Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cutting, addiction, depression...

This is a very long post and I ramble here and there. Try to hang in there though, eh?

I saw someone post about their struggle with cutting and trying to quit yesterday on Tumblr only to see them being torn down by other people saying that people only cut because they want attention. Or because they're too scared to commit suicide.

A lot of people get something confused about cutting. They think cutting and suicide go hand in hand. That people who cut are all people who want to appear to want to kill themselves but don't really want to die. Or that they're people who want to die but don't "have the balls" to go through with it. It's not always like that.

I hate when people think someone suffering from depression just wants to stay miserable. That they're only unhappy and sad because they want to stay that way, because they like the attention it gets them. It's hard to understand for a lot of people who have never been there. I don't get how people think they can understand and judge every instance of something based on a singular experience or a preconceived notion.

I hate when people think addiction is something easy to overcome. "Just don't do it anymore." "If you really want to quit, then just do it."

It's so easy to look at something from the outside and judge it. To assess it and think you know how you would deal with it, what you would do and how easy it would be once you figure out what you need to do. It's always easier to say what you'll do when you're analyzing something you've never had to do. Judging what you don't know is stupid. Certain things, you can't understand when you've never been there. You can't say what you would do and you can't tell them what's best for them to do because you don't know. Judging and being an asshole never helps.

I used to cut. I didn't do it to try and kill myself nor did I do it hoping someone would see the scars and give me attention. In fact, I guarantee you that if most of the people that knew me were going to read this, they'd be surprised to learn that I cut. I cut on a regular basis. I did it quite a lot and did it for a long time. I only stopped a few years ago as a matter of fact. I'll get to that, later.

I was 15 the first time I cut myself. I was so miserable but I didn't really know why and I didn't have anyone I could really reach out to that would listen and think I was going through more than "normal" teenage angst. I needed some kind of outlet. I had drugs. People I worked with did drugs and I got stuff from them. Sometimes, being high wasn't enough. I sneaked booze from where my parents kept their liquor. That wasn't often enough. The first time I cut, it was late at night. I was crying and shaking. I just wanted to stop feeling like I did. I remember deciding that I'd cause myself physical pain just so I'd have some pain to focus on that wasn't emotional. I crept downstairs as quietly as I could. I looked carefully through the wide variety of kitchen knives my mom had. She had a lot., she's really into cooking and baking. I picked one that had a smooth blade and was plenty sharp. I couldn't decide where to cut but I knew it had to be somewhere no one could see. I didn't want anyone seeing the mark the next day and asking questions. I decided on my upper arm, laid the blade to my skin, took a deep breath, pressed and sliced open my skin. I remember it stinging then just hurting. I remember freaking out as drops of blood fell down to the kitchen floor, splattering the tiles. I remember scrambling to find something to clean up the blood splatters while trying not to make any noise. I sat on the floor after I used a wet paper towel to clean the blood splatters from the tile and decided to cut my arm twice more. Each time, it stung a bit more but I loved the feeling. I sat in the floor, back against the counter, enjoying the pain and focusing on that. I remember feeling like everything was in slow motion as I quietly cleaned the knife and put it away. It felt surreal as I cleaned my arm up after I got back into my room. I luckily had my own bathroom, vanity and walk in closet area so I didn't have to worry about anyone walking in on me to use the toilet in the middle of the night.

The next day, I felt like everyone I saw knew about the cuts I had on my arm. They were covered just fine by the shirt I had on but I was worried. I didn't want anyone to know. I didn't want to explain. And mostly, I didn't want to get caught because it meant I'd have to stop. I didn't want to stop what I had just started, especially when it gave me the release I was needing. It was the escape I was looking for. I felt better after doing it. I felt like I deserved the physical pain but promised myself I wouldn't do it all the time.

It started out that way; a few cuts in the middle of the night a couple times a month. I remember I was home alone one night while my family was out at the dirtbike track. I had a guy come over to hang out and ended up fooling around with him. I was nervous about him seeing the marks on my arms and realized I didn't want him to see them. I was afraid that he would tell people, people that knew my parents and then they would know. So, I turned out the lights and made sure it was so dark he wouldn't notice and didn't let him touch my arm since that was the only place I had been cutting.

When I was 17, we moved to South Texas. I got more into drugs there. Heavier drugs. Doing drugs and drinking more frequently. I cut less because I was high much more often. I'd started cutting my thighs. A few times when I was high and still felt miserable, I'd cut my forearm somewhere. Then the next day, I'd freak out and try to figure out how I'd hide it from everyone. I found creative ways to do it., Bulky jewelry, scarfs tied around my arm, lightweight long sleeved shirts even when it was too warm for them.

