Monthly Archives: April 2012
I am terrified of people finding out about my mental disorder. I have a very hard time explaining it to myself (let alone someone else) so the thought of having to tell someone *why* I do the things I do is virtually impossible. That said, what I do is compulsively injure myself. Some people use the word “cutter” which doesn’t really mean the right thing and is loaded with so many negative connotations. I prefer the term “self mutilator” despite the fact that many people that I know think it sounds overly crass or vulgar, but I think it describes the trait rather accurately. Besides, “cutter” seems unfair to all those times I’ve bashed and bruised myself, burned welts into my skin, and buried needles deep into myself. However, I believe the technical term is compulsive NSSI (non-suicidal self injury).
I’ve read books on the subject and mailing lists and forums, but I’ve never felt I fit quite in with them. When these urges first started happening I was in Junior High. I don’t think I ever acted upon them until I was a little older (around 14 or 15) but I started noticing sharp or hot objects. My gaze lingered on them a little too long. I wasn’t sure why or what I was thinking until one day I was fooling around and jabbed my knee with a pin. It was extremely dull and when it finally broke the skin the pain washed over me in a calming, almost meditative way. As that faded I looked down and revelled in the drop of blood welling where I had pulled the point out of me. Looking at it, I felt this great sense of power, of ownership over myself, of freedom and happiness.
Ever since then I’ve been hooked. For about a year after starting, I thought I was the only one. I had never heard of someone purposefully hurting him or herself. Finally after a year of hiding my knives and lighters and needles terrified someone would discover my secret, I thought to search the web.
I’ve found groups of people that understand me partially. Traditional cutters talk about getting an emotional release, letting out tension, or snapping back to reality. I’ve never thought of it that way, nor have I ever experienced the sudden urgent need to hurt myself immediately that so many describe. In the body modification community they are firm believers that you own your body and you should be able to do as you wish to it. You can stand with your scars before them and not have to be shy. They understand that pain is not always a bad thing. You can talk about experiences that others would describe as agonizing and they listen, interested. However, they seek spiritual enlightenment or aesthetic enhancement, or perhaps to reclaim their body. Few, if any, of the people I’ve met just do it to do it. BDSM enthusiasts are no strangers to the idea that pain can be pleasurable but in general shy away from anything that might leave serious permanent marks. Few sexual masochists will actually leave life long scars, and the concept of hurting oneself in a nonsexual setting is foreign.
I still to this day have never really admitted all my secrets to anyone I know personally — even my friends who know most of what I do. On those rare occasions that I have gotten up the guts to confide in someone they have always received it well enough, until a point. Eventually I can see the disgust on their faces and I have to stop there, and pretend that’s the whole problem. Even today, my lover doesn’t know the start of it. I’m sure suspicions are raised somewhat from time to time, but no where close to the true depth of the issue. I am terrified to leave my bedroom unattended for fear my tools or blood soaked rags will be discovered. If it happened, how can I explain that I’m not a psycho killer?
I’m virtually incapable of discussing this in person due to the sheer embarrassment. This is something I don’t think I will ever be able to shake, but the thing is it doesn’t get in the way of my life, hardly, at all apart from the shame, secrecy, and guilt. I’m quite good at what I do, after all my practice, and I have never ended up in the emergency room, never had infections, never lost jobs, never even been caught. And yet, I worry about having to explain myself to someone virtually every day.
Beyond the sheer titillating nature of my compulsion, what fuels my shame is the perception that only 15 year old girls with daddy issues and eating disorders cut themselves, and more than that, the idea that they just want attention. I am in my mid twenties, very successful, and male. I would wager than until this paragraph there is a good chance that even you had the image of a teenage girl in your head. I have heard numerous people that I know joke about emo girls and “cutters” throughout my life and it is considered socially acceptable to mock this. I have to keep my mouth shut for fear of outing myself. This is a real problem for myself and all the other people who suffer in silence like me just because they want the right to choose who knows and when they know about their problem.
I don’t really know what the point I wanted to get at here was other that paint a picture of what it is to suffer from a particularity stereotyped compulsion, and maybe someone out there might read this and know they aren’t alone. If that’s you and you’d like to chat with someone going through the same thing (I know it helped me a lot) I’d be happy to talk, just send me an email at email@example.com.
