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Cutting Edge

Margaret Phillips
| December 30, 2016

I’m going to shift my focus a little for this blog.

Warning – there may be graphic content that is hard to understand.  

Sometimes it is difficult to admit openly that we really don’t like who we are.  Either we aren’t happy with our weight, or our hair, or the birth mark on our leg, or our own crazy thoughts in our head.  The list goes on as you can imagine.  In the past it was hard for me to openly admit some things. On the outside I seemed to have it all together; for a while anyway.  Today, of course, I just throw it all out there whenever I can so I don’t carry any burdens.  However, it was not always that easy.

While much of my passion is with breaking the stigma of addiction I also have a drive to change people’s opinion about ‘cutters.’ Not sure what that means?  In short, we are people that for one reason or another find comfort in physically cutting ourselves to pieces.  According to the definition of self-mutilation it results from feelings of shame or a need to relieve tension.  It is an intentional act to injure oneself which can be done in any number of ways. For me I found relief in cutting.  What? That doesn’t make sense.  Well it doesn’t have to.  It made perfect sense to me at the time. I felt immense guilt and shame for the things I was or was not doing while in active addiction and cutting helped me avoid those feelings. Seems pretty simple to me.  The problem was that when I would have brief moments of clarity I began to question my own sanity, since cutting really isn’t an acceptable practice if you know what I mean. Not everyone had the same experiences as I did so this isn’t meant to define all cutters. It is to give you a different perspective from a cutter who learned to love herself enough that she didn’t want to do this any longer.

I’ll start with the fact that somewhere early in life by no fault of anyone I lost all sense of self-worth.  It didn’t happen with one incident in particular. I believe it was a compilation of things over time as I was drifting further away for my core self and closer to the addiction. You have to remember that I’m describing the inner workings of a brain that was not thinking rationally. So as I read this, and probably you too, I’m thinking how in the world could I have thought that way? Remember that addiction doesn’t want you to think rationally. Now I can’t say that cutting and addiction go hand in hand for everyone. It is just how it happened with me. If you haven’t read my story this may come as a shock to you, but I started drinking at 11 years old and smoking pot by middle-school. Why so early?  Well that’s a tale for another blog. My brain never had the opportunity to develop in the normal fashion. No comments from the peanut gallery on that one!! What I was supposed to be thinking about myself in those early years got very warped, quickly. I became quite good at hiding all kinds of things, including my insecurities. Instead of anyone seeing a weakness they would see the tough girl that could handle anything. I let that be my outer shell for far too long. However it would save my life on a few occasions. Today my wall is down, as you can tell. Now back to how the cutting came into play.

I can’t tell you first time I cut or the last time.  What I do remember is the thought process leading up to the cut and what followed.  This is where things get a bit graphic, but I feel like someone out there needs to know they aren’t crazy either so here goes.  I kept a very sharp knife in a hard sunglass case.  In that case were also alcohol swabs and butterfly bandages.  If you didn’t know my dad was a doctor and my mom was a nurse so I learned to be prepared….and sterile.  From the moment I had the urge to cut my brain went on autopilot much like it would do when I’d crave alcohol and drugs.  I was totally defenseless to stop the thoughts until I could cut them away.  Sometimes the cuts were more superficial and sometimes they required a trip to the E.R. for stitches.  I came up with some pretty good reasons for how the cuts happened because if it is a clumsy accident everyone gets a good laugh and off I go.  If I had gone into the hospital and said “I cut myself on purpose” then I would get treated quite differently as you can imagine.

While cutting isn’t normal and there are valid medical concerns my intent is to change how the public views someone like me who now has scars all over her body from a not so good time in her life. For most of us we may see someone with scars all over their arms or legs and immediately be taken back. Your first instinct may be to treat them like a leper or some kind of freak. When we don’t know how to handle something difficult, many turn away instead of trying to understand the other person’s journey. That may be hard because most people wouldn’t even consider taking a knife or some other instrument and inflicting pain on themselves. But for those of us that have done so, our decision to act may not be what you think. I’m not crazy nor am I someone who is a threat to you. I was actually cutting to help bring normalcy back into my life. Yes you read that right. The anticipation of cutting was a rush as was the cutting itself, but it came with so much relief that I wasn’t getting with the drugs or alcohol. I felt peace for a brief moment and it was wonderful. Doesn’t seem logical? Well it’s not. In the midst of all of the chaos with my addiction the one thing I could control was my cutting.  I never felt the pain, just relief and that’s all I really wanted.

As I mentioned earlier much of the self-mutilation for me was wrapped up in my lack of self-worth.  I knew I could do better, but the disease of addiction had such a hold on me long before I realized it.  Once I finally put that demon to rest I learned to love me just as I am.  That means the good, the bad, and the ugly. All of me! Not just the perception everyone sees on the outside. Regaining self-worth was definitely an inside job that took practice over a long period of time, but the effort was so worth it. Today I have tattoos around some of the major scars on my legs and arms so my attention isn’t focused on the past. I prefer to acknowledge the hardships as the pathway to something more beautiful going forward.

If you are familiar with the lotus flower then you know it is born out of the dirty river bottom, climbs its way through the muck and murky water and emerges above the surface in full bloom embracing the sunlight. That is who I am today.  I am someone who used to cut to survive, but now I embrace the gifts I’ve been given thanks to recovery.  You can too.

Worthwhile, Joyous, and Free,


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