Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cutting Out Self-Injury

Another special anniversary has come about - I've reached one year of not cutting today. I have lots of dates special to me personally (such as the five year anniversary of my coming out that I posted about a month ago), but rarely do I feel compelled to share what I call my "Christi holidays" with the rest of the world. This warrants exception, as my journey overcoming Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and depression are not yet over.

Those of you who have read my post "Neurotic No More" know that my cutting began at age fifteen, when my sense of individuality was emerging. I began to realize I was "different" when I adopted a vegetarian diet, came to terms with being an atheist, and when my sexuality awakened. I hated these parts of me and wanted to literally cut them out. I honestly believed at the time that my peers' disapproval meant I was a failure. I wondered incessantly why these struggles chose me because I felt incapable of handling the social stigmas. I cut myself as punishment for allowing these "defective" qualities to stay, though I tried my hardest to ignore them. It didn't matter that I was old enough to know that problems simply don't just go away. I thought cutting would teach me a lesson until I effectively got rid of these parts of me.

I see my most prominent scars on a daily basis, especially the deep 1" stab wound I inflicted on my wrist with scissors when I was 16. I never went more than a few months without relapsing. Any time I felt overwhelmed with stress or insecurity, I'd pull out the scissors, knife, or razor. I refused to talk to friends, fearing they'd tell on me. I didn't think they'd understand.

The mental breakdown that occurred on August 25th of last year resulted in my being escorted of my dorm by campus police for a mental evaluation. I'd cut myself due to an increasingly rough week, an argument I got into with former friend (who by the way no longer associates with me due to this cutting incident) being the final straw. I was starting a new school after spending two years at a school I loved. I didn't want to transfer, but my family couldn't the foot the bill to continue my education out-of-state. The stress of being in a new place took a toll on my social anxiety, as I'm not exactly a social butterfly. Someone loosened the handlebars on my bike, my financial aid came in late, and I was slapped with a $45 charge for losing my keys. Nothing went right that week. I had no idea what to do except punish myself for my incompetence. Out came the steak knife.

My former friend, resident adviser, the campus police, the counseling center, and the Dean of Students office were all involved in assisting me. It didn't matter to them that my injuries were hardly worth attending to (they didn't give me enough time to do much more, thankfully). I basically went through the process listed here. I was deemed fit enough to return to classes after a day off.

They recommended "behavioral therapy," which essentially means attending more than the typical ten counseling sessions a year most students can't exceed. My guess is I received around twenty-five sessions from August 2011 to May 2012. Those sessions really inspired me to make serious changes. I started by apologizing to my body for hurting it. I now view it much more respectfully, grateful for all it does for me. The hardest mindset to change was not asking for help. I always knew there were people who loved me; my stubbornness and fear of wasting their time kept getting in my way. To my surprise, quite a few friends were going through similar ideals. We bonded over our pain and kept each other strong.

 I dedicated myself to attending every appointment with the counselor and psychiatrist, being honest about where I stood on my progress. My goal was to eliminate cutting as a legitimate coping mechanism. I slowly started to see change. I learned to say NO, STOP and keep my word even though cutting was my first instinct. Couple months later, cutting popped up as an option...but it was no longer my first idea. Then I ended up the point where I am now. I'd be lying if I said I didn't still think about it. The difference is I'm able to completely dismiss it without a second thought. One look at my scars tells me that much. I realize now that blaming myself for matters beyond my control would kill me eventually. A year ago, I'd have said I deserved to.

So here we are, August 25, 2012. I am one year strong and I couldn't feel better. I found things in my life to love. I engage in regular exercise. I live a healthy lifestyle. I surround myself with loving people. I involve myself in my university's atheist club and its events to be the change I want to see. I've developed hobbies such as Gensei-Ryu karate to keep me strong. I became more open about my life in the hopes that other people in my situation wouldn't feel so alone.

I'm not out of the woods yet, but I can see the end. Excessive anxiety bothers me frequently, enough to interfere with my daily life. Out of all the stupid things that run through my head on a daily basis (mostly about insignificant worries), I'm FINALLY able to say cutting is no longer one of them. Accomplishing this much gives me the determination to keep going. I've done what I used to think was impossible. Taking things one step at a time, I know I'll reach my final destination someday.

4 comments:

  1. I had no idea, Christi. I'm so glad that you are feeling better. I was really moved by this post; it got to me.

    When I was in College I had a pretty rough time. Lots of guilt feelings and confusion. It was a difficult time.

    Glad you are getting exercise and keeping busy. I have a health situation that kind of keeps me on the sidelines, and I'm not sleeping well.

    You are one of my faves! Enjoy being a young, beautiful woman. I wish I could go back about 15 yrs, and use what I know now. Be good to yourself. Things will work out.

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    1. It's not an easy topic to cover. I originally wanted to avoid the subject and continue to have people see me the way I am now. I realized it was unfair to discredit all my hard work along the way to get here. If people see me differently now, then I can't help that. It is the way it is. I'm honored this post moved you. Posting on deeply personal topics like this always make me feel vulnerable.

      I wish you the best in clearing your own health hurdles in life. A cancer patient said I was an inspiration today, and I couldn't have felt more humbled.

      Hehe, thank you. It's good to know I have people rooting for me.

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  2. Wow! Nice work. I'm a retired counsellor and I was always honored by the fact that I got to work with heroes like you. Most people sit in their misery, too afraid to step out and get help. You overcame the fear and had the courage and strength to do something about it. Very nice. Good luck on your journey.
    God Bless.

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    1. Your comment made me tear up a little. I don't feel like a hero. I see myself as a person whose determination won out over her anxiety through lots of help from others. I won't deny I've worked hard, but I'm grateful to the heroes who have helped me along the way.

      Thank you. Your words are very encouraging :)

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