The question I've been asking myself for the last month is this: Why NOW? Why now, after 20 years of being self-harm free, am I fighting self-harm urges again? Why now, after 20 years of unbroken skin, have I returned to one of the nastiest, most vicious forms of coping that I had ever taken up?
A therapist had a surprisingly simple - and illuminating - answer. I began to cut at 13 years old when I was betrayed by the abuse of my mother and stepfather. I have now been betrayed again by my body. They are different circumstances, but the mind has its own memory - and it remembers what used to work.
The keyword was "betrayal", defined in part as "to be evidenced of."
After the abuse at home, I worked for decades to make sure my core was strong enough to never be betrayed again. I emptied out entire sections of myself, shoved re-bar in them, and poured concrete into the holes. Enough that even if the concrete got chipped or dented, the foundation WOULD HOLD.
Years passed, as they do. Betrayal turned into a stinging wound, then just a scar, and eventually it simply became a part of my history. The concrete, the metal rods, were still there, but I didn't need them and I went on living my life. There was nothing new to be entered into court, to be laid on the witness table, or to show evidence of. Betrayal was no longer a thought, theme, or fear.
Then at 35, the silent prophecy that I was completely unaware I had been born with surfaced and everything changed. But this time the betrayal came from something internal. Suddenly I was the problem. Suddenly the concrete core could not sustain me, because it itself WAS a part of me.
It became evidenced - overnight - that the very body I inhabited was greatly flawed and had spent decades lying to me. My mind remembers this feeling very clearly. It is called "betrayal" and it remembered what used to work.
Betrayal was dealt with by cutting. That's what it remembered. That's what it's trying to do.
You are right, Harvey, in that suicide attempts are often anger turned inward. A loss of control when you realize that you've actually lost control. A fury about that whittles you down to a single, dead-set decision cast in a single, dead-set breath.
As I cut when betrayed before, when trying to survive the anger at my family, I cut in trying to survive the anger at my disease. It is no wonder I would want to lash out at my body. To punish it, to express the anger, to try and find some desperate control over my skin where I cannot control my DNA.
I often bemoan the famous phrase "Knowing is half the battle." Thanks, GI Joe, but I'm already pretty good at the knowing parts. It's the fighting parts of the battle I have trouble with.
But knowing this...having some kind of answer, a new light shone on my own motivations...it does help.
It helps immensely.