by SCOTT WILLIAMS
Shortly after my grandmother’s death in 2009, I discovered just how much you could accomplish with a knife. The crease of my elbow may have been in pain, but my heart and my mind were in significantly less pain. It happened a few more times that year, but then my faith grew, I discovered I had a support system, and I was not alone.
Before I continue, I want you to know that I have struggled with several mental illnesses since I was eight years old. It runs in my family; I have had some traumatic experiences; I have not dealt well with the majority of things that have happened to me. Society tells me that I am not supposed to talk about them; that I should be embarrassed that, after years of death and emotional abuse, I developed depression and require medication to control it; that I should be ashamed that my life felt so out of control that I developed OCD and other anxiety disorders and require medication for that. I refuse to be embarrassed, ashamed, or silent about the legitimate illnesses that I have. Those of us who have them know that they are hard enough with which to deal without having to hide them.
In April of 2012, I found someone who finally made me realize that I was not alone. He helped me deal with, but not get over, my sufferings. He helped me so much, in fact, that in June of that year, I made the hardest decision of my life and came out. The church that had helped me when I first discovered cutting decided that this was unacceptable. I could no longer serve as the chair of missions, serve on the administrative council, play keyboard in the praise band, and so on. Seeing as how my mother was the pastor, they could not very well have asked me to leave completely. However, I got the message.
For the first time in three years, I broke my skin, but at least I had this boy to help me through this betrayal. Come mid-August, this boy severed communication. After a week of no replies, I finally got one text that read, “I just don’t have the desire to talk to you anymore.”
Throughout my life, I never was welcomed at school, and got relatively the same treatment when I came home. I finally found a place where I belonged, at my mother’s church, but that fell through. Then the one person who helped me with that simply lost interest in me. Though I had a long-distance relationship with a girl from Arkansas at the time, I had never felt more alone than I did when I started my senior year of high school.
It was less than a month before I was cutting at least once a day. It was release. Punishment. Anger-management. Stress-relief. A way to make it to the next day. And, eventually… an addiction. The story reaches its first apex at the beginning of November. On November 6, 2012, Barack Obama was reelected as president, but I do not remember that. What I do remember of that day is going mindlessly through seven periods, skipping out on theatre rehearsal after school, going home, slicing up my skin harder and deeper than I ever had before, and falling asleep without clotting, letting the wounds to ebb as they pleased.
When I awoke a few hours later, I had never been so heart broken. Not because I had attempted to kill myself, but because I had failed. Around midnight on the next day, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Cleveland. As usually happens when you go to the hospital with a sickness, you feel completely rejuvenated after you are let out. After a week in the ward and three weeks in outpatient therapy, I went back to school completely rejuvenated. However, this did not last long. By the end of December, I had already returned to the comfort of my Xacto blades.
For about the next year, everything saturated out. I would cut, and that would last me two or three weeks, at which point, I would need another fix. This was enough for me… until it was not. By the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, I was back to cutting several times a week. It was easier in college. No parents asking to see my wrists. No school officials asking questions if you disappeared for a few days. It was easier in winter. Long sleeve shirts and sweaters were not questioned. If you had to push your sleeve up in a hot classroom, simply keep your arm bent, and no one would see. A few half-hearted suicide attempts that did not work passed with my friends and family none the wiser. When spring comes, you just switch to your thighs, your upper arms, your chest, your ankles, your waist, any inch on your body where you can rip into your flesh that no one can see.
And it works. All winter, spring, and summer, I could cut every day and no one knew except a few close friends and my therapist. Halfway through autumn, it got worse again. At the end of October, I drank over half a bottle of golden tequila, went home, and nearly hit my wrist bone cutting so heavily. But once more, my endeavors failed, and I woke up the next morning. The next week, I was back home and in the psychiatric ward for the second, and hopefully last, time.
Once released, it occurred to me that not one month has passed in over two years without me breaking my skin. I resolved then and there that I would go 100 days without cutting, not really expecting anything. I finally broke down and cut around 80 days later, closer than I had imagined I would make it. After that, I fell back into the routine of cutting every couple of weeks to appeal to my addiction. On July 9, 2015, I once again decided that enough was enough. While the urges came full force more than I would have liked, one-hundred days cut-free came and went.
As of today, January 25, 2016, I have gone 200 days without cutting. My blades have rusted; the scars have faded to light pink. While the next goal I have set in place is to make it a year, for the first time since 2009, I honestly believe that I can go the rest of my life without cutting again. It will not be easy, but if 200 days feel this amazing, I cannot imagine saying that I have not cut for 20, 30, 40 years.
If you have ever thought about harming yourself, my advice to you is: don’t. The rush of endorphins and fleeting euphoria lead only to scars, dependency, and sleepless nights. If you are in the early stages of self-harm, my advice is to get out while you still can. If, like me, you are years-deep in addiction, just know that I was almost entirely certain that I would die by the knife, and yet, I have gone 200 days without even picking one up. As corny as it is, I leave you with a resounding cliché: it gets better. It really does.