By Emma Pearse
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Teens who responded to a Women's eNews' posting on the Maryland-based Focus Adolescent Services Web site openly discussed their lives of enormous sadness, little-understood emotions and an inexplicable attraction to the thrill of self-inflicted pain.
(WOMENSENEWS)--Ellie, a 14-year old from Littleton, Colo., described using a razor to cut and scar herself because her world was falling down around her.
"It was a really hard time in life for me," she wrote in an e-mail. "Having a dad that unexpectedly beat your Mom, having a guy-friend you thought you knew, sexually and physically abuse you, having your sister wanting to commit suicide and dealing with depression. I thought the world would never change . . . that it would stay the same."
Ellie says she first used a razor to cut herself a year ago. "I didn't want to, but at the same time, I really did. I picked it up and put pressure on the blade. It hurt, but I liked the pain."
Ellie was one of dozens of female teens who responded to the Women's eNews posting titled "Tell Your Story" in the "Self Injury" section of the Maryland-based Focus Adolescent Services Web site. The girls found the posting when searching for information on self injury, or were sent the link through chat rooms they logged on to chat about self injuring and related issues. Most of the girls declined to talk over the phone, one, Corin, wrote that talking on the phone and in person caused her "social anxiety."
But Corin--like most of the others--expressed the desire to share her story in an effort to let other self injurers know they were not alone. In an e-mail, Corin wrote that she wanted to educate people about "how self injury really is, and not just how they show it on TV and in movies."
Samantha (real name) offered a poem:
what drove me to insanity . . . and a longing for escape of life
a life that never gave me a chance
slit my wrist slit my throat . . .
Just let me die bleeding . . .
LET ME DIE HAPPY
let me die hurting
LET ME DIE HAPPY
let me die with a smile
IS IT DEEP?
This time it's got to count
it's got to hurt and relieve all the pain of living
feeling like a no-one
deathly chilling an ice cold feeling
I hate living, I hate breathing . . .
I'm ready to die
everyday it can't get worse but amazingly does
my tears . . . aren't tears anymore . . .
I bleed tears and cry blood.
Other teens describe the thrill of self injury. "Cutting releases anger and frustration," Abby, a 17-year-old, writes. "By cutting, it lets it out--bleeds it out. It is the most exciting, dangerous feeling I have ever felt."
Another teen, Sally (a pseudonym) writes, "It started out as a weird thrill. I admit that I was strangely addicted to the feeling of dragging the razor across my skin. I liked the way my hair would stand on end as I watched the blood trickle from every cut I made."
Sally writes that as she got older she found more reasons to cut. "If I got in to a fight with my parents, I'd cut myself. If I was stressed about something I would cut."
She describes her history with cutting as "a long and stressful battle." When Sally's mother finally noticed, it upset her deeply. "I would stop for a while and when my mom stopped hounding me and stopped checking my arms, I would go right back to it," she writes. "And every time my mom would find out she would blame herself."
Sally's self injury gained crucial attention when she collapsed one day at school. When a boy she liked told her he would date her "if I lost 20 pounds" she cut deeper than ever. "All I thought about were all the flaws I had. My weight, my face, I felt like giving up. So I took the blade and dragged it across both of my wrists. I made sure that it was deeper than all the rest. At that moment I just wanted to die. I remember falling. Later I found myself in a hospital bed."
Her mother begged her at that point to seek therapy that, she says, has prevented her from attempting suicide again. Of the few teens who reported having stopped self injury, all of them listed therapy as part of the solution. Joan (a pseudonym), 23, from Portland, Ore., says she suffers from bi-polar disorder. After an 11-year struggle with cutting, she is currently undergoing treatment that combines talk therapy and medication. "I have been clean (cut-free as I call it) for three weeks and four days now--that is so huge for me," Joan writes. "I've never been happier with myself. I hope to say by my 24th birthday that I'm in recovery status, but I just take it one day at a time."
Emma Pearse writes about pop culture and women's issues from her home in New York City.