Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pouring My Heart Out...The Scars Remind Me That I am a Survivor

**  Before you read this post, I just want to put a warning out there that this is about self-inury.  It includes details that some may find disturbing.

The massage therapist frowned as she touched the 4 dark, yet smooth, scars along the inside of my left forearm.

"Got a cat?" she inquired.

"Uh, yeah....three cats," I answered.

She smiled.  "Looks like one of them has quite a mean streak."

A brief wave of shame crept over me as a mental image formed in my brain...the image of me sitting on the edge of the bathtub on a cold, blustery day last December with a small paring knife in my hand, while the kids were downstairs yelling at one another.

"It's my turn to choose the next Wii game," one shouted.

Another one shrieked, "NO!  You already chose one!  I'm telling....Moooommmy, Mooooommmmmyyyyyy!!!"

The only thought in my head was, "Make it stop, dammit.  Do something to make it stop".

And that's when I did it.

I pierced the sharp blade of the knife into the skin on my forearm and watched in silence as a thin stream of blood seeped out.

With a sigh of relief, I focused on the delicious combination of pain and release.  A euphoric feeling pulsed through my veins, as I continued to cut again....and again....and again.  I imagine it would be the same type of high a drug addict feels immediately after shooting up.

All the stress, chaos and negativity flows directly out of me and I'm left with a numb sensation for only a few minutes.

I crave that detachment at the most desperate of times, like when my head is cloudy and I can't think straight.  Or when I'm on overload and feel like I may crumble into a million pieces if just one more person needs something from me.

I simply want to be free from any emotions.  I don't want to hurt any more.

Yes, I realize that seems like an oxymoron.  I don't want to hurt any more so I cut myself.  It's a strange and mind-boggling coping mechanism.  I get it.  And I don't expect others to understand, unless they've been through it themselves.

Most of my scars are in places which are hidden, where no one else but me can see them.

To this day, I can't explain why I chose my forearm to cut myself....a site that is so easily visible to the world.

However, this was the very last time I self-injured.  Almost 10 months ago.

I like to believe it was my inner conscience pleading with me, "This isn't healthy.  You need to stop hiding and ask for help."

December 12.  That was the day I reached out for help, in the form of a despondent tweet to a fellow blogger whom I adore.

"Hi, Kim.  Are you there?"

And she was.

I also sought the help of a new psychiatrist, to whom I came clean about my unhealthy means of coping with the stress in my life.

You might wonder how a post like this with such graphic detail wouldn't cause a relapse.

You see, the scars on my arm remind me that I'm a survivor.  I'm resilient and so much stronger than I give myself credit for.  I can be in the depths of hell and still claw my way to the top, to enjoy the sunlight on my face.

Now, I find healthy ways to deal with my stress.  I take a few minutes to myself and take deep breaths.  I work out almost every single day, reveling in the positive focus and energy that exercise provides for me.  And I remind myself that nothing is so bad that I can't deal with it, just like every other normal person on this earth.

Oh, it's not easy.  It's definitely not an easy task to focus on more wholesome forms of coping  But all I have to do is look down at my arm, at these four scars, and remind myself that I can do this.  Life is full of ups and downs...that's just the way it is.

There is no reason for me to hide anymore.  There is no reason to lie about it any longer.

I don't need to feel ashamed.

"Well, truth be told," I said to the massage therapist, who was now working her magic on my shoulders, "I used to cut myself."

She was quiet for a moment and then responded, "I've never told anyone else this but I used to do the same thing when I was younger."

"I use to feel such shame and disappointment in myself," she admitted.  "But now, it seems like it was so long ago, know what I mean?"

"Yes," I answered.  "It certainly does seem like a long time ago....another lifetime, in fact." Registered & Protected


irishtwinsmommababybook said...

Big, huge hugs!!! We need to get our kids together. :) Dec 12 is a beautiful day. Day of recovery, the day for the Lady of Guadalupe and my birthday!!! :)

Natalie said...

