About “A Distorted Dream”: The Urge to Cut

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My wrist is daring me. It’s too beautiful, without a single scratch in years. I don’t deserve such perfection on my body. It’s taunting me. Just one cut would be enough. 

A single imperfect cut breaking the skin. – “A Distorted Dream and Other Works”

When I first sat down to write what would become my first short story, I didn’t know how it would turn out. It began as a series of blogs, I think it was inspired by a prompt. When I posted the segment that included the above excerpt in the middle, I expected outrage. Confusion, for sure, and concern from my friends. What I didn’t expect were the parents who messaged me in private, telling me that what I shared helped them understand the struggles of their own kids.

When I write, I don’t set out with a goal to inspire. I don’t sit down and think “How controversial can I get and who will give me the biggest reaction?” I just write. I write what goes on in my head, my heart and what’s weighing on my soul. Like I said in my previous post, I write to validate my life.

What you might be wondering, if you’ve already read or are planning to read the full story: Yes, the short story is based on my life. The little girl with the curls at the beginning of the story is me, all the way to the very last sentence. It’s taken me years to overcome what I describe in my story. Understanding my mom’s illness when I was in my late teens was a huge factor in helping me understand that I didn’t deserve the treatment I describe in the flashbacks.

So, the good news is that I haven’t been suicidal since I was a teenager.

Here’s the real reason behind this post, and it may make you uncomfortable.

There have been days in the last couple of years when I had the urge to cut. Before I go on to try to explain why, I want to make it clear that I never did but the urge was still there, under the surface. I don’t think my story is unique nor does it represent other people’s battles. It’s my story. This is my blog and I finally feel comfortable talking about it.

It’s no secret that I get overwhelmed easily. I don’t know if I would call myself an empath but I do strongly feel everything around me, and I’ve spent most of my life unable to make decisions without considering every single consequence in the life of every single party involved in one single decision I would have to make. I spend a lot of my time thinking, being overwhelmed, and trying to regain control of my life. I spent most of my teenage years numb, unable to make sense of my life as it was juxtaposed to the lives of my friends.

When I say that I have the urge to cut, it doesn’t mean that I want to hurt myself. There was a day in the last few months when I felt like my entire life was being violated and I didn’t know where to begin to take back control. I felt unsafe in my own apartment, betrayed and just downright numb – at the same time, I had to get up every morning, go to work and fulfill my duties as a functional adult. In a brief moment when it felt like the world was collapsing around me and I didn’t know where to begin, I felt a phantom sensation on my right wrist.

I knew exactly what it was.

It was my need to regain control of something in my life manifesting itself as the only sensation my brain associated with control from my teenage years.

That sensation, which I describe in detail in my story, is something that made me feel alive because I was becoming numb, teetering on the edge of shutting down completely.

But I didn’t.

I’ve found new ways to cope. I no longer get so overwhelmed that the numbness washes over my entire being. But the days that I come close are the days my brain tries to trick me with that urge.

I’m no longer the lost teenager. Hell, I’m no longer the lost 20-something, spiraling out of control.

I know my place in life.

But once in a while, that urge finds itself to the surface. I used to feel ashamed of it, suppressing it and never talking about it.

These days, if it ever resurfaces, I pause to try to understand why.

Why do I feel that way? What about my life is out of control? What can I do about it, if anything?

And I take deep breaths, ask for help if I need to and continue without a single self-inflicted cut tearing up the fabric of my life.

The DVR Trigger

Tossing and turning, the night is a blur of nightmares and tension eating up at me. The alarm rings, causing me to jolt up off the bed, reach for it and groan at the same time.  He reaches out to me to calm me down and then hit snooze on his alarm.

My head hits the pillow again, eyes closed, not wanting to face the world. Some days, I stay awake to talk to him as he’s getting ready for work.

Not today.

I fall back asleep, if you can call it sleep, as I wait for him to leave. I feel him going back and forth, getting ready for work.

Sometimes he’ll linger longer because he’s worried about me.

Today is one of those days.

He gives me a kiss on the forehead and leaves.

I doze in and out of sleep for another hour or two and then get up to attack the day.

“I will have a good day” I tell myself.

A bowl of cereal and my laptop accompany me to the same spot on the couch. The dreaded couch.

I check e-mails, open up the saved job listings and work on another e-mail to another job.

A wave of optimism takes over me as I talk to friends.

“I can do this. It will all be OK.”

After an hour of being productive, I decide to take a break. I put my laptop to the side and grab the remote to watch an episode of ‘Supernatural’ on my DVR. (I’m addicted you know).

Within 30 seconds, my DVR reboots. For the next half hour, I battle with the DVR as it refuses to work or constantly reboots.

I can’t even get my DVR to work.

How can I fix my life?

An overwhelming feeling of doom and failure overtake me. The more I try to throw it off my shoulders, the heavier it gets.

I sink deeper into the sofa, into dusk, into my nightmares until he comes home.

Another day wasted.

He holds me close until I drift off to sleep.

Let’s try again tomorrow.