Self-Injury

The first time I ever scratched myself was when I was attending college one summer under a special program for rising high school seniors.  It was my first real experience away from home, and I would get homesick at times. I was having trouble fitting in with the other students in the program with me because I claimed to be a Christian, while many of them seemed to either have no religious beliefs, have other belief systems, or simply live in a way that belied a Christian walk.  I felt my own faith weakening as I was exposed to new philosophies in classes and challenged in my beliefs by professors and other students.

One afternoon it all came to a head.  I was walking back to our residence hall from class by myself and was overwhelmed with a sudden fear and an immense amount of self-loathing.  I knew I would never fit in back in Ackerman where I grew up, but now I was faced with not fitting in where I had planned to go to college.  I started rubbing my upper arms with my palms and quickly moved to scratching them with my fingernails.  I did this over and over until the skin on my arms was raw while crying some of the most intense tears of my life.  I had always bitten my nails short out of anxiety, so I did not leave bloody scratches.  I feel like that would have been noticed by the people supervising the program, so I was glad.

The episode was over as quickly as it came.  I went back to my room and sat down on my bed and started rocking back and forth.  I was four hours away from home, and I didn’t know or understand what had just happened to me.  However, the fear and anxiety and loathing were gone.  All I wanted to do was go to sleep.  And I did, fully clothed without even unmaking the bed.

I’ve only done the scratching a few times in my life since then, and my last impulse to do so was two years ago after the funeral of my husband’s grandmother, who was dearly loved by our entire family, including my girls.  I was trying to hold myself together, to be strong for Bob and for the girls, and after it was all over, the roof seemed to cave in on my emotions.  I did not cry or scratch myself; I made my hands into fists and held them out from my sides as I walked out to leave the church.  But I desperately wanted to hurt myself to make the inner pain and anxiety go away.  Something about causing myself physical pain made the psychic pain more bearable.

7 thoughts on “Self-Injury

  1. The only time I experienced the intense fear you described was a few days after giving birth to my firstborn, and then again during menopause. I understand how it feels…like someone foreign just got into my head and planted strange feelings and thoughts. I used books as a distraction to get my thoughts under control. It’s definitely a disturbing sensation. I ‘ve read about cutting. I think most professionals believe the physical pain is desirable to the mental anguish of the fears or lack of control in other areas. Just thinking.

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    • I’ve read about menopause and bipolar disorder, and that really scares me. I’ll soon be there, so I wonder what will happen then. Mine is very tied to hormone fluctuations, so I think I’ll be in for a little bit of a wild ride.

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  2. I am so in awe of your strength. I am not as strong as you to have managed my feelings of self injury- I have a recurring problem with it. How did you manage to stop and not let it get worse? I applaud you on your strength. x

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    • I don’t know how much control I actually do have over it. Medication has certainly helped me in all aspects of managing my problems. But I just fight the other compulsions by trying to get my mind off of whatever is driving me–I pray, I think about happy memories instead of sad ones, I think about trying to explain where the scratches came from–I work through the consequences of whatever compulsion is driving me. That helps a lot.

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  3. I’ve learned to be rather up-front about my mental health, and accompanying symptoms, but self-injury is one that I am still unable to confront. I’m getting there, and reading what others write about their experiences helps. Maybe one day I’ll be able to write about my own.

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