Youths these days have found extremely deviant ways to express themselves or deal with their problems. The concept of ‘cutting’ came into the limelight some years back when kids were doing it because it was the ‘in’ thing. We got a change to speak to a reformed ‘cutter’, who would like to share her story.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
Anna*, 22, comes from an upper middle class family and is currently pursuing a degree at an overseas university. Although her face is cheery and all smiles during the interview, the backs of her hands reveal her dark past.
How did you find out about self-mutilation?
I never really found out about it. I never knew it was a trend when I was doing it. It was just a release from my problems for me.
When did you first start experimenting with cutting?
I was 13 and I had just entered secondary school. It was also the first time I was in a co-ed school and with that came its own set of problems. I was painfully shy and had problems with my esteem. I was also really awkward with my body, I was the tallest in my class and had an ample bosom which meant that I got teased a lot. I also felt that I was not attractive enough, especially since my best friend was getting so much attention from boys.
My already fragile self-esteem also took a huge hit when the boy I had a crush on in school snubbed my advances. So I tried to find an outlet to vent my hurt, anger and disappointment.
Why did you first start cutting yourself?
Truth be told, the first time I ‘cut’ myself was purely accidental. It happened during an art class when I was playing with the penknife. I remember that the cut didn’t hurt, although it did bleed a little. All I could remember was feeling a sense of relief when I saw myself bleeding.
That’s when I started experimenting with cutting. I continued to do so because it seemed like an easy release of the stress and problems in my life. I also started buying bigger penknives and even shaving blades to experiment which left the finest scars. I also remember having to change my sheets often as they would be bloody from my cuts.
How did it make you feel?
The pain was physical, so I supposed it allowed me to focus on the physical pain, instead of what I was actually feeling. It actually felt good; as weird as that may sound. Ultimately, cutting provided a release from all the stress and anxiety I might have been feeling. It might have been momentary but I craved even that temporary relief.
Did you ever consider any alternatives to handling your stress/problems in a different way?
I didn’t like talking about my problems to my friends and family, as I did not want to burden them with it. Besides that, I naturally am a very private person, and tend to keep things to myself. Besides cutting (then), crying helped me calm down a lot (still does of course).
Cutting produces scars, did anyone ever notice them?
Yes of course it produces scars. They are still there for all to see, though I use long pants and tops to cover them usually.
My family and friends noticed them, and asked me what was wrong, but I used to deflect and said I got them when my arm caught on a nail or some other excuse. Of course, there were those who didn’t believe me but I shut them out whenever they tried to talk to me about it, and I became quite good at hiding my scars to prevent those awkward questions.
Did anyone ever find out?
Yes, my sisters knew even though I never told them outright. They would always provide me opportunities to talk about my problems and to constantly remind me that I’m loved. I remember telling them that I was really stressed, and that I would figure things out, and not to worry, as I would be alright.
The questions made me feel like they really cared, but I still found it really hard to talk about my problems to people. I also felt ashamed to admit that I had a problem and you could say I was in denial for awhile, believing the stories I made up to explain the scars on my hands and thighs.
What made you stop?
The realisation that it was a really bad and destructive habit. Who’s to say that the next time I cut myself, it goes deeper and cuts an artery, then there really won’t be any chance to get better. I was experiencing a healthier self-esteem after secondary school and I realised, that for people to love me, I must first be at ease and love myself.
Also having a supportive network of family and friends helped. Knowing that my family would be there for me no matter what, and they would not judge.
Why share your story?
Firstly, it’s to show to my family and myself that I have grown, and that as much as it hurts sometimes, talking about things is good. Secondly it’s to let kids know that self-mutilation is never the answer. Relief is only temporary and soon like any addiction, you will need to cut more and more just for that momentary relief.
There are so many other productive and constructive ways to deal with your problems. I suggest that teens explore their emotional problems through talking with family and friends or even being open to go to a counsellor.
Here are some articles that you might like:
Helping Teens Cope with Depression
Teen burns Singaporean flag
Something’s wrong with the way we raise sons