Monday, August 8, 2011

Opportunity Cost, Part 2

Yesterday, I discussed the opportunity cost of shaving my legs.  Today, I explore why that cost is so high.

When I was five, I began beating myself with bricks.  At six, suicide ideation became a daily reality.  At fourteen, I began to cut.

Initially, I dismantled safety razors, carefully prying apart the plastic jacket with a butter knife to get at the blades beneath.  I would remove the wires and pop the blades out of the back of the cartridge.

By sixteen, I was buying packages of replacement blades.

I can tell you all sorts of things about cutting.  These are facts which are completely irrelevant to my daily life now, but which were oh, so important discoveries then.

Single-edged razor blades pull at your skin.  They snag and your skin piles up, like water behind a dam.  They cut, but not cleanly, not smoothly.

Double-edged blades were my favorite.  They slip through skin effortlessly.

Knives are wholly ineffective.

Broken glass is a waste.  It's difficult to get an effective grip.  What more, it tears at the skin.  Somehow, glass cuts most effectively when you're picking up pieces of a broken jar--clean, smooth, neat cuts that happen accidentally.  Intention?  Ruins the effect.

Third degree burns are a waste of time.  Skin melts, nerve endings are destroyed.  Nothing is felt.  Hair doesn't grown back through third degree burn scars.  The follicles have been destroyed along with the nerve endings in that soupy-charred mess of melted skin.

Anger leads to fast, frantic, thoughtless slicing.  You feel nothing as you watch the skin separate from skin, a widening chasm of white beneath white until petals of red begin to bloom.  Running together, they form pools, rivers, a flood.

Anger leads to deep cuts as carelessness sets in along with the need for relief.  That is what leads to stitches.  The scar across the back of my hand is anger.  Perhaps I ought to write "scars."  The one I gave myself and the ones given me by the emergency room staff.

Tiny white dots that run the length of the more prominent scar.  Eight on either side.  From the needle that sewed me shut.  Two scars for each stitch.  But these scars are ridicule and disgust.

Pain is slow and deliberate.  It is a carefulness in the use of instruments.  The gentle sound a blade makes as it unzips tightly knit skin.  Pain is me and mine.  Thoughtful and deliberate.  For year, everyone had been telling me I do not have a right to feel hurt.  I'd begun to believe it myself.

But no one could deny the injuries that marred my forearm.  No one could pretend I had not been hurt.  But still they would not listen.  So, I wore long sleeves and winter coats.  In the summer.  When the thermometer broke 100.  These are me.  It was the only way I knew to affirm my own pain.

Fear is mere scratches.  Just enough to draw blood.  To settle the panic attacks.  To overcome the insomnia and sleep for two hours straight.  Two hours.  Uninterrupted.  Blessed relief.

It's 2:00am.  Monday, August 12, 2002.  I work third shift.  I am sitting in my car on my lunch break.  It is a desperation to break the cycle of sexual abuse, present since that summer when I was five.  It is pain.  And fear that I will never escape.

And I hear an audible voice, whispering into my right ear.

"This is not who I created you to be.  This is not the life I have for you.  I want so much more for you than this. Your identity is in me.  This is not who I created you to be, and you will never do this again."

And I never cut again.  I figured out how to affirm my pain in healthy ways.  I figured out that is okay to say, "I'm angry."  I found people who were willing to be witnesses, who affirmed my experiences, who wanted to know me, and who allowed me to know them.

But no one really gets this part of my history.  No one really gets why the celebration is so important.  A family full of addicts and none of them legitimates my experience as having anything in common with their abuse of alcohol, or crack cocaine, or methamphetamine.  None of them legitimates my experience of healing as having any similarities with their continued efforts at recovery.

And unlike some who have AA or others who have NA, cutting, unlike drinking or drug use, is an utterly solitary experience.  Stopping cutting did not require a community of support.  After I stopped, there was no risk of relapse.

Support groups do not exist.  No one wants to admit they do it.  Some have tried to create communities of support.  I have never seen it thrive.  Too much is hidden.

So, I celebrate alone.  Even when I can convince others to join me in the revelry, I celebrate alone.  Nine years and I celebrate alone.  Because those who haven't been there do not understand.  Those who have been there will not admit it.

I celebrate alone.

But I celebrate, because it is infinitely worth celebrating.

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