******TRIGGER WARNING: Anorexia somewhat and EXTREMELY GRAPHIC SELF HARM******
DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ARE EASILY TRIGGERED BY SELF HARM ESPECIALLY IN GRAPHIC DETAIL.
You have been warned.
This is probably the single most important story in my life. It led to a cascade of events: hospitalization, my correct diagnosis of bipolar, getting kicked out of school, and finally getting the real help I needed.
It was 6am when I finally asked my ex-boyfriend for my knife back. We aren’t on speaking terms and we are clear that we can never be. We’re either together or not. And together is awful, dangerous, addicting, full of love, full of hate.
Today I see him to get it back, so I stress out about it of course. I overthink what I will wear. I felt the need to show him how much my appearance has changed, how much I have changed. Both of which are major improvements.
Should I go laid back in my cute dorm-room college girl get up all from Victoria’s Secret? Or should I go with my traditional assemble which people describe as “edgy” because its boots and leather jackets and what not?
I picked edgy. Solely because I was freaking out over how unhealthy I look. I’m skinny and by skinny I mean unhealthy. People point it out. I know I am. I’m close to my lowest weight and I’m horrified. I can barely sit with myself with the literally-needs-medication anxiety of it weighing on my mind. And then I looked in the mirror and I saw it. I saw how skinny I really looked and I wanted to gag.
I’m not anorexic and I don’t think I ever will be. Because to me, skinny is disgusting. And I am so thin right now I feel repulsed by myself. It probably has something to do with being teased in elementary school. People grabbing my wrist and loudly exclaiming so everyone looks, “I can fit my fingers around your wrist!!!” I was horribly embarrassed, you can fit your fingers around my wrist and there’s a gap.
One time, I think in 5th grade, a girl looked at me really intensely and said, “Are you anorexic?” And I don’t even know what happened I just heard myself say, “Anorexia is a disease!” and she kind of looks stunned and stammers out an apology.
She asked because I was too embarrassed to eat on the field trip.
Why? Because my family made fun of me for being a picky eater. Because they said other people, like my “future dates” would be happy because I’m a cheap date! (I pretty much mostly ate pizza and chicken nuggets, I’m happy to say I expanded my palette and now I like real plain and cheap food or top dollar plates like filet mignon. Which is great- so I’m cheap or expensive).
I would wear a jacket in 100+ degree weather. Because I didn’t want anyone to see my wrists and how tiny they were. I cried when my mom volunteered for the school just so she could make me take it off for the yearbook photo. I cried in front of the entire class because that was less humiliating to me than them seeing how skinny I was.
It sounds silly. All of it. You never hear about people being upset because they’re TOO skinny. That’s the opposite of a problem for most people. But for me I lose weight when I’m stressed out or in an episode. I’m on stimulants and indulge in nicotine, so that sure doesn’t help.
Everyone comments on it. We came up with a meal plan, my therapist and I. I haven’t stuck to it today, but after this post I am going downstairs and grabbing that tub of ice cream and eating what’s left (which is probably not a lot because my dad got to it first so I’ll grab the second one after and eat a good share).
Anyway. That’s my rant on my skinniness. It has been bothering me a lot lately. I could literally use another 20lbs. That’s the most I’ve ever weighed. Which is a little more than 20% of my current body weight.
So I was really stressing out over this whole outfit thing. And in the end I chose my traditional get up. Why? I wanted to wear a jacket, because I didn’t want him to see how thin I am.
Because he knows. He will see it, he always does.
So I put on that jacket even though its hot out and stood there in the middle of the night waiting.
Standing there in a shirt and jeans that once were form fitting but are now baggy…
And I hear him before he gets here. The engine and the music. I’m tense, I casually don’t look up until he’s relatively close. And then I approach and lean towards the window and say, “hey.”
“Hi. Here you go.”
He drops the knife into my hand. I’m shocked by how heavy it is.
“What?” (He didn’t hear me).
“Thank you. Have a good night.”
And he leaves. Just like that. We looked at each other for a moment… and he had that pained look I know so well. I’ve never been able to read someone’s face that well… that look. What does his smile look like? Not as natural… not as natural as that sad look.
