When I was nine years old, I watched a movie that would forever change my life. The movie was called Thirteen. For those who haven’t seen the movie it is about a girl who experiences with her sexuality, drugs, stealing, and other self-destructive behaviors. While watching the movie, I wasn’t drawn to the drugs, partying, or experiencing with sex. Those things didn’t capture my eye and tempt me in any way. It wasn’t until I saw the main character cut herself that I became intrigued. When the movie was over, I headed to the bathroom and grabbed a shaver. I put the shaver to my finger and gently moved it, slicing my skin. It wasn’t enough to draw blood, but it was enough to begin my addiction.
I can’t tell you what captured my eye about cutting, but I can tell you I never forgot about it. A couple years later, when I was eleven, my mom and her fiancé decided to split up, due to his infidelity. He had a daughter who was five years older than me that I looked up too. She was the only sister I ever had (I have a real one but she has never been a part of my life). When the guy left my mom, I didn’t feel much. I didn’t feel much about losing him or my step sister. But I saw my mom fall apart and lose not only her family, but our three cats and our dog. I don’t know why, but in that moment, I hung up the phone and went to the bathroom. I grabbed a shaver and slide it along my wrist. I can’t say exactly what made me choose to cut myself in that moment. Maybe it was all the loss I was experiencing, or maybe it was seeing my mom so broken.
However, that day cutting became my coping mechanism. I started cutting slowly and occasionally. But, by high school I was cutting habitually, anywhere from thirteen to twenty-three times in one setting. I was weird and enjoyed counting the cuts when I was finished. Cutting became my life. I would use any excuse to do it and I would do it often. It took over my life and I enjoyed it. I felt such a release and victory when I would cut. Weird, right? I could take all my hurt and control it by putting the blade to my skin. I could punish myself and that made me feel victorious. The relief I felt from cutting made it easier to cut when life became overwhelming. While cutting, I would watch the blood fill the wound and I would feel peaceful.
Staying DISTRACTED when you’re feeling intense emotions can help. But first you have to figure out what kind of distractions are most effective for you. The most effective thing things for me involves activities that tire me out; this can be taking my dog for a walk (which calms me and clears my mind). I would just walk until my legs became sore; sometimes times I walked over seven miles in a day to manage and escape from the urges and negative feelings/thoughts. Yes, I know that is probably excessive, but it helps burn off the frantic energy I get from my emotions by physically exhausting myself. When we become physical exhausted we are able to get over the hump of arousal by draining our energy, muscles, and nervous system.
Here are some other methods to prevent you from cutting:
- Tiring yourself out by:
Cleaning/ rearrange furniture
- Making yourself cognitively and physically busy by:
Learning a new song that has several fast paced versus.
Video games with a lot of coordination
Choreograph a new dance routine
Analyzing films and reading material
Hang out with children
EXPRESSING how you are feeling maybe hard, but can help.
When I was younger, I would always bottle up how I was feeling. Like a soda that had been shaken before opening, I would explode. It is important to be able to express what you are feeling inside to give you a sense of emotional relief. When you express your feelings, you can release some of your pain. I like to write a letter explaining how I am feeling and what I need to feel supported. This gives you the chance to figure out how you feel and what you need. When it is complete you can use this letter to open the lines of communication with a friend if you want/ need to because you already know what to say. When we are in emotionally heightened state it can be hard to effectively and explicitly state how you are feeling and why you are feeling that way to others. Or maybe you don’t know what triggered you to make you feel like cutting. There are a variety of activities that can help you express yourself.
Some other methods for expressing yourself are:
Update the decorations in your space
Have a conversation w/ yourself (out loud) about what/how you feel and why
RELEASING your emotions and stress is also very important and can deter a person from cutting.
A person can practice releasing their emotions by:
Exercising (high heart rate= highest impact + gradual decline; Low heart rate= lowest impact +gradual increase)
- Hitting a pillow/ Screaming
- Grounding Exercises/mindfulness/Meditation
- Vinyasa (flow) Yoga
PRACTICING SELF-CARE is also beneficial when a person feels like cutting. It is proven that practicing self-care helps reduce anxiety and overwhelming emotions. Self-care includes activities that an individual does to take care of their emotional, mental, and physical health. Sometimes in heightened emotional states we forget that we are humans/people and not just our feelings and emotions. Practicing self-care helps us remember that we are more than just our feelings/emotions and what we want to do.
Some ways to practice self-care are:
Health Hygiene (eat healthy, hydrate, sleep, exercise, know your limits)
Spending time with family/ friends
Meditating/ grounding exercises
Relaxing hygiene/beauty rituals
Do something you currently or used to enjoy (if it is not harmful)
I know everyone is different, but I found these activities to help me when I feel like cutting.
These ideas may help some people and not others. It is important if you feel like cutting to find a positive outlet to divert your attention.