I remember the day I found out my sister was a cutter. She always did the cutting in private, she hid the wounds and the scars. Her pain was hers and cutting was an outlet to release the pain. I knew she didn’t do it for attention. I knew she was suffering an agony I would never understand. I caught a glimpse of a set of healing cuts on her leg that she hadn’t intended for anyone to see. She quickly covered the area on her leg with her skirt. I found out later, after she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, that she regularly cut herself when she was a teenager. Small cuts on the inner upper part of her arm and likewise on the inner thigh. Places that were discreet enough to go mostly unnoticed. Her cuts were hers, and no one else’s. Cutting for her wasn’t a cry for help. It was a way to cope.

Somehow I innately knew that the cutting was a coping mechanism. I knew she wasn’t trying to kill herself. I knew I would never truly understand as I had never felt anything close to depression or mental anguish or even serious anxiety. I had never felt pain and fear building up inside me that threatened to swallow me whole. I also knew, for sure, that I would never have the desire or need to cut myself. Ever. Cutting was something people did when they didn’t have control over their own minds. It was something people did when they had mental illness.

Fast forward to February, 2014. I was sitting in a hotel room in Hawaii with my husband of 25 years, intimate partner of 30 years, listening to him spill some of the horrifying details of his sex addicted secret life. His words were rhythmically fading into the background with every wave crashing against the shore. I could feel myself slipping away. The pain was overwhelming. I had to get away from it, and quickly, or I would surely die. But before I went away, I had to release some of that horrifying, all encompassing really, agony I was feeling in my chest. My broken heart was aching for release and I reached across and viciously scratched my left arm over and over until I could see the blood. I needed it to drip, bright red. I needed the release. I then faded away, into nothingness.

In the most intense of times during the first two years of recovery, I scratched. I savagely scratched my left arm until it bled. Sometimes I stared at the bloody wounds and I was thankful. Thankful that the pain in my chest was being replaced by the pain in my arm. Even after the cutting incident with the pottery shard, the ER visit, the 16 stitches, I still focused on that left arm. When I was in the throes of intense PTSD, I longed to rip open those stitches, just to see the blood. Sometimes I merely went to a place inside my mind, to the memory of that deep gash and the blood pouring out. I briefly moved to cutting the top of my left leg with anything I could find that would release even the littlest trickle of blood. I had been reprimanded by our couple’s therapist (a CSAT pretty focused on my husband’s healing, not so much on mine) that my self harm was hindering my husband’s recovery. That he lived in fear of me self harming and really truly hurting myself. I really truly dislike her for those remarks. If not for the decades of lying and betrayal, I wouldn’t have PTSD. I wouldn’t be suffering. Was anyone actually focused on me and not just wanting to scold me? I knew she didn’t understand self harm. Self harm was not for attention or to “punish” or freak my husband out. Self harm was my survival. It wasn’t something I consciously chose to do. It was a pure survival instinct. In the moment I knew I needed to distract my own mind from sending blood gushing to my heart. I actually didn’t want to die even though I felt like I would, without the self harm release.

I know now that unless a person has been in the situation I was in (and my sister before me, and many many other people every single day) they couldn’t possibly understand how the self harm actually helped. It allowed me to survive a situation I wasn’t sure, at the time, was survivable. That is post traumatic stress. Way back when, I blogged about my self harm, because… I blog about everything, especially as it relates to the C-PTSD I have suffered from since the discovery of my husband’s betrayal. A couple of blog followers commented about my self harm and about my needing serious psychological help, and then they stopped following me. Instead of staying around and encouraging me, they left. One even sent a private email saying she wouldn’t sit around and watch me kill myself. Well that is fine and of course their choice. It helped me understand that some people just don’t understand. Not everyone is meant to understand. It’s okay.

During the healing process, I have faced my own fears and my anxieties. Over time the need to self harm to release the pain, has vanished. In learning to manage my new reality, I have learned to manage the pain. I still have the stress induced heart murmur, but I don’t feel it as much anymore. If I can manage the stress, my heart doesn’t hurt as much. I never mentally go away anymore and I have not self harmed in nearly three years. I am truly thankful to the people in my life who DID understand and didn’t chastise or belittle me for doing what I needed to do to survive.