I’m sure I look sad too because I am dead tired and yet I have to drive my parents to the airport at 5am. I usually go to bed at 3am. I’m tired but can I sleep? Probably not.
I walked back to my house and quickly stuffed the knife into my boot and entered. If my parents questioned me I would pull out the small video game cartridge I planted beforehand and say a friend was returning it. If they asked who I’d be honest.
But I sure as hell wasn’t going to say, “Oh I was just getting the knife that sent me to the ER back from my emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend.”
And that’s why this knife is significant. Why it took me over a year or so to finally, in a delirious state of fatigue, to ask for it back. And ironically, receiving it another night where I am deliriously fatigued.
I get back to my room and I feel it in my pocket. But I can’t look at it. So I throw it under the pillow and change and then clean my room up prim and proper. Like I do when I’m getting ready to study- no distractions.
And then, after some anticipation. I hold it in my hand. And I stare at the logo on it.
It is the medical symbol. The real one- the Rod of Asclepius. One snake wrapped around a rod. (This is different from the caduceus which is two snakes intertwined around a rod with wings. Which is not the correct symbol but is often used by commercial companies who don’t know better, or by the pre-med club at my college which humors me greatly).
The medical symbol, the Rod of Asclepius, sits there on the knife. With that background of the 6 points which I honestly don’t know the meaning of. And then its orange, bright orange till the ends, stopping just before the spring that opens it and the seat belt cutter on the other end.
It is heavy. It is so much bigger than I remember. I had to forfeit all my knives when I went back to therapy. I gave them to him. But I had to have this one back.
And I press the latch and it snaps open. Quick, and loud.
Some knives get stuck and don’t open all the way without a flick of the wrist.
This one isn’t one of those knives. It snaps into place effectively.
And I suck in my breath because this… this object is the reason I came the closest I’ve ever come to dying.
Its so much longer than I remember, I can’t fathom this. For some reason I don’t remember them being so intimidating. I think maybe the knife I own now, a little $75 beauty designed for use or show, has tricked me because it is tiny and I got used that, even if I don’t use it on my skin. But it doesn’t really matter why it feels big…
What does matter is how that makes me feel.
This massive knife has a story to tell.
Years back, November of 2012 at approximately 2:30am, I took it for its first test run. Saving my arm always for the most desperate of nights. I took it and gently tested it, and it cut straight through the skin until it was an open wound that would form into keloids.
But that’s just the light, gentle “test” cuts.
I am thrilled by how sharp this knife is. How could I have ignored it so long? Because I didn’t like the color orange? Really!? How silly! This knife is perfect!
And I ceremonially do my finisher, one slice that is as deep as possible.
I bring it down and slash.
And then I look and I think, “This is it. I’m finally going to the ER.” As if I always knew.
My skin was open. But it wasn’t just… open. It was so far open that you could see two thick massive white parts running down my forearm into my wrist.
The thing about self harm is that people cut their “wrists” but they really don’t (usually). They cut their forearms. And that’s what I did, I cut my forearm.
If I had cut that actual pivotal point in the wrist area, I would have sliced everything in there.
I don’t know if I could have been saved from that.
That’s why I say its the closest I’ve gotten to dying. No, I wasn’t going to die. But that was because of location. And location alone is too close for comfort.
You aren’t meant to see certain parts of yourself. You realize that when you see them. Your innards are inside you for a reason after all. And it is very disturbing to see them. As a result, I placed my free hand over it and ran out of my room to my roommate’s boyfriend asleep on the futon.
I said his name twice before he sleepily looked up at me. I’ve never see someone jump to their feet so fast. He knew I was one- a “cutter.”
And I think everyone expected it. My college’s therapist sure did when he tried to hospitalize me and I refused. My friends did when they encouraged me to go. But I wouldn’t. Not yet.
But that is a completely different and more complicated story but it was set off by this night.
I told the roommate’s boyfriend to wake up our other roommate (there were 4 … well more like 5 of us total in this suite). He went to her room but it was locked and as he told me I yelled at him to bang on it till she woke up. Then she walked out, conveniently.
