This letter is a long time coming. I’m still not sure whether I want to password protect it or not. I guess I’ll decide when I’m done, when I’ve said it. When I know how far I’ll take it.
In keeping with the theme of today, vulnerability is weakness. However, a new friend informed me today that vulnerability can be a kind of love. The purest form. I’ve been ruminating over that all day.
If to love you, purely and completely, is to expose myself, to show you the darkest parts of me, it will take time. I can’t let it all go at once.
But I can start here. Start with a topic we’ve discussed before: my cutting.
This is a difficult topic. It’s done in secret. It’s kept hidden from everyone, especially those closest to you. To bring it out in the light, to focus on it, hurts more than any razor I’ve ever used.
You know that feeling you get on a roller coaster? When you get to the top of that first drop, after all the anticipation, and start the ride down? The way your stomach drops and you feel the adrenaline flood your system? How shaky you get after?
I feel that way looking at a box of replacement blades for box cutters.
I don’t remember when it started. I don’t remember how old I was or how I got the idea. I don’t remember what reason I used to justify it.
I do remember that I started with my wrists. My veins are large there and very close to the surface. I remember thinking at later times that if I nicked it, even a little, there would be more blood than I could hide. I remember times where that wasn’t a factor.
My wrists are still my favorite place to cut, though I haven’t touched them like that in at least 12 years. Not since the kids were old enough to ask questions. It’s hard to hide, especially in the summer. Bandages around my arms tend to make people ask too many questions.
I quickly ended my love affair with my wrists and moved on to other places, but not without leaving hundreds of thin scars from the crook of my elbow to my bracelets of life.
I tried to tattoo my left wrist, the one where there are more scars. My tattoo artist, a very dear friend, wouldn’t tattoo there with veins so close to the surface. And not through the scar tissue that wouldn’t take the ink.
MB and I got matching tattoos there, for reasons, though different, are two sides of the same coin. I wanted my snail there to remind me that when I was alone and thinking of cutting, my baby sister loved me more than a snail, our way of saying how much we mean to each other. Especially after Sharon’s suicide. Losing my big sister like that, knowing that they found her alone in a bathtub in a motel room, was too much. I drank a lot then.
I think MB did it so that I would always look at her and know she has my back, even when we don’t talk much. Her way of saying that she understands, as much as she can, anyway. She was one of the first people to know and she kept my secret for many years.
It didn’t take me long to find other places, easier to hide places. So began my love affair with my thighs.
When I’d have hundreds of cuts in various stages of healing across both thighs, I’d have to find other places. Places people wouldn’t look: my breasts, my stomach, the tops of my feet.
You know, 16 or 17 year old me thought that cutting in these places might slow people down. I remember one time in my 20s, when cuddling turned to something else. I remember his hands on me. I remember when he pushed the pajama pants I was wearing down, running his hands over the scars, scabs, and breaking some of the newer ones open, causing fresh bleeding. I remember wincing because it hurt. He could feel them under his palm, I know he could. He could see them. No mention was made, even when he put his hands directly on them to part my thighs. He didn’t even hesitate.
You asked me once what was ever said about it. That I was in and out of relationships, they saw me naked. The answer is nothing. Nothing was ever said.
The fact that no one ever mentioned it lead me to two conclusions: the first, that they didn’t see anything, I was invisible or the second, that it didn’t matter. The older I got, the more I believed the second.
Kind of like being six or seven and laying in bed, trying to be quiet, hurting, and not understanding why my discomfort wasn’t obvious. Why that alone wasn’t enough to make it stop.
I figured it out eventually. No matter what pain I was in, my body was still perfectly good. Still perfectly usable. It wasn’t about me rather, it was about what I could do. How I could be used.
No one mentioned it, the disfiguring marks, but it never stopped anyone.
You asked what gets me to that point. The answer is anything. Everything.
Cutting is a drug. A way of self-medicating. The science behind it is simple. It hurts. The body’s response to pain is to release endorphins. The problem is that like anything that releases endorphins, drugs, sex, tattooing, it becomes addictive.
It starts at night, in a dark room, when you can’t sleep, when you’re going over things in your head over and over and you can’t see a way out. And it stays that way for a little while. Then you start looking for reasons to do it. Just like drugs, that’s a dangerous slope.
If you can get away from it, the longer you go without, the more you realize what an unhealthy coping mechanism it is. The problem is that it only takes one slip to go back. One day you can’t handle, when all the memories come flooding back, one hot bath, to undo it all.
Then it’s nothing to slide back. It’s comfortable. Like a warm blanket on a cold night. It’s safe and secure. It’s the only thing I’ve ever known to bring me back when I’m in my head like that.
Until you. Until your touch.
I’m not saying I’ve never relapsed since we’ve been together. I have and you know it. I’m in my 30s and I still struggle with it. But when you put your hands on them, on the cuts, you asked questions. You held me. You cried with me.
I’m not saying I’ll never do it again. Never is a long time. But I know that you’ll be there with me. That you won’t keep my secret and be silent. You’ll make me understand how I got there. And I can finally let go of the shame.
P.S. I’ve decided not to password protect this letter for two reasons:
One, because I want it out in the open. I don’t want to hide it.
And two, because while I write these for you, I understand that other people read them. If anyone else reads it and understands what I’m talking about, I want them to know it’s okay. That they aren’t alone.