I hate myself. I mean truly, genuinely hate myself. If I died in my sleep that wouldn’t be a problem, sadly I’m too much of a coward to kill myself. People say those who commit suicides are cowards. I don’t see that. In order to take your own life requires massive brass balls I just don’t have. Suicide isn’t an easy way out, it’s a dead end. Especially for an atheist like me. I don’t think there will be an afterlife. For me it would just be oblivion, and I guess to some degree that’s why I can’t do it. As much as I hate and despise myself – despite what people say I think I’m fat and ugly – I just can’t bring myself to enter oblivion. But I wouldn’t care if it happened in my sleep – I wouldn’t know after all.
But then there are those I leave behind. My mum and dad care about me, granted that’s only because animal instincts in the higher apes creates this bond between parent and offspring. If it wasn’t for that issue they wouldn’t care. I think one or two others may miss me temporarily, but not for long. My mother tried to kill herself, recently, because she wanted to be with my grandmother. Her belief in an afterlife made her consider suicide and that there would be somewhere better to go to. I wish that were true because if it was, I might be more inclined to take that blade and instead of just superficial self harming, drive it deep into my wrist. Or my throat.
See these are the thoughts I have. I hate myself. And medication isn’t helping anymore, I just want to curl up away from everything with a never ending bottle of whisky. Away from everyone and everything. I want to run away and hide from everyone and everything. If I’m just by myself I can’t hurt anyone. People would ultimately be better off without me around.
But I can’t bring myself to do any of that. I can’t run away and I can’t kill myself so I have to live with myself. And I’m struggling to do that too. My days are filled with fear and hatred of myself. I can’t bring myself to do anything at all apart from sit in front of my laptop and wander around the internet. This is how I feel. I feel empty, alone and full of self hate.
And I feel I deserve punishment. That’s why I hurt myself, because I deserve it. Because I should have that pain, those scars. Everyday that goes by is like a punishment in itself. Each day feeling like this seems a punishment. And I hate it. But not as much as I hate myself. I’m not even sure what the purpose of this is, why I’m submitting this to this blog. I guess I just needed to put this out there, to let the world know how much pain I’m in. And how there is nothing I can do to stop it.
I’ve had this document open for a while now, and not written anything on it. It’s not that I’ve nothing to say, it’s not that I don’t want to say it, it’s that I can’t face it. So the window is open, and I open other programs on the computer (a web browser, and a computer game) and just leave it in the background. But because I have trouble concentrating (I also have a book in front of me, and a book of Sudoku – I multitask a great deal!), I ‘Alt+Tab’ through the windows I have open, and keep seeing this open program.
Eventually, here I am.
In many ways it’s hard to know where to begin; what kind of thing is wanted, what kind of thing is acceptable? It’s not even conscious – I constantly second guess myself and others. I’ll be reading something, or trying to write, and thoughts will pop into my head. Critical thoughts. Censuring thoughts.
You’re not going to express yourself well enough! Compare yourself to other people: they have it far worse than you do! You don’t count! It’s not that you’re depressed, and struggle for motivation, it’s just that you’re lazy. You’re pathetic – you’re not even trying. It’s not as if what happened to you is bad, you just didn’t try hard enough.
I didn’t try hard enough. I don’t try hard enough. Damn, but compared to some people I probably did – I do – have it easy.
It’s amazing how easily the thoughts become my own. How easy it is to believe them. What isn’t amazing is how quickly all these critical thoughts can increase once you put your conscious mind to it. That’s not in the least surprising.
That’s because they’re true!
There may be some truth to them, it’s hard to say. Maybe a lot of people would have coped with the things I had to go through and which left me in the mess I’m currently trying to extricate myself from. There are certainly some things I could have done differently that would have changed my life a great deal. Yet how unfair, and absurd is it to blame a ten year old for not being able to do the best possible thing? But I’ve found it is very easy to lose objectivity and rationality when suffering from depression.
Excuses, excuses. The cold hard truth is that other people get physically abused when they are children, and seem to get through life far better than you do. All your problems were in your mind. Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names can never hurt you. Remember? Clearly not. You let them hurt you.
