FAQ: Why I Self-Harm

***Trigger Warning: Cutting, Self-Harm, Hospital, ER, Medication***

 

I have been asked no less than 1000 times why I’ve self-harm, like why I do it. And it’s taken me until recently (4.19.16) to be able to answer this question in a way I feel is accurate for me. The answer: because it’s the one thing that I could always count on. It is the one thing that never let me down.

I have/had a routine or some would call a ritual. It includes preparing my tool, the actual act, and then the after/clean up. It’s something, one thing, my brain can focus 100% on for a few minutes. As an autistic person, this is rare…even hard. I feel so much. All the time. Sometimes it just needs to stop. Stop. For 15 minutes. And for 15 minutes I can have a single thought. A single focus. – A lot of people say exercise is a good alternative. For some maybe, for me it is not. For me, and I know for many others who struggle with self-harm, exercise is also a struggle of its own.

The Prep Stage

The prep stage includes new tools every time and rinsing the new tool with water.  (I promised myself before the first time I self-harmed I would only use clean ones each time, and never use one more than a 3-4 times). Then I would get in the shower to actually self-harm. (Only a couple times did I ever not get in the shower to harm and it was the times I ended up cutting super deep on accident: I was in a hurry).

There was a couple times growing up when I forgot my tools in the bathroom after I was done and never once was I caught, but man I was terrified of it. And then when I left home and lived on my own I constantly had several tools in my shower “just in case” is what I told myself. It was my safe guard.

After Self-harm

After I have self-harmed, I then have something to take care of. Something to fix. Something to heal. Something to change. I rinse it in water in the shower. I make sure the cuts stops bleeding. And then go about my shower. After my shower, drying is complicated because I mostly cut on my forearms, (early on I cut my thighs and my stomach, mostly because they were easier to hide). I would dry careful, as not to rip any open. And then I wear long sleeves so no one sees but also to protect them from germs. And I would clean the cuts once a day with warm water in the shower. (Later I did start covering them with gauze and an ace wrap, and treating them with lavender).

Today

It has been almost 3 years since I last self-harmed (32 months and 10 days if you want to be exact). And it’s been hard, I’ve had times where I really struggled to not self-harm. The last 2 ½ months or so my anxiety has increased significantly, because for the first time in my life all of my basic needs are met. For the first time in my life, I am able to not have to live in a dissociative or partly dissociative state all the time. And the last couple weeks have been particularly hard not cutting, so hard I even went to the psych ER (for anyone who knows me personally knows that is not something I am a fan of and use only as a last resort because I have had several bad experiences with it). It was truly life altering though, my fiancé took me and stayed the entire time by my side and spoke and explained things when I couldn’t. Being autistic, it’s hard for me to put things into verbal words sometimes. The ER is a dedicated ER here in Central Texas for psychiatric care and I received fantastic care, the doctor and the social worker really listened to me and what I needed and make sure I was as comfortable as I could be. They gave me a trial prescription to try in the mean time before I could seem my normal doctor, and they gave me awesome resources for therapy. This trip truly changed my life.

 

