Fallible Flesh

Disclaimer: This is about a time in my life when I felt like I had few options; nonetheless, what I did shaped who I am today. It’s not an easy topic, but it’s one that a lot of people condemn and pontificate about without ever wanting to understand it.

***

My skin slices open too easily; I thought I’d be made of sterner stuff.

Blood slowly beads out and pools, coating the spindly, blond arm hair before snaking down to my elbow. The sting seems laughably endurable. So I go deeper, pressing the knife further into my skin and sliding it along an unknown course.

I don’t know why this became my way out, my release. But it’s problematically intoxicating; that much I know.

And yet, I keep going.

Day after day, night after night, my arms become carving slabs. Because as long as they’re coming undone, my mental seams remain resolutely taut — binding in obsessive thoughts, silencing internal, frenetic dialogue.

Everything is controlled. Subdued. Managed.

And I can keep it this way.

***

Self-mutilation isn’t exactly a conversational icebreaker. It makes people uncomfortable — pushing them to dance along the edges of the words, lowering voices to relegate it to the safety of allusion.

Few really delve into the mental processes that inform the behavior. What becomes the focus is the act’s result — a line of ghastly cuts, a reopened scar; jags along arms, or inside legs. And the human canvas is nearly always cast in a fractured, fragile light — like they’re a grotesque, damned being.

I never really thought about cutting. Especially since I always had an aversion to knives, and often got the shakes whenever I thought about a blade gliding across skin.

And still I found myself pressing an X-Acto knife into my arms for over a year, reverting back to that disturbing familiarity when life tipped from manageable to overwhelming. It wasn’t a cry for help, or some enjoyable act. It wasn’t attempted suicide. It became something I had to do to release mental tension, and stave off a crushing sense of utter hopelessness.

What ultimately stopped me was its effects on those I cared about most. I’d been caught a few times — the slightly bloated cuts peeking out, or a rogue blood spot curling around a sleeve’s edge. I didn’t so much care about doing this to myself. But I quickly realized every incision cut to the core of those around me.

It jarred them. Startled them. Unnerved them.

Hurt them.

So I learned to cope with my mental juggernaut — righted my course through a lot of hard work and personal reflection.

I let myself heal, and came to understand that we’ve all been a wounded creature searching for a salve.

That, beneath it all, we’re the same.

Made of fallible flesh.

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