Without going into great detail about it, my father suffered a breakdown when I was about five (cue light bulbs over psychiatrists’ heads: it runs in the family!) – he was a teacher. He also wasn’t the only teacher in that school to suffer that fate: the headmistress was a real piece of work apparently, eventually someone took her to court I believe. I don’t know anything about her – but I like to think of her as being like Ms Trunchbull from Roald Dahl’s Matilda. (I like to think that afore mentioned light bulbs now dim somewhat with the knowledge that many people suffered the same as my father, yet in my experience, it doesn’t.) That breakdown caused us to move country a couple of years later. I had just turned 7. For the next decade or so, I was bullied. It started off because of my nationality, and once they saw it hurt, other things joined it.
Whine, whine, whine. “Ooh, I got bullied.” Well newsflash, every child does. Only the truly pathetic ones get bullied for ten years. The ones that deserve it. The ones that are weak.
Hey, but at least as I’m a white male, I don’t know what it’s like to be subjected to abuse just because of who I intrinsically am, right? (And if you think that sounds a bit bitter, well, yes, I guess it probably is. I try to let comments like that wash over me, but when your emotions are raw, bubbling, and close to the surface it’s hard. It’s easy to resent people who behave as though they have it far harder than you do when they seem to have essentially a normal life, and you struggle to even face being in a social situation for ten minutes. You know perfectly well you’d switch situations with them in an instant, and yet you also know there are people who’d say they’d switch with you in an instant too. And always – always – those negative, censuring thoughts are never far away.)
They’re your thoughts. Who else is having them? Look at you, too scared of criticism, you have to treat your own thoughts as if someone else is having them.
Anyway, in this new country I didn’t have friends really. There were a couple of people who I was briefly friendly with – bizarrely enough (considering my current religious views) they were all in different fringe (crazy) religious sects. The kind who don’t usually socialise with people who aren’t also in their sects. Also, the kind that hardly even existed in the country I was living. An oddity that I attracted them really!
These brief friendships generally ended with me feeling I’d been stabbed in the back and scared to try to make another. Home life was difficult, to put it mildly, considering my dad’s condition and numerous other issues. Let’s just leave it as: it was difficult. I learnt to shut myself away, putting up a facade whenever I had to meet people and avoiding it completely where possible. I didn’t want to burden my parents with my problems , because of the problems at home, and I didn’t want to seek help in general because of the stigma about mental health.
You should have been able to deal with it on your own. If you weren’t a failure you could have.
And I guess that is why I’m writing this. If that stigma about mental health wasn’t there, I might have asked for help. If we – and here I’m talking especially about boys and men – weren’t bombarded with the belief that having emotions and being upset meant you were a failure, then maybe I, and others would have felt able to ask for help. If my posting here and admitting to my state can in any way help destigmatise it, then that’s what I’m going to do. At the very least I can feel like I’m sticking a metaphorical finger or two up at some of the people whose attitude was: ‘for heaven’s sake, just pull it together’.
Could never say it to these people, could you? It’s not as if doing this is going to make one iota of difference in reality, is it?
Granted, the fact I can’t face putting my surname to it might lessen the impact of it somewhat. But I truly can’t face it. My depression is a dirty little secret I try to keep away from everyone. The worse it gets, the more impossible it is to keep it but it doesn’t stop me trying. When I withdrew from University, and finally started getting some treatment, I had to force myself to write to friends in University explaining why. The first real friends of my own gender I’d ever had – I’ve two female friends I met in school but didn’t see that often, but before then, no male friends worth the name. In the end, I wrote an email, and sent it to two of them, asking them to explain to everyone else.
And you cried like a baby. Pathetic.
I’ve only even slightly corresponded with one of them in the six or so years since, apart from a very brief conversation following the suicide of one of them.
Call yourself a friend? Hah!
Why? Because I’m ashamed of my depression.
And isn’t that one of the biggest problems mental health – and particularly depression – has to deal with?
So often destigmatising something involves coming out, not admitting to something, but instead proudly proclaiming it. I’m sure that any of us who are atheists, and have been at all involved in the online community, have lost count of the amount of posts, or youtube videos we’ve seen, exhorting us to come out to friends and family as atheists, and let them know that we exist and are just normal people like everyone else. I’m not ashamed of my atheism – if anyone asks, I’ll tell them without hesitation.
My depression on the other hand? That’s going to take some work before I can feel remotely comfortable even admitting it, let alone proclaiming it. But I’ll try.