Cutters… by “Tor”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.