I'm so proud of you! You've come a long way, and I know it can't be easy.

Jen said...

Sharing this post... is going to help someone.

And that is a beautiful thing.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Yes, you are a survivor. When I did probation I worked with a lot of female teens who cut. They had been through so much. One thing we found that was a healthier alternative was to have them hold an ice cube. It would still cause the pain they were seeking, and the numbness, but it didn't cause any actual harm.

DysFUNctional Mom said...

I am in awe of your courage in posting this. You are amazing! So glad that you're doing better now.

Babygirl said...

Thank you for sharing. And sending big hugs for those days that are rough. But you are right, you are a survivor, and telling that massage therapist probably helped her out a lot.

Marcia (123 blog) said...

Writing and sharing this post is so brave of you, Helene.

I'm so glad you could reach out to your friend and that you're now managing better.

Big hugs!!!

JDaniel4's Mom said...

I am so proud of you! You have been through a lot.

Eva Gallant said...

You are a woman of amazing courage and strength. Hugs.

Catie said...

You are an amazing woman and momma!! I admire you for speaking out about this. Your courage will help somebody else out there who feels all alone. Cheers to you!

Twins Squared said...

Oh Helene! You are such a great person - I know it took a lot of courage to admit this. You have been through so much and you keep bouncing back. I am glad you have been seeing someone to help you work all this out. I know - some days the stress of the kids is just insurmountable. Keep on keeping on. Hope your new school year is off to a good start. My first week was surprisingly stressful but this week I feel like we are already doing much better. Glad you are back in the cyberworld. :) We missed you but also glad you took time off for yourself and your kids!

Jen said...

I am constantly amazed by you. You are so strong and have been through so much. I admire you very much for your strength!

Please reach out whenever you need anything! I will be there whenever you need me!


Olusola said...

Thank you for sharing Helene. There is no shame in this victory story.

angel shrout said...

I completely understand. Some cut, some act out in other ways. Mine was to sleep with everyone I could after I escaped my home where I was molested by my stepfather. Courage and brutal honesty is a beautiful thing to witness. Especially when you see the outcome of the admittance and cry for help. Hope, faith and joy.

Kristin said...

I really needed this today. Sometimes I get so near the end of my rope, I dream of getting in my car and driving. Driving far away from the madness and the chaos. Posts like this remind me that I am also a survivor, and I am a work in progress in God's eyes.

Thank you.

Jenny said...

Helene, I am so glad you were able to reach out and get help. It makes you wonder how many people don't seek help? I hope your story helps someone!

~ Crystal ~ said...

I'm glad you were able to come out about this. You never know whose life you may save or touch just by telling it. Truth be told, you are not alone. This was a big part of me when I was in high school. After awhile, it seemed I had won the battle against it. But, I relapsed with it last year when it seemed my life was a a major low.

Kimberly Speranza said...

Well written. I can relate and am grateful you are so bravely sharing your story. Blessing to you.

Lisa said...

I'm sure there will be many more survivors thanks to you sharing your victory story!

ReinaBorinquena said...

Good for you to say it out loud, write about it. I'm also a survivor. I don't cut but I do other things to inflict pain that feels as sweet. It's as if I crave that release of endorphins so much that I do things like poke my gums to bleeding with toothpicks, my pain of choice. John Mellencamp got it right when he sang, "It hurts so good."

Talk therapy is tough, I need the psych meds but, more importantly, I do what I have to in order to be present for my kids especially since their father died 6.5 years ago. I'm all they have.

I'm a work in progress, sweetly broken but wholly surrendered to God's will for me as much as I can.

Don't give up. Keep writing about the hurts/pains of your past. I write about it and I can't tell you how free I feel. It's also very rewarding especially when I get supportive blog comments. I'll be praying for you, the spawn and your spouse. You've come this far so keep moving forward. God is with you.


Cindy said...