She was quick on her feet. I was standing over the sink letting the blood pool. For a moment I was tranquilized by it. My sincere and sick love of blood overriding the sheer terror I was in, I stared at it. A huge puddle. I’d never seen one so big, I wanted to ask them to take a picture of it, I wanted to remember it.
But then I was pulled aside and a cloth pressed hard to the wound. My other roommate and her boyfriend ran out. (The last roommate, the one who’s boyfriend I woke up, never herself woke up regardless of apparently having heard yelling in the middle of the night and someone crying repeatedly, “I need to go to the hospital, I need to go to the hospital.”)
She was given the duty of holding pressure to my wound as the other went to google directions for a hospital. It was good her boyfriend was there, because, as she started to press the cloth to my wound, she weakly said, “I’m going to faint.” And then preceded to do just that. He caught her while I held the cloth. Later I learned the boyfriend I had woken up had taken the knife out of my hand, which I don’t remember, then cleaned it and the puddle in the sink and what had dripped on the tile.
Two of them lugged me out to the car, holding me up on one side and applying pressure on the other. I was delirious. At one moment I’d be sobbing and asking if I was going to die (on some level I knew I wasn’t going to because I hadn’t hit a major blood vessel, but when you see two thick white things in your arm it kind of messes with your head) and then I’d switch to smiling and even giggling, tears still running down my cheeks, “Have you guys noticed… how pretty the trees are… … am I going to die?”
I can only imagine what the two people who walked past us thought.
The car ride was much the same of my delirious talking.
The ER immediately took me to the back. They take psychiatric cases seriously and I had to be watched as a potential suicide case. They put me in a room and applied gauze and set a man to watch me.
They also asked me to give them a urine sample, but they didn’t watch me for that. Instead they badgered at me from outside the curtain asking if I was done yet and I kept saying wait because its really hard to apply pressure to your wrist and, well, pee in a cup, at the same time. Truth is I was terrified to look at the wound. I still don’t remember how I managed to not see it at that moment in time.
In any case, I calmed down a lot at the ER. I went into this almost dreamlike state. Euphoric you could say. The nurses came in and I would chat with them, happily. They would laugh and smile with me. And ask me why I did it.
And I would say because I was sad. And they would ask why.
And eventually I said because I was lonely.
I was lonely in a suite full of people who loved and cared for me deeply.
A suite I got kicked out of for cutting myself in. It was “against housing policy.” But that’s part of the other story.
I guess my happiness, especially the fact that I was talking about my hopeful future as a doctor, gave them the correct impression that I was not, in fact, trying to kill myself. Hence why I walked out of there and not directly into a ward.
I told my friend I wanted to see the wound. He said okay and I removed the gauze and then immediately put it back down. I couldn’t look. I did look but I couldn’t stand it.
What were those white things?
When I first saw it, it disgustingly reminded me of an eyeball. The wound was, in shape and size almost exactly the size of an eyeball. Except longer horizontally. And the way the white things ran down slightly to the right of the middle… it looked like a cat’s eye.
That was my second thought when I cut it, “It looks like an EYE.”
And eyes terrify me.
Before they stitched me up I had my friend take a photo of the wound. And a photo of me. I hold onto those photos. I will never risk losing them. They are reminders.
The photo of my wrist so I could look at it, really look at what I’d done to myself… and the photo of me laying there in the hospital gown, bloody gauze over a red cut up forearm, my eyes closed and a smile spread across my lips.
You can see my lower legs and the deep purple of healing gashes on them.
They stitched me up and I finally got the chance to ask the doctor what the white things were.
They were tendons.
Not bone, but tendons.
I managed to cut through the skin layer, the barely-there fat layer, and just perfectly above the tendon as to not damage it.
So as I held this knife tonight. I looked at it, how huge and powerful it feels. How my hand fits perfectly into the curvature…
how it has the medical symbol on it…
how it is orange… as if for caution…
and I cry.
Because who could do something like that to themselves? Who could take this massive knife and bring it down so hard on their own flesh that they can see the inside?
they were lonely?
(Now seriously where’s that tub of ice cream? I’m ravenous!)