~Sarah

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Yeah, it’s about you

Sometimes I find myself thinking about you

And the relationship we had

Your family

How happy I thought we were

How you made me laugh

And how you made me cry

I think about all the times I cried myself to sleep

While you slept like a baby next to me

And I think about all the adventures we had

The places you showed me

The memories we will always share

And I think about that time

You know this one too

That first time you pinned me to the bed

You were tickling me

At first it was fun

But then you tickled me even after I said stop

And the second time you pinned me to the bed

Tickling me

But it wasn’t so fun

Cause I knew what was coming

And then I think about that time

The one where you threw the heater at me

Because I didn’t want it on

And you did

How it was my fault

How every time I opened my mouth

It was not my place

It was always my fault when you got upset

And then you would cry

And you would say you were sorry

And you would beg me not to leave

Cause everyone always left you

At first I genuinely believed you

And I genuinely thought I was in the wrong

And then you would push me when we would disagree

And I was clumsy

I should watch where I step

And then

Then you laughed

You laughed because you knew I was stuck

You laughed because you knew you won

You laughed because

Because you had succeeded in tearing me down

You had succeeded in isolating me

You had succeeded at your goal

You had succeeded to make me your bitch

All while I thought you loved me

All while telling me that was forever

And then I started feeling bad for you

And I tried to help you

I told myself that things would get better

If only I could make you happy

If only I could be a better partner

Not be so argumentative

Hold my tongue

Do what you said

And then I lost my job

Because you needed me

And I had enough

I was done

I needed things in life

And I wasn’t going to let you take my basic needs

Not anymore

You didn’t like that

So you created a situation

Leaving me on the street

And you went and found yourself another victim

I think about you

I wonder how you are doing

I wonder if you are happy

I wonder if you think about me

And then I remember

The memories we will always share

~Sarah

Promises

Please

Please don’t call me friend

Unless you mean it

And don’t tell me you love me

Unless it’s all of me

And don’t tell me you’ll always be there

When you have no intention of sticking around

Yes

This is coming from a place of hurt

Because being let down hurts

It leaves one guarded

Defensive

Apprehensive

Being told one thing

And shown something else

Leaves one to second guess

It creates an emptiness

That’ll never really be filled again

Please don’t call me friend

Unless you really mean it

And don’t tell me you love me

Unless you love all of me

And do not tell me you’ll always be there

When you have no intention of sticking around.

Not Your Church

Some of my closest friends are evangelical Christians. I used to be as well. However, I always struggled with what I was subscribing to. I didn’t like that I was shamed for being gay, it’s the way I was born. I don’t agree that I was ‘born sinful as we all are.’ There is nothing that makes kindling to the fire of my anger quite like the sentiment of “love the sinner but hate the sin”. I disagree that because of my abuse I was dirty and needed to be made clean; whatever that means. I subscribed because I liked the idea of the ‘community’ that the church claims to provide, the family that they are supposed to be. I needed those things; I desperately needed a family and a safe haven. I was misled by the words people preached, but that they did not follow. I was drawn in and then dropped…the moment I spoke out against such hypocrisy. Like most of humanity the church is flawed and fallible. Understandable, since they are baited into an abusive relationship with this all knowing God of unfailing love but whom also punishes you to hell and damnation. Its contradictory isn’t it?

As a gay person, a gay woman. As a trafficking survivor. As someone whose struggled with debilitating mental and physical health issues. As someone who never had the parental guidance needed to be a successful human and as someone who’s struggled for everything I have…I have been severely judged by the church. Severely judged is putting it kindly. Yet, I was the ‘poster child’ for many things when I was part of the evangelical community. It was my story people would use, with and more troublingly without permission, as testimony of ‘God’s saving grace.’ As if I was the one who needed grace for being the victim. It was my story that got used to lead others to an alter call. It was my story of loyalty, of compassion, of resilience…nailed to the cross for everyone to see. I was the spectacle of God’s grace. The church wants to throw judgements at you and then in the same breath ask to use your testimony. It’s all a taking game with nothing to give but false hope and an insidiously abusive relationship.

This is not just one isolated incident, it has happened at every church I have ever been to. I ‘grew up’ going to a church where I was repeatedly raped inside the church. Behind the closed doors of the chapel, on the stage below the cross that shows the true nature of God’s love and forgiveness, the public murder of his only child. The symbol of an abiding love through God’s grace shown by the Roman tool of torture and massacre. That as long as the acts you commit are in God’s name, even sacrifice of the sanctity of life, that it is all for some disembodied “greater good” you are practicing in the light in the lord. People using the name of God and shouting scripture at me as they forcibly violated my innocent being. At a church I went to in high school, I was told I was dirty and dishonoring to my parents for leaving the ‘family’ which had trafficked me, sold me, and raped me my entire life. If that’s not backwards, I don’t know what is. Yet another church claims “God told them I was lying about my story.” As though God speaks to individuals. As though God would judge me. As though only they had true access to the real intent of the most magnificent creature in all of creation, while that same person raped teenage girls. Just three examples of too many churches failing at the things they are called to do, the things they claim to do, and things they don’t do. The evils that they claim to fight against are all too often found to happen behind their closed doors.

This is why I don’t go to church, because the church is a vortex of shame and abuse. The church wounds more souls than it saves. The church is lethal. Not because religion in and of itself is bad. Belief, true belief, is the most beautiful and yet the most destructive thing on the planet. Religion is the thing that often means the absolute most to people…therefore it is the thing they are willing to do almost anything for. Religion then, like any other tool, can be used for good or for evil. The most insidious thing is when it is used to commit great acts of evil in the name of good. That is the Church.

