When Hurting Helps

Cutting

It’s been two years and 188 days since I last cut myself.

I can’t tell you the exact date that I started cutting, but I do remember the situation. I was about 14 years old and in an emotional tailspin (not uncommon for girls that age). What was uncommon about me was that in my short life, I had experienced more physical pain and trauma than a typical person experiences in a lifetime. And because of that early trauma, I had not learned how to process emotional pain in a healthy way.

Born with Spina Bifida, I had already gone through five major spine surgeries, the loss of function in my bladder, nerve damage to my legs and feet that led to 13 more surgeries, electric shock physical therapy, and much more. I had spent a majority of my childhood learning, out of necessity, how to handle physical pain and the time that I should have been developing emotional coping skills was pushed to the back burner. It was no one’s fault, it was just the way things needed to be.

On top of the physical trauma that I experienced early in life, I was (and still am) a people-pleaser. So when I would push back tears and smile as the newbie nurse repeatedly jabbed my IV line unsuccessfully into my arm, I enjoyed hearing the praises of, “You are so happy all the time,” and “I never hear you complain about anything.” There was nothing wrong with these compliments in and of themselves, but my emotionally young self internalized them and subconsciously started to think that it was “bad” to express sadness, grief, and anger because I would be disappointing people.

As I sat on my bed that night with a fury of emotions clawing inside of me, I waited for the tears to come. But they never came. I felt shame over feeling angry and hurt, and chastised myself for not being “happy” more often. I needed some way to alleviate all of these emotions, or at least distract myself from them, and so I went back to what I knew how to handle: physical pain. I didn’t have a knife lying on my nightstand, but I did have a bobby pin. So I picked it up, tore off it’s plastic tip to reveal sharp metal, and began cutting away at my skin.

It provided temporary relief and distraction from my emotional pain, but also created a new sense of embarrassment and guilt that I had not experienced before. I swore to myself that I would never do that again, hid the bobby pin safely in my nightstand drawer, bandaged my arms, and threw on a long sleeved shirt so that no one would be the wiser. A week later, I broke that promise to myself and did it again. And again. And again.

Cutting is an addiction and I’m sharing my experience because it is a growing epidemic within teens and young adults in our community.

It is an addiction that is widely misunderstood and therefore treated in the wrong manner. What I call “cutting” can also be referred to as “self-injury,” “self-harm,” and various other terms. One reason that it is addicting is because of the endorphins that the pain releases in the body. Two of the most common misconceptions about self-injury is that it is a way to get attention and that the person who is injuring themselves is attempting suicide through self-injury. The majority of times, self-injury will go hand in hand with another psychological disorder or addiction, but self-injury most oftentimes is a form of self-preservation rather than a suicide attempt.

In August of 2013 I had hit rock bottom with major depression and was still cutting myself as a coping mechanism. I was no longer a teenager but married to a wonderful man, had a blossoming career in the apparel industry, and was a mommy to my four year old daughter. When I began to receive treatment, I was shocked when my psychiatrist and counselors didn’t immediately tell me to stop cutting. A few months further into my treatment I asked her why she didn’t tell me to “just stop cutting” as so many well-meaning adults had done before, and her reply floored me. She said, “Because I didn’t want to take away the one coping mechanism that was keeping you alive.” Eventually, with the proper medications doing their job, we did begin to explore other coping mechanisms, but it is so important for parents to understand this.

If you suspect that your child, or know of a child, that is addicted to self-harm, don’t ignore it. It’s a cry for help for deeper emotional issues. As tempted as you may be to tell them to stop injuring themselves, instead let them know that you care about them and are very concerned and want to help them find healing for the emotional pain they are experiencing. There are several national resources available, but two that are in our own backyard are Rogers Memorial Hospital and S.A.F.E. Alternatives. You can also reach out to me via email to learn more about my journey of healing or if you just need someone to hear your story.


Editor’s Note :: We know that Adri sharing this part of her story may be a trigger for some who are struggling with similar issues. Please tell someone you trust, check into one of the resources Adri mentions above, or even email us at info{at}mkemomsblog{dot}com to be put in touch with Adri herself. Because of the sensitive nature of this post, any comments that seek to shame, attack, belittle or in any other way cause injury to the author will be immediately removed. 

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One Response to When Hurting Helps

  1. Melania
    Melania May 14, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    Adri, Thank you for your words of honesty and encouragement. You are a blessing in my life and I know many others. XO

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