Addicted To Cutting

The following post is by a young woman called Annarose.

When I was a freshman in college, my childhood best friend was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for attempting suicide.  I knew that she was having a hard time for a while before that, but didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.  I had found cuts on her arm a few months before the admission, but again, I didn’t get it.  Suicide didn’t make sense, self-injury didn’t make sense, being unhappy didn’t make sense, and depression was completely foreign to me.  What made it worse for me was that because of my ignorance, I didn’t know how to help, what to say, or what to do.  I submerged myself in my college life and distanced myself from my friends from home.  In doing that, I slowly figured out what it meant to be depressed.  I indulged in the college lifestyle – drinking every night of the week – simply because it was easier than focusing on what I missed.  The first time I cut myself was at the end of my freshman year, I was 18.  I think I was curious.  I didn’t get how that was an outlet for my friend’s depression.  I remember thinking that if she resorted to it, maybe it would help me release some of the pain I was feeling.  It didn’t.
Over the next six years, I relied on numerous razor blades to provide comfort.  I used it as a method of control.  I couldn’t control how I was feeling – or at least I didn’t think I could at the time – but I could control exactly where I would cause physical pain, how much pain I would feel, and when I would feel it.  It didn’t “help” like I had hoped it would, but it did become a staple in my life.  I was addicted to the pain.  I craved it.  During this six years, seven friends of mine attempted suicide.  They were all self-injurers of some sort, all battling their own demons.  They confided in me knowing that I had dealt with one friend’s suicide attempt, none of them knowing that I was struggling with self-injury myself.  No one knew.  I was embarrassed.  It’s hard to be the one people confide in and then admit that you aren’t actually as strong as they think you are.  I realized that whenever someone came to me for help, my own depression was fueled.  I hated the idea of someone I loved being in pain, so I made myself suffer for them.  Thankfully, all seven of my friends did not take their own lives.  Some have overcome depression completely, others are still struggling, but they are all alive and trying.  
During those six years, I had bouts of trying to stop hurting myself.  I worked out, I got a new job, I changed my diet, I moved to Colorado for a few years, I moved back to New York, I confided in friends, I spoke to therapists.  I tried.  I started to see the good in everyone.  The overall need that people have to help others.  It was really a beautiful thing.  People, I learned, are stronger than they might be given credit for. They want to help, they want to take care of others.  Today, I can confidently say that I have not hurt myself in 16 months.  Still, I crave it.  I miss it.  It’s a daily struggle to just let whatever feelings I have run their course instead of trying to control them with pain, but I do it.  I understand what it means to be sad for no reason.  I understand thoughts of suicide.  I get why self-injury seems to be an appealing outlet.  I am no longer a stranger to depression.  I don’t think that it is something I’ll necessarily conquer completely, but I know that I am stronger than my cravings, I know that happiness will follow a bad day, week, or month.  I know that I can do it and I trust that you can too.  My only advice would be: don’t keep it a secret.  Tell someone what you are going through, once you stop hiding, you’ll realize that you’re not alone.  We’re in this together.  
Dear Annarose,
Thank you so much for sharing your story and your message with us.  You are brave, and generous, and kind and strong.
Indeed, you are stronger than the destructive cravings that torment you.  It would be great if we could find a way to share your story with college students… with young people in general.  Lets try to find a way.
Now, you seem to imply that by distancing yourself from your friends from home, and by immersing yourself in College life, you gradually got depressed… can you delve into this a bit more? Could you try to pinpoint what happened?  Also, could you articulate what is it about cutting that is so addictive? What did the pain that follows do for you ?
And finally, how true! The realization that one is not alone may very well be the most important tool to getting better.
And so, Dear Annarose, please know that you are not alone either, as you so very well put it:
A BIG hug from me, Esmeralda and Andrew’s Mother, and, I know, from all of my blog friends like Dave from New Zealand, Kukanaokala from Hawaii, Debra from California, Melissa from Washington, DC. Virginia from CA, Carla from… (Oregon?) and many, many more…

6 thoughts on “Addicted To Cutting

  1. Thank you for this. Too many are cutting thinking it is cool or a relief. What you describe is the obsessive nature of the compulsion or addiction that continues even after ceasing the actual behavior. There are actual brain changes- measurable on scans- that occur with depression and other illnesses just as there arte with drug addictions impacting the mind. I recommend Classical Hatha Yoga’s slow mindful practices with an emphasis on SELF awareness and LOVE through DEEP relaxation. In Sharp a memoir of cutting, David Fitzpatrick brutally describes the impact of self mutilation and being a chronic psychiatric case, as well as what ultimately saved him and lists some good resources.

  2. I think it was the change overall, not exactly college life, that dragged me into depression. I wasn’t sure how to handle someone who had tried to take their own life. It sounds selfish now, and very ignorant, but that is why I distanced myself from my home friends. I felt responsible for her depression, and instead of trying to help her through it and be there for her, I fled and pushed away people that I had been friends with for my entire life. It’s safe to say I didn’t handle change all that well, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to cut ties with all the people that I loved, but I did and instead of dealing with all of it, I made myself suffer as a result.

    Cutting is addictive because of the rush of endorphins that are released once you cause yourself pain. I’ve heard that it is comparable to a high you can get from a drug, though I’m no expert in that department. It also becomes routine. It’s what I would do if I was sad or stressed or tired or mad or hurt to make myself feel better, but it was also what I’d do on a Tuesday morning in the shower just because I was so used to it. It’s something you get used to and rely on. It’s not “cool” though, nor is it something I’d recommend. I think it has become a trend, especially among teens, and I think it is something that needs to be stopped. Forums like this will help, so thank you for that.

    Lots of love and thanks to all who have read this… hope that everyone can find it in them to share their story. It helps, I promise. Xo, Annarose

  3. Annarose, thank you so much for sharing and giving us some understanding as to how self-mutilation may begin and is sometimes sustained. Your share is articulate and concise. It is a complex addiction. Blessings Deb

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