26 thoughts on “Survival

  1. I’m sorry Kat.

    I understand self harm. I understand trying to avoid feeling by feeling something else, that is after all the root of my acting out with my ex-wife. It was easier than grieving and doing the work necessary to move through the loss. It is easier than talking about it. Learning to sit and focus on the moment is one of the gifts of this experience. All too often I acted as if what I felt or thought needed an immediate response…or an immediate distraction.

    I understand keeping it hidden from others. I understand not wanting people to know. I understand the stigmas. I understand the anguish of people you thought cared kicking you out instead of calling you out and holding your hand.

    I’ve been told by mere strangers that my betrayal was all they need to ever know to know everything about me. Judging and condemning is the hobby of many insecure and unkind people.

    My lying and secret keeping were a form of self-harm. I had xp on a pedestal and made her my queen.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sorry, I got send.

      I had her on a pedestal and made her my queen. I took on the role of her Hero and it was one more avenue to self-harm…that harmed my xp, K and myself.

      Now as I stand on the outside I see how both my xp and K have harmed themselves over and over as they have struggled with avoiding their own grief with distractions.

      We fall into Patterns to avoid our pain. Self-harm is a result of me avoiding my own issues. I think that is true for most people.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is difficult these days to find someone who hasn’t experienced pain and trauma. We all have ways of coping. Some are more destructive than others. We need to learn kind and gentle and non-hurtful ways to cope, but we all

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m not afraid of pain and loss now. I realize Pain is my friend. It love me enough to tell me something is wrong. The more I ignore it the more it remind me I need to stop and look. Thank my Pain for living me <– this is one of the best truths I've learned from this experience. This isn't a cliche, I accept this as my experience.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The other part of that is I realize my pain is no one else’s responsibility.

            I know these things because I didn’t run. I’ve waited over and over and over, talked openly so I could learn from others, and not allowed myself to be emotionally blackmailed or humiliated by others. I’ve walked into ever fire I could find…even when I could run away.

            Either I own my pain or it owns me.

            I don’t do it perfectly but I am doing it.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry, I’m having serious trouble with the wp app. I was going to say we all can only focus on ourselves realizing we’re all fallible. We really do all need to work on ourselves first before we can expect anyone else to love or care for us!

        Liked by 1 person

          • Sorry again, running all around today. I don’t think I was very clear. I’m more speaking to the old saying about it being difficult for others to love us if we don’t love ourselves. Love does come with qualifiers for me. It would be really cool if I could just love everyone, but I don’t. There are things about other people I don’t find love-able, realizing of course that everyone has their own definition of love. On the other hand, I love my husband and regardless of what happens, I will always love him. However, for us to have a loving relationship together, he must start accepting and loving himself. Otherwise it is incredibly difficult to live with him. Phew. Being human is hard! I hope that makes more sense? All relationships are difficult, but intimate relationships are often more complicated. I know some people who have given up on marriage/intimate partnerships. They are happy on their own. Not always necessary to walk into the fire I guess.

            Liked by 1 person

            • At this moment in my life it is necessary to sit in the fire. Whatever survives the fire is what has value. There is almost nothing left from my life with my xp.

              My goal now is to reclaim the best parts of me and and burn off those things that are in the way. I cannot do that if I don’t sit in the fire or I choose to run from the hard things.

              Liked by 1 person

                • Thanks Kat. Thinking isn’t the problem. Acting is the problem. I understand who I am. I even understand the why of who I am.

                  The hang up is still the fear, anxiety, and conflict avoidance. They taunt me.

                  I told the doc last night, my relationship skill bandwidth is very narrow: fight, run, lie.

                  I need a partner that is willing to accept that, recognize I am learning and applying those lessons AND be willing to help me by calling me out and not kicking me out.

                  Thank you for the conversation Kat. I always leave your posts with more to think about than say.

