemical imbalances. They never knew what went on in my head. If they did, perhaps, things would have been different. However, same as I didn’t know how to talk to my parents, I assume they didn’t know how to talk to me either
I saw my Mother and Father as authority. Yes, I knew they loved me. At least, they told me they did. And they told me often; however, I thought this is just what parents say to their children.
First off, love is not real. And secondly, I saw myself as unlovable. So at best, my parents loved me out of obligation. Otherwise, they would have never loved me at all—
I don’t know what would have reached me. I’m not sure how I would have responded if my parents tried to talk to me. I suppose, I would have received anything they said as a lecture. The way I saw it, parents act as if they know everything. And maybe they do, but somewhere in the transaction of age and adulthood, to a kid, it seems that grownups forgot what it meant to be a kid
Also, when I did try to explain, my parents spoke to me as if I was mistaken. They sort of shoved my points aside as inaccurate.
“Maybe you’re just too sensitive,” people told me.
Maybe I was . . .
Maybe I was tired of feeling alone or misunderstood. Maybe I saw cutting myself as a way to occupy my time and manifest an emotion that would otherwise make no sense to me at all.
But I would have rather been different. Hell, if you asked me; I would have rather been normal.
Maybe I would have responded to someone if I felt they understood. Maybe if I knew they did the same thing or felt the same way; maybe then I would have talked about the way I felt.
Maybe I would have had a chance if I had someone to talk to that didn’t seem like a threat to me or an authority. Maybe if I found someone that helped me come to my own conclusions instead of dictate the answers, or maybe if I met someone that felt like I did, or behaved the way I did, —maybe then I would have been able to openly discuss the things I did and the reasons I did them.
There needs to be a switch in the way we talk to one another. By the way, this is not limited to just a parent/child relationships. In my time as a specialist as well as in my time as a coach and a 12-step sponsor, I have had discussions with adults that suffer from this same disorder.
I have head lengthy conversations about both halfhearted and legitimate suicide attempts. I have discussed the idea of “Testing the waters,” which means to edge the line between life and death and test to see if yes, this can be done
Much of my research is based in my own personal experience; however, I listen to as many that are willing to talk and I learn as much as I can because quite honestly, I know I can’t help everyone. But, no one can stop me from trying. And, deep down, I know that I can help someone
This is why I do what I do