Why Do I Bleed?
by Grey Dangerfield
Sometimes I feel like taking a razor, putting it in my hand, and cutting into my flesh. It would be quick and, at least at times, painless. Donít believe that? I once cut my wrist, bled for a night, left it alone for the day, reopened it in two more days and I didnít feel a thing. The fact is that I am a self-injurer. Most of the time when I cut itís like Iím watching myself do it, not like Iím doing it to myself. The pros call this disassociation, which is a pretty good description of the experience. Itís like my mind is no longer associated with my body. It doesn't seem like reality, more like being trapped in a horrible dream that I canít awaken from.
So why do I hurt myself? The deeper causes with me are issues of abandonment, rejection, sexual abuse leading to suppression of emotions and the inability to cope in childhood. Fear of those same things keep it alive in me as an adult, Iím coming to realize now. But the more immediate reason is relief. Between cuttings, emotional pressure builds into a physical feeling of pressure. When I cut, it goes away. It was the physical manifestation of all the hurt, anger and utter dreariness I felt inside that I didnít have the ability to express outwardly.
I cut to bring me back to reality. In the depths of depression, my mind is a blur. When asked what was wrong, my answer would be that my brain felt gray, or blank. Itís like walking in a fog so thick, my own thoughts canít find me. With each stroke of the razor, the sight and smell of the blood, I realize that it is me doing it. As the urge subsides, I am able to stop and I am real again. I cut because I cut. It reinforces all the worst things I think about myself; that I am worthless, stupid, ugly (scars), weird, and probably worst of all, crazy. I felt guilt, remorse, anger and sadness afterward, which led to more cutting, and a deeper depression.
Until recently I had no clue as to why I really harmed myself. All I knew was that I needed it. It was a gnawing hunger that could only be satisfied by the flow of my own blood. It was my drug to escape the emotional turmoil in my head, like alcohol or any other drug. At first, when I was 12, it was only a couple times a year, when the pressures felt too strong. The cuts were small, and the relief I felt was immediate and lasting.
As with any addiction, however, the need to cut became more frequent and the relief short lived. Cuts became wider and deeper and I would cut several times a day by the end. In addition, I added more "drugs"--banging my head, scratching, spraining my own wrists, ankles, and even my knee once. In the end I needed to bleed several times a day and had had four or five "accidental" falls resulting in weeks of pain.
I stopped cutting on December 9, 1999, after I cut four inches into my stomach. I ended up having to have surgery and gained the biggest reminder of my actions, a 10-inch scar from my pelvic bone to my sternum between my ribs. My husband came home to find the house torn up with paramedic paraphernalia all over the floor. I scared the hell out of him and I guess out of myself. That was when I hit my bottom.
Though I havenít cut in over a year, the urge didnít just stop. At times itís screaming in my head. Itís the same as any recovering addict will tell you. But I have a different way to deal with things. One of the things that has helped is that I am finally able to talk to my family and friends about the feelings I have. My core trust group knows what I used to do. They no longer think that if they pretend it isnít happening, it will go away. The more I talk about it, the weaker the urge becomes. It has the immediate effect of taking away my ability to hide what I am doing. They donít stalk me, but they keep an eye out for signs that I need help when I tell them I feel like hurting myself. They are now trying to understand the illness of depression as well, and seeing that it isn't all in my mind. It was very difficult for people close to me to comprehend that I would do these "crazy" things. I seem very normal. I have a 150+ IQ. I write poetry, stories and songs. I draw, paint and do crafts. I sew, crochet and knit. I couldnít possibly be "crazy" to them. Now they are seeing that itís not "crazy," but a mental illness.
On the same note, I finally accepted that fact as well. I was beating myself up, literally, for things I couldnít even control. Cutting because I cut, being more depressed because I was depressed, and it made sense to me at the time. Though I knew in my mind it was an illness, I also knew that other people donít see it that way. The fact that I was ill meant nothing because regardless, society sees it as crazy, and that created shame and a need to hide it, compounding the problem.
Iíve stopped taking on the guilt for things that people did to me, intentionally or not, as a child. I am finally starting to believe people when they compliment me. This essay is proof of my acceptance of who I am and who I can be. So yeah, sometimes I still feel like watching the blood flow, but those times are less and less. When they do emerge, I know now that I can make it through whatever crisis without cutting, because in this last year I have. Cutting no longer has power over me.
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