I remember I was over at my family's house one day. I was wearing basketball shorts and when I sat down, they went up above my knees. I didn't think about it because I forgot about the 7 jagged lines cut into my skin the night before just above my knees. My youngest brother saw them and asked me how I hurt myself. I panicked and quickly made up a stupid story about jumping a fence and getting scratched up from that. He was 9 at the time but he looked like he didn't believe me. I remember changing the subject really quickly and pulling my shorts down to cover the cuts.

My boyfriend at the time was also a cutter. He also smoked pot and drank a lot. We had an incredibly unhealthy relationship because, to summarize, we were both really fucked up and had a lot of issues. I talked to him about my cutting and ironically, we both cut less while we were together. It was a weird bond to have with someone but we both understood why the other one did it and we both hid it from everyone around us. That's actually the thing that made him open up to me more, he felt like he could tell me anything because I not only didn't judge his cutting but I understood. I used drugs more but I cut less. In my mind, it seemed like a good trade off. I might have been high quite frequently and using a scary amount of stuff but hey, I went months at a time without taking a knife to my skin. That logic is stupid to me and also shouldn't be deemed logic but I digress.

We moved back up to the Dallas area when I was 19. I was off drugs by then. I'd broken up with my boyfriend that I had the ridiculously unhealthy relationship with for several reasons and moved back into my parents house. I quit drugs 2 months before we moved back up from South Texas due to an incident where I almost killed myself. If not for my best friend taking me to get my stomach pumped, I likely would have died then. Getting off drugs was hard for me. I used daily and then just stopped the day after I got my stomach pumped.

I was really unhappy and very confused. I started cutting more often again. Which was harder to pull off as we were living in an apartment now, just my mom, youngest brother, sister and myself. The floors made too much noise when I tried to creep across them and the kitchen drawers made squeaky noises. I was terrified of getting caught and having to explain why I was looking through kitchen knives when I wasn't cooking or doing anything in the kitchen. So, I used razorblades in the bathroom for a couple weeks. I didn't like those. The cuts were smaller and didn't hurt as much as the ones I did with the kitchen knives. So I sneaked into the kitchen one day and grabbed three knives. I stashed them in my bedroom and then used them all until I figured out which one I wanted to keep in there. I figured three knives missing might be noticed. If my mom did notice them disappearing for a few days, she never said anything.

I kept the knife in my room and would sneak into the bathroom with it whenever I wanted to cut. I can remember so many nights where I sat in the bathroom, crying with blood running down my arm or thigh.

I met S, who is my current boyfriend of 5 years now, a short time after moving back to the Dallas area at 19. We had only known each other for a few months when we decided we would move to California to live with my dad and other brother there. S is amazing. We kept in contact after I left and eventually got to a point where we talked multiple times a day, every day. We would spend hours on the phone at times. He also cut but not as much as I did. He was in therapy and on medications, trying to work through his issues. In talking to him, I realized I had a lot of shit I needed to work out. I stopped cutting and started trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Why I felt the way I did.

I moved back to Dallas and S and I have been together since then. Our 5th year together was this past May. I worked through some of my issues, but.... I still cut from time to time up until I was 23. S and I would fight, I'd get upset and not know what to do. I'd lash out at him, say things I didn't mean. I'd hurt him emotionally and then I'd hate myself for it and go hurt myself physically by cutting. S would get angry with me for doing that. He wanted me to stop. I tried to hide it from him but there wasn't a way to keep him from seeing the cuts on my body. And a lot of the time, he didn't even need to see the cuts to know I had done it.

I stopped cutting and started drinking. A lot. I could drink whole bottles of liquor and not be blackout drunk. I drank ridiculous amounts of booze and was so out of control of my own life and didn't really care to fix it. There were several things that had happened to me that fucked me up and put me into an even worse mental and emotional state. Instead of dealing with them, I just ignored them and buried myself in a bottle. Until there was an intervention because a friend of mine reached out and told my mom about my drinking being out of control. The intervention never went beyond one night where I had a long discussion with my mom, S, a cousin and my two youngest siblings. I felt attacked and was so angry by the end of the night. I ended up cutting and sobbing later. I remember feeling so drained and so tired mentally and emotionally. I contemplated suicide again that night and realized I really didn't want to die. I just wanted to get better and not hurt so much anymore.

I told S I wanted to get control of my drinking and stop cutting. I didn't want to be that person anymore. I actually made a list of issues I needed to face and worked through them that way. I was so overwhelmed at first I broke down and thought I'd never overcome the things I needed to. The list helped because I could take them on one by one and not feel overwhelmed. I worked hard at facing my issues and overcoming them. That included the cutting. That was one of the hardest things to get a handle on because I'd done it for so many years. It had been almost like a habit. I always knew if I needed that rush, that outlet, that painful way to feel better that I always had it at my fingertips.

