I cut my wrists and the top of my knees when I was 19. It was just a tiny bit. I used nail scissors to snip/stab at my skin. It seemed easier/less scary, I guess, than getting a huge knife. I also thought I wouldn’t be able to accidentally kill myself (was not suicidal that night) with just some scissors, so that was good too.
I was living at Campus East which is a big university/college student residence in Wollongong. I was studying at the college attached to the University of Wollongong. But it wasn’t really studying, it was more like, “have to do something this year, okay I’ll do this thing. Wow, this is shit. Okay, time to not really work that hard (*meanwhile hashtag#bipolar troubles).”
I had just come back from a big dinner at a Mexican Restaurant where we did lots of tequila shots. I would say I was somewhere between tipsy and a little bit drunk. I went into my room at the end of the hall. I don’t remember what initially triggered me into crying and the sadness that night. Probably just coming back from a social event and comparing myself to others as per usual at that time in my life, concluding that I was no good to anyone and just a bit of a crap person. So, when you have depression/bipolar that sort of self-talk is enough to trigger you into a full blown emotional crisis…Ended up with all these massive feelings of self hate, loathing and loneliness. They’re swimming under the surface already you see, then just one negative thought can get that spiral up and running really quickly and before you know it you’re hurtling down the slope at full speed, then you’re crashing onto the rocks at the bottom.
Anyway, so I’m back from that social event and sitting at my desk in my room listening to sad music (Jimmy Eat World, I think) and writing/scrawling poetry drunkenly (I used to write A LOT of poetry, the more depressed I am, the more poetry I create, which is a bit crap now because I am a damn good poet, but I’m happy (most of the time) now so it disappeared!) with my head leaning on the desk.
And, I don’t know. I just get the scissors. Apparently it was a good idea. And I’m just sitting there thinking I’m not worth shit and maybe I should just die, but I’m too scared to do anything that drastic, so I just sit here and ‘be lame and only cut’ instead. Like, shaming myself for ‘not having the guts’ to kill myself. Haha, now I’m like, “Wow, so glad I did indeed, not ‘have the guts’.” But yea. So I did that. By this stage I was feeling very emotionally numb. I wasn’t crying and sobbing any more. I was just feeling very out of it, distanced, kind of just ….. dot dot dot #silence, sort of feeling.
Then I did something really desperate, which I try really hard not to shame myself for now. It was a terrible prison and I was reaching out, and, I was drunk…
I went out to the living area where the guy I was seeing (who happened to be one of my roommates) was sitting, watching TV.
My wrists and top of my thighs were bleeding. Not heaps, as I said, just snips with the scissors, but enough to take awhile for the blood to stop. Probably about 3-5 little cuts on each limb. I was wearing a short, summer dress, by the way. Yea, so I drunkenly walked out like that and sat down next to him and pretended like there was nothing weird happening. I was just like, “Hey, how are you? What are you up to?” and leant my head on his shoulder.
At first he didn’t notice because we were sitting side by side and he was looking at the TV, he was like, “Oh hey, how was your thing? Wha- …Becc…? What? Oh my god, what the fuck?” And I was just nonchalantly like, “Oh, yea…” And he grabbed me and his eyes were filled with tears and was like, “Wha? Why did you do this?” and started leading me down the hall back to my room, I was just like, drunk and actually pretty emotionally numb at that stage so just didn’t answer and walked with him.
We sat in my room, on the end of my bed, with tissues and he handed them to me and was like, “clean it up and tell me what happened” and I used the tissues and dabbed at my wrists a bit, but not really. Then I noticed I was getting blood on the sheets from my leg cuts, I sort of glanced at it like, “oh…” and he was like, “sit on the edge more” and started dabbing my knees more as I moved forward to the end of the bed.
I don’t really remember what happened after that. I think I just started crying for an hour then fell asleep together in my bed.
The next day he left in the morning for Uni, kissed me goodbye as I sleepy-eyed, watched him starting to get up. He said, “Don’t…don’t do that again” and left.
Later in the day, I was lying in bed listening to music after not really getting up all day, he came back from Uni and sat down on the desk chair opposite me. He said, “I don’t think we should keep…doing what we’re doing any more…after last night…I don’t want to make things worse. I feel like you’re too attached and it will be really hard for you when I leave.” He was, of course, referring to the fact that he was a Swedish student on exchange for only 6 months or a year (I can’t remember which) and would be leaving in a couple of months. He seemed to think that was the reason that I was cutting.
I started crying and wearily explained that no, no that was not why I was so sad, and that I wanted him to stay with me because he made me happy and we had fun together, and I clearly needed happy and fun…and whilst I knew it would be hard, I needed the joy he brings me now and reiterated how he was definitely not responsible for these dramatic feelings. I explained how I had been feeling horrible for ages and last night was the culmination of it all…He was hesitant as he listened, but believed me and changed his mind about it.