Abusive Love

Lauren was my first love. And I believe some part of me will always love her. She was a very important part of my life…[un]fortunately that was only for a season. Things ended very badly…

I never thought it could happen to me

Not because I’m above it

But because I thought I would notice the signs

I thought I would see the subtleties

I thought my horrific past made me immune

I thought

But my past made it easier

And the subtleties were everywhere

I excused them as love

As someone who really cared for me

When things progressed beyond subtle

I was already stuck

I was already making excuses for small things

The big things followed suite

And it was easy

It was easy to be ok with being screamed at

It was easy to hide my emotions

It was easy to let her control

It was natural

And I found reasons I deserved it

I was bad

I was dirty

My emotions were irrational

I needed controlled so I didn’t get out of control

I deserved being held down

Talked down

And my needs pushed aside

I was ‘paying my dues’

It wasn’t until it cost me a job that I realized

It wasn’t until she didn’t want me anymore that I realized

It wasn’t until my heart was already so in love

Yet so broken that I realized

This is not safe

This is not healthy

This is not what I want my life to be

Abusive love

~ ~ ~

Why does my playlist symbolize

All the good times I thought we had

What you led me to believe we were

Why did you lie to me

Why did you hurt me

Why did you give me a single red rose

Explaining that you were giving me your heart

I held it so gently

While you stomped on mine

While you drug me through the mud

And told me it was all my fault

That it was all in my head

Even the thoughts in my own head

Started to reflect what you told me I was

Though I had worked so hard to think for myself

You swooped in

At a vulnerable time

And made me believe

That I was still on the right path

In reality

You had taken charge

You placed yourself in my head

Not a single thought I had after a while was mine

You made me believe it all was

Oh, you are good at your game

You brought me in

Wrapped me tight

Tight enough

To suffocate most of me

Tight enough for me to release control

For one last breath

You let me keep the illusion

That you loved me

Until I wasn’t good enough

Good enough for your love any longer

And then you said “let’s be friends”

And it was downhill from there

Those three words released me into the world

But you wanted me to fight for you

So you could turn me down

You wanted me to beg for you not to leave

Beg you to stay

Tell you I needed you

When I didn’t do those things

You got angry

Had I done that

The result would have been similar

But you would have taken me back

To keep the control

There was no winning with you

I always lost

You always win your game

And when you don’t

It’s “poor Lauren”

It always happens TO you

You don’t take responsibility

And you refuse to see reality

An open letter of apology

An open letter of apology

 

I am sorry

For all the times I couldn’t protect you

For all the times I took the blame when it wasn’t mine to take

For all the horrible things I thought about you

For all of the times I hurt you

For all the abuse I brought onto you

For all the stupid situations I put you in

For all the unspoken words

For all of the times I left you when things got hard

For all of the times I opened my mouth when I shouldn’t have

For all of the regrets I have

For all of the times I let you down

For all of the times I tried to end the only thing you had

I am sorry

 

An open letter of thanks

Thank you

For persevering

For not giving up on me

For not leaving me

For learning to trust me

Thank you

 

Sincerely,

The one who knows you best

The Journey of Love

All my life I’ve had trouble dreaming of my future, which probably seems weird for anyone who knows me because I am very strong willed, sometimes to the point of stubborn, and I have such huge goals. The struggle I had was where I saw myself in my personal life, relationships, kids, home-life, etc. It’s always been something that seemed to change and be at odds with each other.

I knew from a very young age that I was gay, I was 5 when I remember my preference for women becoming something I struggled with. As a very young child, preschool and kindergarten to be exact, my grandfather and father would tease me about boys; asking me if I kissed them behind school or on the bus, or if I thought they were cute. When I would show embarrassment they didn’t understand that I was embarrassed because I felt like it was wrong to like girls in the way they were asking me about boys. They saw my embarrassment as, ‘cute,’ as a reinforcement that I did in fact like boys. – With the religious background that my fathers side of the family has, there was no way I was ever going to admit that I was gay, not to them at least. I remember times where my grandfather and father would talk, “homosexuality is of the devil. You will go straight to hell if you even think about being gay.” They thought of it as a decision….

