Drain the Blood
If you know me, then you know that I am a big advocate for mental health and mental health awareness. I have been personally affected by mental illness in my family and with my own bout of anxiety and depression. I'm going to share a story that few people know, but worthy of sharing.
I was 14 years-old and angry, like most teenagers. I wrote poetry since I was not sure how to express my frustration and pain verbally. At this time, I was living with my half-sister and her husband, finally landing in a stable environment after being bounced around from family member to family member for three years. I can see now why I was filled with anger and frustration.
A good friend in my 8th grade class and I would exchange our deepest, darkest poetry about unrequited love and basic teenage misery. That worked great for a while. Then came love and the boy across the street. We fell in love the summer before my freshman year. He was two years older than me and we would be attending the same Catholic high school. We fell madly in love and spoke of marriage in our future with beautiful white roses at our wedding. Of course, the inevitable break-up happened and I was devastated, even though I ended it.
I had picked up several coping mechanisms from my childhood, perhaps from watching too many John Hughes' films. I thought love was supposed to be like the movies; devastating, sad, dramatic, oh so dramatic. Maybe he'll profess his love for me holding a boombox over his head or he'll come up to me after the dance and tell me that he always believed in me, or some other cliché film scene.
To cope with all the madness in my young life, I happened upon a razor blade. And I starting cutting. I had never even heard of cutting, self-harm, or self-mutilation. The only self-mutilation I had ever heard or seen were the people putting hooks and piercings in unusual places. I didn't even know it was a thing. So I cut. . .and I cut. I wore long sleeves to cover the marks, even during the summer. My best friend's mom questioned me one day about the scabs and I said I fell into a rosebush. I guess she believed me.
All I knew was that I felt a sense of release when I cut. I would watch the blood go down my arm and I felt better. I felt relieved. I had found a release that was just for me. The satisfaction of a good session with my trusty razor blade made me feel human. There are lots of ways we cope with our sadness, some of them healthy and some not so healthy. This definitely was not a healthy behavior. The funny thing is, is that I'm sure no one would have suspected that I was a cutter. I wasn't trying to kill myself, I was just trying to find a way to let go of the pain I felt. According to NAMI, self-harm or self-injury is not a mental illness in itself, but it does indicate a lack of coping skills associated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or borderline personality disorders.
I eventually grew out of the cutting and moved on to other dangerous, risky kinds of behavior that supported me for a very long time. I used alcohol for many years as my escape, even after having yoga in my life. Three years ago was a turning point for me, my eyes opened and I gave up many of those behaviors that no longer served me and I found better ways to deal with my sadness and anger. It has been a long journey and I am still a work in progress. That's what we all are; works in progress. We are all on different parts of this journey and we need to respect the growth process. Growth is necessary in this life and if we want to have some happiness, we need to find that within ourselves. Only then can we drop the unhealthy behaviors and find our inner light. I want to share more dark to shine light upon it. The more we realize that we are in this thing called "life" together, we can begin to help each other on our journeys.
Love and Light,