Two years ago, I had a bad habit. And for a while, I was able to keep it to myself. It was quick and it worked, and that’s why I needed it. Life took a dive down somewhere dark, and I followed it, into my bedroom. That room became the centre of my world for a period of time.
I chose my mother’s pair of sewing scissors. I knew that she’d only ever used it for cutting threads, so the blades were still sharp. Usually you think of a knife, and I did consider it at first. On one of my days of skipping school I went to the kitchen and took out the knife we use to cut onions. It was a butcher’s knife. An image of a serial killer showed up in my head, and I dismissed the option. I didn’t want to hack off my arm. That was the stuff of horror movies, and it scares the shit out of me. I told myself that this was different. To this day, it still feels that way. So when people tell me it’s self-harm, a part of me thinks that they’re talking about something else.
I’d sit, knees together, behind my door. Crying of course, and in a state of despair. I didn’t get into this mess just for the hell of it. The start is always hard. The morals of my situation sat upon my shoulders. I could feel the two versions of me standing behind me; one meek, soft, and afraid, and the other roaring with pain. I heard their whispers and murmurs, not as words, but as waves of emotions. I felt emboldened, courageous, righteous, but felt my stomach lurching and my heart hammering and the fear clog my throat.
I was scared, of course. I wanted to do it, but it didn’t mean I wasn’t afraid of pain. To this day I fear pain, and it stops me from doing many things. But I know that in that moment, I was beyond my fears. Perhaps that was the worst part.
Cat Stevens was wrong, the first cut wasn’t the deepest. It was nothing, just a scratch. It stings, and it gives you nothing. But you get bolder with each stroke. I would see the scratch and long for a cut. And once I got the cut, I saw blood and grew ecstatic. It was like planting the seeds and waiting five seconds until your fully grown flower popped up out of the ground. I’d found a shortcut. I didn’t realise how gratifying it was until the deed was done.
So, I slashed away. I slid the blade across the groove in my skin, each time with more gusto. The blood would come up in tiny spots, on the places where the angle of the blade had broken the skin. I never managed to make a clean slice. I was too afraid. A bold cut would be too definitive, too obvious. I told myself that I wasn’t strong enough to cut so deep. I was doing something at the edge of my consciousness, at the very border of my limits. My mind was still protected from the full ramifications of my actions, and I knew that.
But with every attempt, I grew bolder and the desire evolved. I teetered along that line every time. I was afraid that if I made that great cut, I might lose my mind. I almost did.
Afterwards, I would get a wet tissue and wipe clean the pair of scissors. I spent quite a bit of time polishing it, making sure there was no traces of blood left for anyone else to find. I felt guilty for using my mother’s scissors for something that would surely break her heart. The process was calming, like washing away my sins. I imagined myself as the hunter, kneeling beside the game I had caught, wiping the sword clean on the grass. In some ways, it felt victorious. But, unlike the hunter, I knew I could not get up and walk away. I just couldn’t stop.
This is one of my experiences with mental illness, specifically with self-harm. In 2010, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety, and anorexic symptoms at the age of 16. Since then, I have at times struggled with my condition. I now feel that writing about this part of my life will nourish me, instead of ostracise me from society like I believed it would be.
Please note, my intention for writing this passage is not to romanticise self-harm and depression in any way, but to express some of the thoughts I had during this time.