Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cutting and sexual abuse

Triggers:  Cutting, child abuse, rape, sexual abuse.

I don't know why I do this to myself.  I don't where the impulse comes from.  Everyone has all the theories on why I cut myself, but I honestly have no idea why.  I just do it.  In a really sick twisted way, I crave it.  I cut myself when I'm feeling really upset.  I cut myself when I feel nothing at all.  I cut myself without really ever knowing why.  Sometimes I cut myself while dissociating and don't even realize I'm doing it.  My brain turns off for a while and my body does things without me or my permission.  Crazy, I know.  

Much of what I've read about cutting says that kids learned it from other kids or the media or something else.  I don't remember ever knowing that other people did it.  I didn't watch a lot of TV as a kid and when I did it was cartoons or The Power Rangers or something equally as childish.  I don't remember when I started doing it.  I used to think I started around the age of 10 or 11, but now I know for sure it started at least as early as 9.

One memory of cutting from my childhood really stands out.  Perhaps it was the first time I cut myself, but I'm really not sure.  Tim had just left my room and I crawled out of my bed and sat on the floor, leaning against my mattress.  I was hurting quite a bit.  There was so much pain but I didn't cry or seek help.  They would think I was just wanting attention anyway or they would ask me what hurts and I would never be able to say.  I remember that the way I was sitting made the pain worse so I stayed that way for a while, wanting to hurt, wanting to feel punished.  I wanted to feel something that matched or exceeded the intensity of what I was feeling inside.  The outside pain made more sense to me.  I was so angry with myself that I wanted to feel pain.  I deserved to hurt.  I used to have this little vanity area I had set up with a hand held mirror, make up that I was allowed to play with as long as I washed it off afterwards, and a few colors of nail polish.  I was really into drawing tiny shapes or creatures on my nails and coloring them in with nail polish and a toothpick.

I sat on the floor in my panties, probably days of the week underwear because that's pretty much all I would wear in protest because Maggie wouldn't let me buy the boys underwear I coveted with different colored edges and Power Rangers or spiderman characters.  Still throbbing with pain and self loathing I picked up my little handheld mirror and looked at myself for a while.  "Fucking slut.  Whore.  Cunt, vile repulsive monster.  I fucking hate you.  No one will ever love you.  No one wants you. You should die."  The little record player of self hatred stuck on repeat in my head began pretty early in life.  I stared at myself in this light purple handheld plastic mirror thinking these thoughts and then suddenly smashed the mirror into my forehead.  I startled myself.  It wasn't something I thought about doing.  It just kind of happened.  I panicked thinking about the trouble I would get in for breaking the mirror.  It broke into six or seven long pieces.  I remember being surprised it didn't shatter into tiny shards like the water glass I dropped earlier that week.  I don't remember it cutting my face at all.

I picked up the biggest piece of glass and looked at the cropped image of my face.  I slowly tilted it up and down, mesmerized by the different tiny portions of my face that reflected back at me.  I tilted down to look only at my chapped lips.  They were red and chapped halfway down to my chin because I would suck on my bottom lip in an effort to sooth it.   I looked at them for a while, noting the freckle under my bottom lip, the one my current girlfriend loves.  I tilted it up and looked up my nose, wet and runny from crying earlier, and was horrified to discover that there were tiny little hairs inside of it.  I later went to tell Maggie that there was something horrible and fuzzy growing in my nose.  I studied my face like that for what seemed like hours before I started on other areas of my body like my toes and legs.  When I got up to my upper legs, I picked up another piece of glass and started to lightly run it across my skin.  I gradually pressed harder and harder until it began to bleed.  I watched the tiny round bubbles grow from the scratches on my skin.  They got bigger and bigger, slowly merging and pooling together until they were heavy enough to form one large maroon droplet that streaked down my leg.  It felt tight and crusty when it dried and I liked rubbing and picking it off.  I sat on the floor with broken glass at my toes cutting my thighs until Maggie came home.

This event must have been much earlier than I remember it happening because I'm so little in this last photo and my legs are so cut up.  I remember living through what happened in the photo so well.  I keep dreaming about it every time I sleep and the dreams are intense, like someone just rewound my life.  And it is so graphic and disturbing and painful.  When my brain is rewound to this event I feel all the pain and all the feelings.  I feel all the same disgust and anger at myself.  I am trying to remember how little I was, even looking up pictures of kids that wear a 6x to remind myself just how small I was.  I'm trying to make my heart believe that no child that small could defend herself against an adult, that it can't possibly be my fault.  I want to believe this and I am trying so hard to.  I would never blame another child for being abused, but for some reason I cannot have the same compassion for myself.

