I Confess: I Cut Myself

I’ve added a link on the “Where to Get Help” page to To Write Love on Her Arms. I first heard about this organization from a fellow patient at the psychiatric ward I stayed in during my second pregnancy. The woman, whom I’ll call Gabi, suffered from anorexia, depression, and anxiety, and she coped by cutting herself. She would cut herself in lines along her leg to comfort herself when she was feeling stressed out. She prided herself that she always sterilized the knife first, so that she wouldn’t get an infection.

Cutting is a form of self-injury. The Mayo Clinic defines self-injury as: “the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It’s typically not meant as a suicide attempt. Rather, self-injury is an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration.”

I’ve never cut myself on purpose, but when I’m really honest about it, I’m self-destructive with my skin. I’m not sure if other people would consider it cutting, but I do damage my arms, my face, and my legs. I don’t like the feel of the bumps under my skin. I have scars from all of these “bump removals.”

I suppose doing things to one’s body, whether it’s eating only 100 calories per day, as Gabi did, or cutting the skin with a knife or with the fingers, is an attempt at feeling in control. It’s certainly a temporary distraction from uncomfortable or negative feelings.

When I kept staring at the blank screen before starting to write this post, I found myself clawing at a scab on my chest. It temporarily eased the frustration of not knowing what to write, worrying that no one will ever care about what I write, and fearing that I will never be a good writer.

I feel ashamed of the scars on my face. I’m almost 40 years old, but my face has more acne scars than when I was a teenager. I blame myself because I eat too much refined sugar. I imagine if I were a vegan yoga fanatic, my skin would be flawless.

I did go to a dermatologist once who prescribed a retinoid cream and a mild antibiotic. I used them for awhile, but they didn’t seem to help.

One of the reasons Gabi was hospitalized was because she noticed her five-year-old daughter was starting to make comments about thinking she was fat and wondering aloud how many calories were in a food she was considering eating. Gabi realized her daughter was picking up on her anxiety about her weight, and she felt like a horrible mother and wanted to commit suicide.

I know that if I want my daughter to have a healthy body image, I have to model it for her. I’m honestly not sure whether I can, but I realize I need to try. She’s only three years old, but she’s already into princesses. I imagine it won’t be long before I’m telling her she’s not allowed to go out of the house until she’s “properly dressed,” and she’s not allowed to wear makeup until she’s 18 (maybe 16).

Every stage of my kids’ childhoods feels like it gets harder. Some things get easier, but I keep finding new baggage of mine I need to unpack and toss.

I found these helpful tips of how to stop hurting myself. I’ve put it in my bookmarks bar in my browser. I’ll publish this post as my first step in “confiding in someone.” I’ll try to look at my skin and think of my daughter. I would never scratch up her skin, I don’t need to do it to mine.

Do you have unhealthy coping mechanisms that you’d like to stop doing or you’ve been able to stop doing?

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13 thoughts on “I Confess: I Cut Myself

  1. Reese Marino August 12, 2013 at 10:56 pm Reply

    I have a habit of chewing the living hell out of my lips when I’m stressed out. It results in small cuts on the inside of my lip (usually my bottom lip), and I’ve never admitted this in public….but I used to relish putting my finger on the raw areas and feeling the sting. Every now and again I catch myself reverting to doing stuff like that, but it’s much less than it used to be.

    Thankfully this kind of behavior is not all that noticeable to random strangers unless I’m caught actually biting my lip. While I’ve not actually *stopped* doing this…it happens less often these days. I’m still working to stop doing it, but I’ve come to accept it enough to not beat myself up about it (thus keeping myself in the cycle of stress…making me do it all the more).

    • flawson August 12, 2013 at 11:00 pm Reply

      Thank you for sharing this. It’s good not to feel like the only person I know who does something like this, even if it’s just occasionally.

      It’s a reminder that we can share these things and receive compassion and understanding.

      • Reese Marino August 12, 2013 at 11:06 pm

        Indeed. I also identify with the whole “messing with your skin” thing…I’ve got a new acne scar forming as I type this. 😛

      • flawson August 12, 2013 at 11:10 pm


  2. pisforpreschooler August 13, 2013 at 12:38 pm Reply

    I used to cut too. Congrats to you for your honest post! I don’t think I would have the bravery to write so honesty about the struggle.

    • flawson August 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm Reply

      Thank you for sharing about it here. How did you get yourself to stop?

  3. ks August 14, 2013 at 8:16 pm Reply

    Yes to the daughter’s body image teaching. I am halfway lying when I say I exersice to be healthy or tell her we can’t eat a lot of sweets because treats do not make you strong.

    • flawson August 14, 2013 at 9:38 pm Reply

      I indulge in sweets far too often, and Zach is being really good about limiting his sweets and treats, but I realize I’m a pretty bad influence.

  4. […] I Confess: I Cut Myself (pretendyouregoodatit.com) […]

    • flawson August 18, 2013 at 1:22 pm Reply

      Thank you so much for passing on the twloha.com link. I’ll promote the NSPW as much as I can.

  5. Dani August 24, 2013 at 7:17 pm Reply

    Self-Mutilators Anonymous. For real. Or any 12-step program that you qualify for. That’s how I stopped, and lots of people I’ve known… through the twelve steps I mean, not necessarily through SMA.

    I only cut my actual arm once, in a frenzy of self-loathing brought on by a close friend and roommate getting mad at me and deciding I was being classist. But I’ve done about a million other self-injuring and self-sabotaging things. I had a really abusive relationship with myself for decades. It really shocked me to realize one day that if anybody else talked to me or treated me the way I did, they’d be considered abusive.

    My current favorite 12-step organization is COSA (cosa-recovery.org), because it lets nee deal with sexual abuse and dysfunctional family stuff and my insane relationship patterns in one place. YMMV. Any of them that you qualify for will work, in my experience.

    The reason it works, in my experience, is because my urge to self-injure was driven by all kinds of crazy intense emotions and beliefs that I couldn’t even articulate, that I didn’t even notice were there until they’d blow up in some horrible way. And those emotions and beliefs came from dysfunctional childhood shit that I likewise didn’t even really understand was dysfunctional for a long time. And a big part of working the steps is doing a thorough inventory of all that fear and anger and relationship crap – with help! – and becoming able to recognize it and to get rid of it. And suddenly stuff isn’t backing up inside of you like raw sewage, and life starts to make sense instead of seeming kind of painful and random, and the urge to resolve things by self-injuring disappears because there’s absolutely no need for it anymore.

    Plus they’re free, which is always nice. I got sick of paying therapists $60 an hour and having them either not really understand, or else totally understand and help me get all this self-knowledge but no actual way out.

    • Frankie Laursen August 24, 2013 at 7:19 pm Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing these resources and your own experience. I’m glad you were able to get help.

  6. […] I wrote last August, I do a form of self-injury, involving squeezing my pores or picking at my skin to the point it bleeds.  I got better at not […]

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