By Tara L. Nicole
I still think of it sometimes; the way it felt to put a razor to my wrist and feel the moment of adrenaline. The sharp pain was nothing compared to the wave of relief that came along with it. It would start in my arms and then go to my lungs, allowing me to breath fully for the first time in ages, then to my heart that could finally slow down its beating, to my eyes that finally could regain focus, and, at last to my brain, where often in horror, I would realize what I had done.
I was never trying to kill myself. I was a bright teen. If I had wanted to kill myself I would have found a way. No, I wasn’t trying to kill myself, I was just trying to hold on to my sanity.
I didn’t know I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t until I was well into my world of cutting that I discovered nearly half of my female classmates were doing some form of self harm as well, be it safety pins, cutting, or an eating disorder. We were all trying to hold on to something that was ours in this world that circled around us. At the time, I thought I was the first one to think of this brilliant idea. And it was brilliant, because it worked.
The idea of cutting never bothered me. I never understood why adults found it so horrifying. After all, cuts heal, they disappear, and if you are responsible about it, cutting isn’t dangerous. The first time I cut was to feel, something, anything. And yes, it may have also been a cry for attention, but cutting soon became personal; it was only for me, and it became routine. I would start every morning with a cut, to make sure the day went okay. I would cut to punish myself if I screwed up- it was better than being angry all the time. I cut to remember, because each scar tells a story, but mostly I cut to avoid the numbness. I had stopped being able to feel anything and the cuts, they told me I was still alive.
None of that scared me. What finally scared me enough to make me stop was the dependence. I soon couldn’t get through a day without a cut; I couldn’t function without that release. That’s when I realized I was no better than a drug addict or an alcoholic, I could no longer feel without the razor. I knew, somewhere deep down, that this wasn’t okay. I didn’t want to be dependent on anything else, because I never lost my hope. Throughout it all, I always dreamed of a day when life alone would be fulfilling enough to sustain me. And I wanted to be ready for it, when that day came. So after that last cut, a cut that bled for hours and properly scared me, I made a promise to myself to stop and have stayed true to my word ever since. I haven’t forgotten, but I have thrown away the razors, I don’t let them in the house anymore so there is nothing there to tempt me. It quickly became easier to talk myself down from doing something when I would have to walk all the way to the store first.
My book got accepted for publication when I was 21 years old. I had never been so excited for anything in all my life. It is no great American novel, I know that. But it is my story. It is about first love, but also about why I starting cutting and how I got better. To me, it is a story about why we fight so hard for this life even when we can’t remember why. It is about hope. My parents saw it differently. “That will follow you forever,” they told me, as if I didn’t know that. But cutting, it isn’t something I am ashamed of. If you look at my wrists you can still see there the faded scars from my final cuts, from the cigarette burns that were my relapse a few years later. They are a part of me as much as my curly hair or brown eyes. And I’m glad for it; they are just another chapter of my life that got me here.
I get emails from readers of the book, teenagers mostly, looking for a fix. “ How do I stop,” they ask. I don’t have any answer to give them. There is nothing to make you stop except yourself. My first cut was when I was 16 years old. I’m 26 now. I can’t say I’ll never succumb to the urge again, no one can make that promise. However, I do know it will never rule me again. Life still feels unbearably difficult at times, but I have gotten better at holding my breath, pushing through, and finding another way to wait it out until life gets better again. And I am glad to say, it always does.
Tara L. Nicole is the author of Dancing in the Rain: The Final Cut. Get in touch with Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org.