Sometimes I have a really hard time putting my memories in chronological order.  It is hard for me to know how old I am in memories without some strong frame of reference.  It's easier to remember being 8 and 9 because that's when I moved in with Maggie and Tim.  When I was 9 years old I was really into jumping rope.  I would jump rope for hours and hours, trying to learn every trick invented.  I recited jump rope chants and songs as I jumped.  "Cinderella dressed in yellow, went up stairs to kiss her fellow.  Made a mistake and kissed a snake.  How many doctors did it take?"  I was very much the definition of a "tomboy."  I was very active, liked to get dirty and play rough.  I liked climbing trees, catching lizards and other scary creatures, but I also liked playing with barbies and makeup.  I loved the colors purple and turquoise.   I hated shoes.  I'd take my shoes off and lose them all the time, making my caregivers angry.  I hated having my hair done.  I preferred it down and messy.  I loved kickball, flag football, tag, basketball, and playing house.  I also loved music that I will not admit to loving and would carefully listen to songs over and over again to write down the lyrics.  I would take them to school and make my friends sing them with me.  I was often VERY wrong.  Ridiculously wrong.  For example, instead of Mariah Carey's "I want to share forever with you baby,"  I wrote, "I want to sheb-ber-eba with you."  I have no idea what I thought that meant but I made my friends sing it.  I liked to play "puppy" and pretend I was a dog, with our dog.  I would pretend to play with his toys and sleep in his bed.  I don't know why.  I was just a weird kid, I guess.  I was very shy until I felt comfortable with people and then I was goofy and loved to make people laugh.  I would put on little comedy acts and make everyone watch.  When I thought people didn't get my jokes, I would explain to them why it was funny and why they should be laughing.  I remember wanting to be a comedian when I grew up.  I was that kid that was very quiet in school, but would occasionally decide I was the class clown and be obnoxious until I got yelled at which would crush my little feelings.  I would become really quiet for the rest of the day.  Before recess or before going home I would go up to the teacher and apologize a million times, afraid she didn't like me anymore.

The picture that I post a lot, taken with my siblings where we are all dressed up, was taken after my mother lost her rights.  She paid to have a photo taken of us and provided our clothing for the picture.  I would NEVER wear that dress if I had a choice.  I remember hating it and demanding I change as soon as the photos were taken.  Not long before the picture, I had decided to cut my hair by myself.  That's why my hair is a hideous curly round mullet-ish cut.  It's longer than it looks in the picture.  I think someone curled my hair for this photo but my hair has gone through really strange phases of being curly and straight and somewhere in between throughout my life.  It's also fluctuated from blond and brown, being much lighter in the summer.  As an adult, it's stayed brown and kind of straight at the very top and wavy everywhere else.  I started getting gray hair at 11, so there's some of that in there too.

This is what I looked like at 9 years old:
Removed image for privacy

I know it sounds ridiculous but it's difficult for me to feel connected to the child in that picture.  There is just no way that can be me.  I don't know who that is.  I know that little shaggy haired, chubby cheeked girl is me, but I just can't fathom being her.  It's like she's been cut from my brain and pasted somewhere else.  How did this little girl live through so much?  How did this little girl watch that man be beaten in The Middle East?  How did this little girl make her mother so angry that she'd beat, starve, and lock her in dark scary closets?  How was this little girl the main caregiver of four little siblings?  How was this little girl someone that was sexually abused most of her short life by her stepfather, and then her foster father?  Why didn't anyone want this little girl?  She looks so normal.  How can someone look so normal and be so abnormal?

Perhaps it's not entirely appropriate to make this public.  It might upset people that I posted these here.  I might regret it and take it down, but I can't stop obsessing about it and I'm hoping that writing about it and letting others see parts of it will soothe whatever it is that can't stop thinking about it at all times.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that I'm thinking about it all the time.  I can be out with a friend and laughing but I'm also thinking about this photo and this event.  All the photos I received are very upsetting, but this one has crushed me flat.  I also don't look as super tiny or as upset in the other photos.  This photo, sent to be by someone with a horrible name at "" earlier this week, has really upset me not only because I remember the event, that weird black collar thing (although not until I saw the photo), and those fucking horrible sheets, but also because I am the same age as I am in the photo above and so freaking small.  I'm so little in both photos, but I look so tiny in the horrible photo.  My body is so tiny compared to his.  How am I the same person as the little girl in this very cropped version of a horribly graphic photo?  

yeah...i removed it.

Besides what's actually happening in the rest of this photo, it hurts so much to see my little legs.  This little girl has these little legs:

Removed it.

How does someone not notice this?  Maggie did notice because she wrote about it when we first began exchanging emails.  If she knew, why didn't she do anything about it?  No one ever talked to me about those cuts on my legs and sometimes my arms and stomach.  No one ever asked me how I got them or why I was cutting myself.  How did doctors not notice?  How did teachers not notice?  How did people with swimming pools who saw me in bathing suits not notice?  This was in the 90's so maybe people just didn't know about self injury as much, but still, how does this not alarm someone?  If I saw a child with cuts and scars on her legs like this, I would be so concerned and seek help for her right away.  With all my weird behavior and all the marks on my body, self inflicted and otherwise, how could people not notice or turn away?  Why didn't anyone care enough about me to do something?  Why didn't they tell someone?  Why didn't I tell someone?