                  …love is a skill, not just an enthusiasm. – Alain de Botton

                  At the heart of sulk lies a confusing mixture of intense anger and an equally intense desire not to communicate what one is angry about. The sulker both desperately needs the other person to understand and yet remains utterly committed to doing nothing to help them do so. The very need to explain forms the kernel of the insult: if the partner requires an explanation, he or she is clearly not worth of one. We should add that it is a privilege to be the recipient of a sulk: it means the other person respects and trusts us enough to think we should understand their unspoken hurt. It is one of the odder gifts of love. – Alain de Botton

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, some people can handle scary stuff and others can’t. It’s about them, their frame of reference, etc.
    I’m glad you were able to work through your pain and find other coping techniques.
    Oh and screw that therapist!!!! Its scary how some are not that good and actually damaging at times.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s astonishing how destructive therapists can be. I know every profession has its share of good, bad, etc… but there does seem to be a lot of bad therapists. I’m glad those days are behind me. I don’t think there is anything I can learn or experience now that would take me back there. ❤️

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I spent a weekend reading your blog about a year ago. When you wrote the first entry about self harming, I was a wreck. I could not stop crying. I was heart broken for you, but also had so much respect for how open you were. You were the first I had read that wrote about it. I wasn’t alone.

    I had struggled with writing about it myself, as I guess I felt shame. I shouldn’t be ashamed though, and I’m not now. It’s a coping mechanism most will never understand.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You should never feel ashamed. It’s self defeating. You survived. You are a survivor. The thing that still bothers me is the anonymity of this blog. I am a shout it from the rooftops kind of person. I don’t want anyone to feel alone. It hurts, but it is part of life, learning to love ourselves for everything we are. And, to not blame ourselves for the actions of others. We all need a way of coping that heals us. Self harm to an outsider seems counterintuitive, but it isn’t. Much love! ❤️

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I hope I never have to face the kind of pain you have. I have watched my daughter grieve the loss of a beloved child. I don’t know how she did it or still does it. After reading this I wondered what I would do. I know I wouldn’t cut but I would run. I mean away. I live close to a national forest and I would run into the woods and keep going. I think I would probably run until I died because I couldn’t face it. I admire you that you did, and still do. I am also so glad you are not cutting anymore. No judgment, just glad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child. My heart breaks thinking about it. Much love to your daughter and to you.

      Betrayal isn’t a natural progression of life. Long term intimate betrayal is an obliteration, for a lot of us, of everything we thought to be true. It hacks away at self esteem, at self worth, at happiness. It’s like someone pulled the rug out from under my entire adult life. All the lies, all the transgressions. I thought I could handle ANYTHING. I was wrong. My body did what it had to do to battle the darkness. Unfortunately I have some lasting health issues, but I picked myself up and brushed myself off and am making the most of it. The chronic PTSD was temporary, thankfully. I am likewise so very happy that I no longer go to that dark place of self harm and dissociation. Those days are behind me. It’s sorta like if I could get through that, I could get through anything, but please don’t try me. 🙂 xo

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My youngest daughter is/was a cutter. Her sisters made fun of her and accused her of doing it for attention…or called her a drama queen.
    I understood. If she cut her arm, her heart didn’t ache. If she cut her leg, the blows from her abusive boyfriend didn’t hurt.
    Our bodies and brains are remarkable. If we are crying in the inside, unable to breathe, unable to find any relief…wounding another part of ourselves temporarily transfers the pain. It’s a form of survival. I understand and to those who were so insensitive, I say “go fuck yourself.”
    PS…can you text me so I can capture your number again?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sometimes people bully because they don’t know what else to do. They behave badly because they feel useless. It’s not right, but I think a lot of people do it. I’m sorry your daughter suffered so and hope she is in a better place now, certainly with a better mate. I agree, our bodies are remarkable. I would never have thought I would have self harmed. I couldn’t even have imagined it, but it was a survival instinct. People die from a broken heart. And it is true that some cutters do escalate to suicide attempts and suicide, and many don’t. Some people that commit suicide had never harmed themselves before. It is truly difficult to understand until we have been in such a dire mental circumstance that our body would choose self harm. Text sent. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m in tears at work. Hiding in the bathroom. This is me right now. The self harm is to inner thighs. Never did it before. Not doing it for attention. I can’t bear the pain. I thought I would never feel pain like early discovery. But I am not doing well right now.

    Breathe. Cold water. Believe xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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