Have a now 23 year old daughter that has done "cutting" but in her own way-scratching hard enough for blood.
She has done it for several years and has not gone further than just the scratching. It started as a random act after a boy said something mean to her,it became a stress reliever when,along with being "shunned" in a small private Christian school she was at,she was also diagnosed with OCD/anxiety. She will still do it although very,very rarely.

Xiomara A. Maldonado said...

I feel so heartbroken whenever I hear of someone cutting themselves. Several people in my life have used cutting as a coping mechanism, and it makes me so sad because I want them to focus on healthier alternatives. I, myself, do not cut but may turn to drinking to cope, which is also unhealthy. It is so beautiful that you were able to share such a courageous post with us. There's a Thrice song that says "Every scar is a bridge to someone else's heart." By opening up to your massage therapist, you allowed her to break free too from her secret. Thank you for sharing this riveting post with me. ~Xiomara from Equis Place

Barbara said...

You are a survivor and amazing for sharing your story! You don't even know how many women you may have helped with this!

Shell said...

Oh, girl.

I'm glad that you got help. And so brave of you to share.

I never cut, but I'd dig my fingernails into the palm of my hand, sometimes til it bled- and I pulled my hair out.

Stress does odd things to us, doesn't it?


Jode said...

So brave of you to share your story and feelings so glad you got some help although i understand you must still be on a hard journey right now.
I am certain you have helped someone else today by sharing this story of strength and vulnerability.
I knew a couple of Mums through my postnatal depression support group who self harmed and i know what a tough thing it was for them to stop....big hugs to you brave Mumma xxx

Caty said...

Thank you so much for writing this. Although I am not a mother, I have shared such problems as this. It takes real courage to open up about this kind of stuff, and I really admire you for it. You definately have a new follower! Please keep writing :)

Leah said...

Thank you for opening your heart and being so beautiful and transparent. Praying for you.

Superstar said...

Every once in a while, I check out your writings to see how PWK (people with kids) manage. You are truly a talented person,friend, mom and so on.

You crack me up and then post something like this and reminds me that you're not the robot mommy/wife. You are a mom and a wife with true depth.

With Respect and Love, Emily

Anonymous said...

So glad that you are feeling better now & that you did reach out for help! When I was diagnosed with Postpartum OCD, the very first person I told about my diagnosis was my hairdresser because she had opened up to me- telling me that she had OCD. It's amazing how speaking the truth to someone else can help open them up too.

Melissa Bedell said...

Oh Helene. Big hug. I'm proud of you for sharing this but especially for seeking help and being able to stop. XO

Anonymous said...

Hugs. You got help and by sharing this you are helping someone else. You are the best.

Stephanie said...

Big hugs to you! You know stress is a very hard thing to deal with! So brave of you to share, I hope you continue to, I'm also sure this post will help someone else who needs you.

Shannon Quigley said...

Blessings and prayers of continued strength to you!

Tiffany said...

I get it. I was never a cutter b/c I never wanted anyone to know. I did other things that produced the same effect but could be hidden. I'm healing too, learning, growing - being vulnerable through therapy. I totally get it.

Proud of you.

Anonymous said...

I know that this post is older and I read it when you first posted it and I didn’t comment. However, I wanted to now. There is a quote by an unknown author that states, “Never underestimate the pain of a person, because in all honesty, everyone is struggling with something. Some people are better at hiding it than others.” I struggle with RA and fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and all the emotions and anger involved. I don’t always admit the detrimental effect that pain has on my life because sometimes it is easier to feel pain than to let the world know about it. Yes, you are a survivor but you are also strong because you asked for help and you admitted, above everything, you are human. It takes so much courage and strength to admit that you are weak. God Bless you and I pray that there are better days ahead. - Lana

Belkowski Gaylord said...

Driving away from crazy and chaos. Like this article remind me, I am a survivor, I am a work in progress in god's eyes.
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It started as a random act after a boy said something mean to her,it became a stress reliever when,along with being "shunned" in a small private Christian school she was at,she was also diagnosed with OCD/anxiety. She will still do it although very,very rarely
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I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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