Editor’s note: this is a personal account on a topic which may be triggering towards those that have had similar experiences. Our hope is that the reader will be open to reading this, connect with others and allow it to be a part of their ensuing conversation and healing.
My inability to tolerate certain feelings can easily be attributed to the neurotic pathologies carved all over my body.
I have scars that resemble the forget-me-nots etched purposefully into the gnarled trunks of trees, expanding and twisting with time.
I have written on my body with the similar intent of young lovers: to say I was here. To proclaim that a date, a moment, a feeling, was important enough for it to be commemorated with a knife.
When I stopped cutting it meant I had to learn how to leave my mark a different way; to commemorate the certain intolerable feelings and thoughts in a healthier and more meaningful fashion. When I stopped cutting, I had to learn to feel everything without running, without drawing crimson barriers around emotions to keep them trapped nicely away from my consciousness.
I had to write.
I have trouble feeling safely. So much is in extreme. My life is a fever that will not break, and yet so much is broken. My relationships with other people are oft tainted by my need for extremes, and rather than suffer through the tedium of moderation I find myself alone.
I am learning moderation, and like learning how to eat again after an anorexic relapse, sometimes I hide things in my napkin folds.
Learning moderation isn’t easy. It has left me looking more than once at my razor, calculating where and when I could cut so that the other girls in my college dorm will not know, and calculating the repercussions. I’ve been hiding the trunk of my wisdom tree beneath long sleeves and jackets. I don’t want to be seen as “crazy.” I don’t want people to know my two most despised feelings are that of being trapped, and being alone, and that these feelings have opened my veins. And I certainly don’t want to admit that when I call home and cry that I’m lonely, I’m really saying that no napkin is big enough to hide the scars within me.
I don’t want to be defined by the exclamation marks muted by sleeves, but unless I stopped cutting I wouldn’t have reason to define myself as anything else.
When I stopped cutting, I had to accept that there would be days of feeling trapped, and long hours of feeling terrifyingly alone, and that I was going to make it through without changing my chemicals with sharp objects. I had to surrender to the fact that healing pain without manipulating it is slow and delicate, and that sometimes I would have to fumble around in the dark for a solution.
Stopping cutting meant living fully in the fever, standing tall in the storm of my emotions and intensity. That storm leaves me pacing funeral marches into the floor of my dorm, but I will not die. No trumpet will sound today. No matter how alone, how intolerably solitary I may feel, I know that there are hundreds of other people who need to know it is worth the fight. And so, I stopped cutting. The hypocrisy of telling someone they are sacred while hiding my own bandages became inexcusable.
I began living a mission statement instead of an obituary: Write the truth.
I did not stop cutting because life got better. In some ways it did. I am in college and overall I’m doing very well here. But I did not stop cutting because life got better. I don’t know if my life would ever actually be good enough for me to stop romanticizing the blade which has held me steady for so many years.
I stopped because I realized that I cannot argue the beauty of life while massacring my own.
I stopped because my relationships with other people began to matter more than my fear of being alone.
I stopped not because I realized I am worth more, though I am, but instead because I am capable and needed for more.
We are all capable and needed for more than our own destruction. We are necessary.
In order to quit I needed another outlet, and so I write. I write to say I am here, to commemorate both the intolerable madness and the beautiful. I write because I am needed for more than carving forget-me-nots into my own skin. I put down the blade and picked up a pen, and that decision is saving my life in profound ways.
Saying goodbye to cutting is not a one-time act for me. There was no ceremony, no snapping in half and burial of a blade. If you were to ask me the day I quit, I couldn’t tell you. For me I have to quit every day, sometimes every hour.
Quitting is more of a beginning than an ending. It is opening the door and walking outside, even when I want to hide. For instance, I called home today and said that it is far less painful to be lonely with my door shut tightly than it is to be lonely around people. I hadn’t showered, I’d barely eaten. I needed to be talked through those things. I needed to be reminded that I am worthy.
If you have a day where you feel unworthy of existing, where the extremes of your emotions and desires are intolerable, hear me.
Hear me when I say that you are more than fever, that you are not sickness. Hear me when I promise you that quitting is worth it. Quit just this minute, and then the next. Learn to say that you are here without bleeding. Embrace this beginning, even if you aren’t completely sold on the idea that you’ve said goodbye to cutting.
This beginning is enough. This beginning allows you the room to define yourself without carving the cliff notes into your arms.
Find a replacement. Find a reason to live.
My life is not all figured out. Not in the slightest. Quitting cutting did not magically cure the intensity with which I feel things. I still often find myself running from being alone. I still feel everything like lightning, but I am learning to tolerate the rain.
Quitting cutting has given me the beginning to write a new story. It has afforded me a blank book to figure out the fever within me, to make purpose from it, to define myself without leaving scars. I am definitely here. Quitting cutting has allowed me, and forced me, to feel everything without manipulating it. I no longer can draw boxes around my pain, but that also means my capacity for exuberance is unbridled.
My body may look like a lovers’ oak tree, covered in statements of here-ness, but it is strong. It is stretching ever toward the light, and finding beauty in the fever.
When I learned to say that I am here without cutting, I also learned how beautiful it is to be here. Even when life hurts so deeply my teeth ache from the scream they’re clenching, it is far more beautiful to be here without cutting than it is to have this moment filtered through gauze and bandages.
I dance in the beauty of my storm.
Author: Emily Taggart
Editor: Emily Bartran