I’m dying to cut and cutting to die
to escape all the pain that boils inside
A perfectionistic tyrant
forever filled with rage
finds solace in the lawless act
of making a child’s cage
The flood gates broke open
in the scandalous division
And this condition’s an affliction
of my father’s indecision
Nothing ever goes away
and it repeats over again
Different scars from different hands
Leaving less to defend
I’m starting to think that maybe
this could be my only use
And the more I turn and hurt myself
I play a part in my abuse
I question what I do know
I’m scared of what I don’t
I’m terrified to kill myself
but I’m more afraid I won’t
My departure would be a blessing–
a blessing to the world
But I guess that’s just what I get
for being Daddy’s little girl
I look at my outfit in the mirror
Black Vans sneakers
Black skinny jeans
Bob Marley t-shirt
It’s just a trip to Target
My mom calls up to me
“I’ll get the car started!”
I dash down the stairs
slipping on the last step
I regain balance
and hurry out the door in front of my mom
The sun is setting
casting orange and pink
into the clear October sky
I look across the street to my neighbors’ house
Once perfect white
Stained and flashing
I speed walk to the edge of my driveway
chanting with each step
Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.
The lights are coming from police cruiser
parked outside of my best friends’ house
My mom walks up behind me curiously
“I think Isaiah’s getting arrested again”
My mom sighs too
Sirens blare in the distance
One more police car
One fire truck
My knees feel weak
But I force myself closer to the scene
He actually did it
Neighbors come outside
to watch the chaos
Emergency responders rush into the house
stretcher in tow
This isn’t happening.
It seems like everyone turns to me
“What’s going on?”
“When was the last time you talked to Isaiah?”
“Do you know what happened?”
I have no idea
Isaiah’s older brother emerges from the house
and starts walking toward the crowd
All I can hear are the ambulances running
I step forward because no one else moves
Josh is sobbing
He waves me away
“I need to talk to your mom”
I weave numbly back into the crowd
All eyes on me
My mom is in the back
“Josh wants to talk to you”
I lead her to him
They step away from me
I can’t read their lips
They talk more
They hug again
Josh turns and walks back to his house
My mom turns to me
“Josh is very upset”
her face is unflinching
“He said Isaiah hurt himself”
I hold my breath
My mom locks eyes with my sadly
“and he’s gone”
The ground falls out from beneath me
EMTs come out of the house
There’s a body on the stretcher
His face is covered
The load up the ambulance
and slowly drive away
The lights no longer flash
In two and a half months, it will be the three year anniversary of my best friend’s suicide. With every month that ticks by, I can feel myself growing away from him, and that terrifies me. I no longer remember what his voice or his laugh sounded like, and memories become harder and harder to recall. I know that this is a normal part of the grieving process, but the worse my memory seems to get, the more it tears me apart. It feels painfully disloyal to continue to lose touch not only with Isaiah, but with the part of myself that has been gone as long as he has.
I feel empty and incomplete, and while the memories I have of Isaiah’s life fade, the memory of the night that he ended his life runs through my mind as clearly as if it just happened. It doesn’t seem fair that my mind holds onto the negative so much more easily than the positive. I have lists that I’ve written of the positive memories that I reread every once in a while. The lists help me combat my failing memory. I just wish that I didn’t need them to remember what I consider some of the best times of my life.
My mom remarried in March, and with that, my siblings and I gained a step-brother. His name is Cory.
He likes to listen to music in the car.
He likes snacks.
Especially pita chips and hummus, which I got him for Christmas last year.
He loves “October happy Halloween stuff.”
And he’s always willing to say cheese.
Cory is 23 years old and he has tuberous sclerosis. Tuberous sclerosis is a rare genetic disease that causes benign tumors to grow in the brain and various other organs. There have been studies reporting that between 25% and 61% of individuals affected by this disorder meet the diagnostic criteria for autism. For Cory, that means he learns and functions differently than most people. Language is sometimes a struggle, but I love interacting with Cory even though he sometimes just ignores me. A lot of times, he repeats phrases that he’s heard in movies, video games, or from other people (although luckily he hasn’t picked up any of my choice language). He likes to talk about The Hobbit and I consider it scoring a point every time he says “hi” or “goodnight” back to me. I often keep track, saying things like “I’m 3 for 5 today!” or “He didn’t look at me; strike two!” Being around Cory makes me realize that I want to help people for a living, and it inspires me to keep moving towards that goal.
It can be extremely difficult for people who do not self-harm to understand the motive behind it. My most frequent method of self-injury is cutting, and the most common question I’m asked about it is “Why do you do it?” It’s hard to comprehend why someone would take a blade to their skin. It seems foreign or taboo, but the concept is much closer than people realize.
Something common that I could compare cutting to is drinking. Approximately 1-4% of adults in the United States engage in self-harm, which leaves the vast majority of the population in the dark. At the same time, approximately 88% of people over the age of 18 have consumed alcohol at some point in their lifetime. At the end of the day, both self-harm and drinking are an individual doing something generally undesirable to their body in order to ultimately change the way they are feeling.
Making a cut is like taking a shot of liquor. At first, it’s really uncomfortable. The alcohol burns and the cut stings. In both cases, it’s causing an unpleasant sensation in the body. Then, as one takes more shots or makes more cuts, it seems to get easier. In addition, both cutting and drinking affect the chemicals in a person’s brain in a way that provides relief from emotional or physical pain. Both behaviors can also become highly addictive.
Asking someone why they cut themselves is almost exactly like asking an frequent drinker why they drink. It serves as a coping mechanism. The main difference that I see between the two behaviors is that drinking is seen as being more socially acceptable.
Here are some of the similar reasons that people have for both cutting and drinking alcohol:
1. Numbing emotional pain
2. Numbing physical pain
3. Boredom (yes, sometimes people do self-harm because nothing else is going on)
4. Expressing self-loathing
5. Easing social anxiety
One of the most helpful things to do for someone that self-injures is validate the feelings behind their actions. It is important to create an understanding that minimizes society’s isolation of people struggling with self-injurious behaviors. No one is nearly as alone as it seems.