The razor blade sits next to the knife on the coffee table. They are beckoning me as a shot of whiskey would for an alcoholic or a dime bag to a drug addict. Addiction does not discriminate against those who inevitably are using it as a coping mechanism, some method of escape from the pain that consumes their heart and soul. Any distraction from the savage thoughts that deteriorate what little is left of a sense of self is embraced like a warm hug from an old friend. Regardless of what we tell ourselves, the rational mind knows these means of escapism are only a temporary distraction, however, when you are in intense emotional pain and consumed by loss and hurt, any reprise is welcome regardless of the length of time. If we can’t control the suffering inside, we can control the pain on the outside. We cut into our skin because we are angry and sad; we are hurting, broken and lost. We self-punish, we even cut to remind us we are alive while drifting through the world as a shadow of ourselves. We kill the pain with pain.
The first moment that you press the blade into your skin, your eyes become fixated on the blood. The depth of the cut is irrelevant as it is not about suicide, it is an attempt at relief. You watch the blood build up and start to drip in all directions, down an arm, a leg, maybe a stomach. The wound burns, the surrounding area pulsates and your heartbeat rises from the rush of adrenaline. Your mind is instantly drawn from the depths of depression to feeling the relief this physical pain induces. You don’t think about the abuse, the emotional torment or the constant sense of emptiness and self-hatred. There is no longer a concern of whose words hold truths, who loves you, who is leaving you, who is actually a friend and who is not. Every possible negative thought vanishes as you still can’t remove your eyes from the incision that you made. The one thing you feel you can control when your world is torn apart.
Physiologically it’s not all that complicated. Self-harm releases dopamine and other feel-good endorphins in the brain, so you actually feel relieved after cutting. The endorphins released, literally make you high. It’s the same reason some people find exercise, tattoos or even sex addictive, which thereby contributes to the addictive quality of self-harm. Expecting someone to just quit would be the same as asking a smoker to stop cold turkey, or a heroin addict to flush his stash. Addiction is addiction. All that differs is the means.
Physical pain is temporary. The body starts to repair itself almost instantly, the adrenaline rush wears off and the thoughts flood back with the force of a tidal wave. The guilt, the shame, the embarrassment, the self- loathing starts to build back up, and before we know it we are immersed and drowning, just like we were at the start. Physically we heal from the inside out. The tissue and skin grows and heals underneath as if it was never separated, and we are left with a scar; the only small reminder of that rare moment of relief. The scars on the inside still holding the raw pain, never seeming to close.
Cutting has nothing to do with intellectual ability, social or financial situations. Almost every person who self-harms has experienced one or more traumas that are so tragic and harmful that the mind self protects, repressing the memories and surrounding emotions as a means of survival. Something so overwhelmingly painful happened that we may or may not ever be able to identify or deal with it. Actually stop for a minute and think about how much someone has to hurt and hate themselves in order to slice a blade into their skin; to trade blood for reprise.
So if you ask me why I cut myself, it is for the exact same reasons that you fall into your own vices.