There was a time in my life when I wanted to live in downtown Manhattan. I wanted to be a writer and have a white and silver, all glass, sky rise apartment with my cats. I didn’t want anyone in my life.


There was a time in my life when I wanted to be a lawyer, live in a big house with a big family. I wanted to somehow be superwoman and also be a stay at home mom with my kids, go to the gym every morning, and have a partner…and that is where it stopped. That part would never form, because I had this impeding thought that I was suppose to marry a hard working man, be a stay at home soccer mom, barefoot in the kitchen 9 months pregnant cooking dinner for him. Driving a minivan, running errands all day while the kids are in school, having the house clean when daddy got home.

…As if who we fall in love with is a decision we consciously make for ourselves.

And then I decided to really listen to myself…And everything changed. Literally my entire life did a 180. I started taking note of all of the things that have ever held me back. There is a saying, “Garbage in. Garbage out.” What we take in matters. – As a child I didn’t realize all that I was taking in, to many negative things to list. I was allowing the negative and horrible things that were said and done to me my entire life, to continue to ruin my life and my future. I was allowing my past to hold me back.

In the midst of this realization…Lauren walked into my life. I had only begun this journey, of undoing all of the negative and rebuilding my life from the ground up. She helped me find direction, I was wandering around a little lost and she came alongside me in the most amazing ways. She was my friend, when I needed it most. She is the woman I love. – I am starting to get a picture of what our life together is and will be, it’s so beautiful and amazing. I cannot describe the hope and peace and love and confidence I feel on a daily basis. Yes, there are days where life sucks, but I have my best friend and the love of my life by my side. I wasn’t ready for this change in life when it started, but it has been the greatest journey that I have ever been offered.

Hell to Paradise

“The path to paradise begins in hell.” ― Dante Alighieri.

I have experienced the path to paradise. Suicide became a legitimate struggle for me when I was 11 years old. I made methodical plans, impulsive attempts, and accidental overdoses. My first attempt at suicide began by taking a handful of pills from my mother’s medicine cabinet. At the time, all I wanted was for the emotional turmoil I lived in to disappear; the pain to vanish. In 5th grade, the news was broken to me; my classmates never had sex before. I hadn’t experienced an ordinary childhood by any means, having sex was normal for me from before I could remember. I always recognized my childhood was not normal, for instance being shot by my mother at 7, or being beaten, starved, and sexually abused and trafficked by my own flesh and blood, my family. It was then, when I realized the sexual, emotional, and physical abuse I incurred was not common.

My best friend Emily, my only friend, committed suicide in 5th grade, after suffering abuse from her parents and being placed in foster care. The day before she was removed from her parents, by Child Protective Services, she asked me, “Has anything ever happened to you before?” I told her no. The next day, I was pulled from class to the principal’s office and questioned about the last time I saw Emily. What happened next changed my life forever; I learned, Emily shot herself the night before. I walked out of the principal’s office. My heart was broken more than ever.

5th grade was when real suicidal ideations began for me, or when I remember becoming conscious of the thoughts. Suicidal feelings were constant from the moment I walked out of my principal’s office, that May morning in 2003. I spent 9 years fighting to save my life from others, in the same turn, I thought of ways I could end my life. Following no less than 25 suicide attempts, my final attempt is an event I honestly don’t remember. My friends told me I jumped out in front of a car. The last thing I remember was volunteering at a homeless youth drop-in shelter and waking up in the hospital. After mental and physical evaluations I was sent home from the hospital. I imagine, when the hospital staff saw my name on the chart, they rolled their eyes.

Coming home from the hospital was the turning point. I decided I needed to die, and this time I would have to do it the right way, so the planning began. My plan was solid, date, time, place, and details to how I would end my own life; how I would commit suicide. I wrote letters to the people I felt would care if I died. This meticulous planning and my death would finally save me from the hell I lived in from the moment I was conceived. It is safe to assume I did not take my own life, as I planned because I am writing this today. — Recently, the man and woman, who promised me help, love, and family disappeared into the abyss, and it brought back some of those old feelings of suicide and wanting to take my own life. However, I decided suicide is not an option any longer and never will be. I am meant to be here. I have purpose, and I am loved.

“I walked through hell in to the paradise I live in today.”

~Sarah Birch