Later in the day, my best friend on Campus came up to see me. She said that S (Swedish ‘boyfriend-of-sorts’) had gone to see her and told her what happened. She said he was really freaked out and felt like he should tell her. She was really ‘meh’ about it. She said, “So, was it just cause you’re sad or?” I replied, “Yea…it’s just been…really…hard…” and she was like, “Oh okay.” Don’t remember what happened after that very well. But I know that was the end of the discussion and she was not very sympathetic or empathetic or anything at all really. At that point I just wanted her to leave and go away because that just made me want to cry again. Really poor form, as far as ‘friends’ go.
Anyway, so yea, that’s how that all happened for me. I didn’t do it again. I have on occasion, thought about doing it since then. But only once or twice since going on medication (later that year I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (Type 2) and Generalised Anxiety Disorder). Even when I did think about it, it was just like, a really quick thought, then me pushing it away instantly, thinking more clearly than when one is in a deeper, more out of control, depressive state, thanks to medication.
So, regarding Teal’s video.
I definitely relate to everything she has said about the reasons why. For me, it was ‘*demonstrative’ cutting. And it did only happen the once, so it doesn’t so much apply to me any more, and the addiction part doesn’t apply much either but – the feelings associated with cutting and the reasons why one feels compelled to self harm, they were a very real experience for me at that time.
I definitely did feel trapped. I felt stuck in my brain that just hated me. I remember walking around in the supermarket, dry eyed, but actually crying in my head (it was really weird), not knowing why (that’s depression for you).
Regarding what Teal says about the role childhood experiences have in the feelings associated with cutting, I’m not sure which childhood experiences would have attributed…perhaps the vague memories I have of being told to stop crying at various points which equals being emotionally rejected.
I definitely know that I felt disapproval from others, like something was inherently wrong with me.
“When you are seen by others in this light (whether it’s during childhood or older) you then learn to see yourself in that light. Ask: who should have loved you?”
The only answer I have to that at this stage is my mum the couple of times she told me to stop crying. It is her in those few memories that I remember clearly.
At the time of the cutting, I definitely wanted to “sedate emotion then gain control by exerting that control over the emotion” as Teal states.
*Demonstrative = “Demonstrative cutters are looking for some way to feel a sensation of relief instead of a sensation of control (which is what secretive, ritualistic cutters tend to be after), but looking for that sedation feeling to come through other people”.
“Society shames them, saying they just want attention, so they can’t admit to anyone or even themselves that what they want is for someone to notice.”
They want someone to save them from the hell they’re living in. Unfortunately people shame and reject the cutter instead of helping.
One can find it is too shameful to admit that you want help, that you just wanted someone to recognise the pain you’re in.
A deeper look at cutting = cutting is done to avoid and escape the way we feel.
We need to use the energy behind this compulsion, this urge to help us to integrate the emotion/s we’re avoiding.
These are rooted deeply in childhood trauma
…For me, I still can’t admit to any childhood trauma I experienced/may have experienced.
I feel like nothing I experienced was ‘big enough’ to call it trauma. But, the evidence is clearly there.
I find myself looking away and half-purposely zoning out as Teal says her kind message to those who are cutters (which, even though I don’t cut now, still applies to me) at the end of the video. I suppose I don’t feel ‘worthy enough’ to hear what she is saying, to be spoken to in that kind way. I don’t feel like I’m deserving of being addressed like that… Which further proves the point, I suppose – childhood trauma remains.
I know I need to integrate my childhood self/ves and do more emotional shadow work but I just can’t seem to do it. I have been thinking about this for so long. I have such a hard time getting myself to do shadow work. I want to do it, because I know it will benefit me, yet I just. don’t. What the hell, me?! Why am I putting it off even though it would help?!
This is the one thing I would ask Teal for help with if I get chosen to go on stage at her Sydney workshop.
This rut is very stuck and very deep.
I am alright now, if you’re wondering. I’m more than alright. But, it’s important to know that we are all not alright sometimes, and that is alright too.
Very soon after the aforementioned cutting experience, I went to The Black Dog Institute and was officially diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (Type 2) and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I got on medication, too.
This whole experience was the start of my spiritual experience.
My known identity (as a depressed, pretty useless poet) was swept away with the sadness once I began to heal. I found I had to get to know myself, find myself, for the very first time.
When the layers of depression and emotional distress began to dissolve, I didn’t recognise myself any more. That sense of confusion and identity inspired me to look into myself, which inspired me to look into spirituality and philosophy, which eventually resulted in who I am today.
I would not change my experience for any thing. I am so grateful to have ‘hit rock bottom’, so I could rise up once again, out of the darkness, so that I could bloom into the sun. And, I’m still blooming. And I’ll never stop.
It’s always darkest before the dawn : )