I've got my drinking under control and I haven't cut myself in almost 3 years. I'm in a really good place in my life and for the first time in my life, I'm very happy. I owe a lot of that to S for being there for me. For not judging me when I opened up to him. For being supportive when I needed him to be. It was incredibly hard to open up to him and let him see those parts of me. It's difficult to let someone see the parts of you that you've hidden for so long. The ugly things about you that you don't even like. Especially when that someone is important to you and you're afraid that telling them you suffer from anxiety, depression, cutting and other things will scare them away. Or make them judge you. It's hard and scary to put yourself out there and be that vulnerable to someone.

It's also difficult to speak out to a larger audience about subjects like this. People will always get self-righteous. People will always think they know better. People will always judge. And people will always try to pick apart what you're saying and tear you down. All you can do with those people is ignore them. It's not worth it to let those people get you down. I still get mad when I see someone picking on someone for trying to reach out to get some help or even just some comfort knowing someone out there understands what they're going through. I'm a strong enough person that I don't give a damn about the negative people out there who get pathetic enjoyment out of tearing someone down and making them feel worse. Not everyone is like that, though. If you're one of those people who likes to do that, think about what you're doing. To you, that person online might just seem like an attention seeker but you don't know that and if they are, just ignore them. Some people do just want the attention and like to cause drama. Some people really have problems and really do need to reach out to someone. Not everyone has someone in their life they can turn to and open up to and if they have people tearing them down and laughing at them when they try to reach out to someone, they're less likely to try and reach out again.

People need to stop being so judgmental. You shouldn't assume you know what someone is going through and shouldn't tear them down because of a preconceived notion about a disorder, a habit, etc. And if someone reaches out to you, try to be constructive. You don't have to agree with what they're doing but making fun of them isn't the answer. Making their problem seem like it isn't a big deal doesn't help either. Sure, there are people in the world with worse problems but it doesn't mean their are irrelevant and should be overlooked because of that. I know some subjects are uncomfortable to deal with and you may not know how to help someone even if you are comfortable with the subject. Tearing them down, making fun of them, negatively judging someone or telling them their problem is irrelevant isn't going to help. And if doing those things make you feel better, you might need to evaluate yourself a little bit and figure out why being a cruel person makes you feel better.


phairhead said...

You've illustrated very well the issue of the general public's ignorance about depression & addiction. "Stop being sad!" hmm...yeah, it doesn't work like that. As a sufferer of depression myself, I can say unequivocally that there is no on/off switch & no, I don't enjoy feeling loathsome & unhappy.

Anonymous said...

This is a really good post. Thanks for sharing. People are always going to be judgmental. This is just something we are all going to have to get used to.

And when people put others down because of what they do, it is usually out of some form of fear. Maybe it is fear of what they think they themselves may be capable of...

I am glad to hear that you are in a good place however...

Smyles said...

I am so proud of you and where you are today! (It may not mean much coming from me since you don't really know me, but still...) Your courage and strength to pull through the darkness and get to this good place is undeniable! :)

Nolens Volens said...

I like to say that I am judgmental of those who are judgmental. Thank you for your post on cutting, drugs, and alcohol. It was honest and open.

Mrs. Learning said...

Awesome post. Happy to hear that you are doing better. People do assume that cutters are trying to kill themselves but you are right, they are only trying to get out the pain and agony that they are feeling on the inside. I've had contact with young women who have suffered from cutting and there is happiness on the otherside, it just takes a while for treatment to work. Take care.

?uestion said...

I'm really glad you're doing so well now. I knew someone who cut. It really isn't an attention thing and it's really scary. You telling your storying so candidly is going to mean a lot to those who are going through the same things. Take care!

Anonymous said...

Being a cutter myself i understand what you went through and look up to you because i haven't broken my addiction yet... I need help but don't know where to find it

Ashly Star said...

I wish you weren't anon, I'd love to talk to you some time. Not that I think I could break your addiction but just because it helps to have someone to talk to who knows what you're going through. :/ you can find my email in my blogger profile (http://www.blogger.com/profile/17168110789698011472) if you happen to come back here and want to email me. Take care of yourself.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for articulation exactly what i've been feeling. I'm 42 and have been cutting for years. I started in high school after several traumatic events that i didn't know how to deal with. so i started carving FTW into my left forearm, it was such a release and felt so good i couldn't stop. My step Aunt saw it one day, i wasn't thinking and rolled my sleeve up. She only said, stop doing that. that was it. any way, i digress. i have started cutting again and i just can't seem to stop. I am a drug addict and have 18 clean now (i had 46 but relapsed again). i just don't know how to deal with the emotions that i have buried for so long. you articulated so well exactly how i feel i just had to thank you. i don't know if you still read this or not, but i had to comment and thank you. you are an inspiration to me. knowing you quit gives me hope. THANK YOU!