I’ve not posted about this for a long while because I was trying hard not to trigger myself, but I realise that now I am safer. I actually managed to shave my legs with a razor the other day and I was thinking entirely about that annoying patch of hard-to-reach hair by my ankle, not about hurting myself! I was so pleased with myself, I took the puppy out for a play in the garden as my reward. I was reflecting on how hard it was four months ago to go anywhere without a blade and how the itch in my head demanded new cuts, and deeper scars. I’m glad I managed to move on and pick up where I left off with my recovery- I had previously been eight months clean, I think. I was so proud of that achievement and I’m glad I am continuing with beating this addiction.
I remember being with J in America this time round- I’d been upset about the new scars on my legs, and terrified of wearing shorts, and frightened he would shout at me. There was no need to worry- J was as kind and pragmatic as ever. I’ve mentioned before that he refers to my old cuts as battle scars, and he has looked up solutions for reducing their lividity. This time, being with him was no different.
‘Oh, hey baby, if you want to use the vitamin E, I left it in the kitchen on the counter. Just pop the capsule and smear the gel on your leg, that’s all.’
I glowed, and went to fetch the vitamin E.
He’d seen them earlier that day and told me my legs looked fantastic, as usual, and that the scars were barely visible. He said they weren’t that bad at all, and he was soon mock-arguing with me about the merits of short-shorts versus my beloved waist-highs. Hah, I love our banter.
This was a stark contrast to my ex. Lying in bed with J, I rolled over and kissed his smooth, tan shoulder.
‘Thank you for being so understanding about my scars.’
‘Hey, baby, it’s no big deal. You’re self conscious of them, so I try to help out.’
‘I know. I know I keep saying thank you, but it’s just my ex walked out on me partly because of them, and I still feel guilty over them.’
‘He’s an asshole. Seriously. You just struggle with something a lot of other people struggle with, it’s stupid to walk out on someone for that. Did you try tearing the paper like I told you about?’
‘Yep. That works. I love how it feels when you have that much paper and you really sweat ripping it to shreds. I love how it’s destructive but I’m not destroying me any more.’
I felt him smile in the dark.
‘See, it’s getting all that energy out of you. It works because it’s stopping you getting all that energy out on yourself.’
‘I’m really proud of myself,’ I said, allowing a smile to creep over my features, ‘I did well with this.’
‘You should be proud. It’s a big deal. Goodnight, baby, sleep well.’
I leaned across to kiss him, and he smiled when I leaned back again. I snuggled back down next to him. It’s so odd that I feel that safe lying next to him, and even when I’ve had a nightmare he’s the first person I want a hug from.
‘Goodnight, you sleep well too.’
In the days that have followed, I have run through this conversation in my head many times. I don’t think there’s a moment where I could quite believe how lucky I was to start with when I met J, but this conversation was another in a series of amazing eye-openers. Self-harm has lost me friends. It had some poor misguided kid trying to copy me (horror of horrors, please god no). Worst, my family does not understand it (my mum has had me nearly naked, trying to find the last place I took a blade to myself. She means it well, but it humiliated me) and my ex left me for it.
That first year we were together and I was at ballet school, I’d already been struggling with it since I was thirteen. He had a counsellor for a mother and claimed mental health issues himself, but he had no clue why I sliced my skin and didn’t want to bother finding out why. I tried to tell him once, and I remember he blocked the conversation by telling me that he had a much worse problem with depression than I did, and that he never cut himself, so I shouldn’t either. He took away my dad’s old penknife that I’d been using. At the time, the taking of the penknife proved to me he loved me so much that he couldn’t bear to see me hurt. Now I think it was simple control. The only person allowed to hurt me was him. I couldn’t even hurt myself.
I did stop self harming, but I never addressed the issues behind it because he told me I had quit self-harming “for love.” Ew. No, I hadn’t, I had just buried it- and it all streamed back out when the dance school I went to became one of the most awful things I’d ever had to go through. I cut incessantly. I used to wrap my pointe shoe ribbons over the cuts on my legs. Ballet teachers asked me where I’d got the cuts, and I lied. Broken razors, stupidly-placed furniture, falling on gravel… They went away, secure and stupid.
But I confessed to my ex. I wanted sympathy and support and a way out, which I got a little of to start with. Only a little while later, when it kept happening, I got tirades of abuse.
‘You were supposed to have given this all up for me! What the fuck? I thought you loved me more than this. Clearly you don’t.’
I’d cry and promise not to do it, then Monday would hit and it would start again. It just got worse and worse. Eventually, the night I ran away, he had been chewing me out over my self harm again and I’d been apologising for it again and again. Then he told me he wasn’t going to talk to me again until I had sorted out all MY problems, and then hung up. That’s what triggered me to run. That’s what made me carve two scars into my wrists and go.
Those two on each wrist are the only two scars I have from anger. I never cut because I wanted to hurt someone else, and I never cut out of anger. Those are the only two I have where I was all kinds of fucked up: anger at him, a fuck-you-I-am-sick kind of feeling, despair over the break up and over my stupid life, and the wish to die. I’ve cut since then because I wanted to die, but I think that was the only time I had that particular cocktail in my veins.
J has been nothing but good about my fading addiction. He understands my self-consciousness over scars, red ones, purple ones and little white ones. He’s kissed those on my arm and on my hips, where they lie like spiderwebs now. He’s researched help with quitting and methods to get rid of scars, and thinks I’m beautiful in nothing but my scars. I can’t get over how fantastic that is.
My ex? He caused many of them. May he wind up understanding my pain at some point- if there is a hell, it would be poetic revenge for him to suffer everything I have.
The best thing about the first time J saw me naked? No scar comments. Not a one. Just the biggest, happiest smile I’d ever seen on his face til then. That honestly made me forget my scars, and it allowed me to just be. Now, you see why I’m itching to get that back. I only have to wait four more days, and I can feel that way again.