It’s been almost seventeen years; yet I still remember the day as if it were yesterday. I remember who was at the house, what each person was wearing, the events of what happened, what was said and I remember exactly how I felt. Out of everything I experienced growing up, watching my parents attempt suicide definitely impacted me in a huge way.
I may have only been thirteen-years-old at the time my parents tried to commit suicide, but I felt completely responsible. I was the one who went and worked at a plant nursery all day and gave my mother the $28 I made so she could buy beer and crack. It was the beer that caused my parents to get into an argument that led to my dad slicing his wrists in attempt to commit suicide.
Hours later my mother felt guilty for my dad trying to commit suicide and she told me she wanted to die. She busted a glass against the edge of the table and used a broken piece of the glass to start cutting her wrist. I grabbed the phone to call 911, but she ripped it out of the wall so I couldn’t call. I ran to the house next door and asked them to call 911, but they wouldn’t because they were all in the house smoking crack. I ran down the block to a house on another road and found someone who let me use their phone to call 911.
Once the police and ambulance arrived the 911 operator told me to walk back home, so I did. I remember walking up to the house and they had my mother outside. She was so angry at me for calling 911. She told me she hated me, she never wanted me, never loved me, and that is why she wanted to kill herself.
She was taken for a psychiatric evaluation and I was then taken to the hospital where it was discovered I had asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia.
I couldn’t stop replaying the events of that day in my head. I didn’t understand how my parents could hurt themselves like that. I wanted to know what it felt like when they cut their wrists, so I cut myself for the first time out of curiosity. That one little cut turned into a horrible addiction of self-harm that lasted for 10 years.
I found that when I cut myself the physical pain would help numb the emotional pain I felt. Nobody knew all I had experienced growing up because I was always taught to keep it a secret or worse things would happen. Cutting myself became my way of coping with the trauma. Over time I began to cut multiple times at once and just about on a daily basis. There were times when the emotional pain was so severe I would cut myself 50-60 times and it wouldn’t be enough to numb the pain I felt so I would cut myself and break bones or burn myself to try to numb out the emotional pain.
I mostly cut in places on my body that clothes covered and when I broke my bones I tried to come up with clever excuses as to what happened. I wanted help, but I felt I couldn’t tell anyone because everyone thought I stopped cutting 9 years prior. I also didn’t realize my self-harm was an addiction until my pastor was talking about addictions one Sunday and I realized the it was an addiction and it was literally killing me.
Growing up with drug and alcohol addicted parents I did NOT want to have an addiction; therefore, I couldn’t have a self-harm addiction. I sought help from my pastor and began the journey to overcoming the addiction. It took my 9 months to stop hurting myself and for a long time the temptations came regularly. Over time the temptations became less and less and now the thought of hurting myself rarely occurs.
I never want to forget of where I have come from and what God has helped me overcome. Many people don’t understand self-harm and how physical pain could possibly help someone cope with emotional pain. Some say that those who self-harm are seeking attention and maybe that’s partly true, but what is happening to make that person mutilate their body just to get attention? My addiction began with just one little cut and it could be that way for anyone. The best thing you can do for someone who self-harms is love them and be there for them. Don’t try to come up with different reasons you think they may be self-harming and don’t expect them to stop without helping them find other coping skills.