i’ve mentioned a few times before – most notably here and here – that i battled through an eating disorder for a pretty good portion of my adolescence and 20s. but something i’m much less forthright about is that years before i fell into the rabbit hole of anorexia and bulimia, i became ferociously addicted to tearing open my skin.
self-harm was a completely different animal for me to fight and attempt to conquer. while some aspects of it were linked to my eating disorder, most of it related only peripherally. i have no better way to explain it than, i just got hooked. anyone who has ever felt the grip of addiction can attest, to some degree, to that hopeless, helpless need, to the pathway of “I’ve got this under control” and “I could stop any time I want” to, gradually and then all at once, “Oh my God I can’t not have this in my life.”
and so at thirteen years old i became an addict. by seventeen i was running out of real estate, my hours upon hours spent attacking myself relegated ferociously to only those places where the cuts and scars couldn’t be seen.
not even a month after i turned eighteen, i entered Treatment #1.
less than a year later i started attacking my arms, my legs – things i had told myself i would never do. too obvious, too visible, too risky. my eating disorder worsened, i drank too much. i felt everything and nothing. and i tore into myself with a reckless, i-don’t-give-a-fuck abandon that would eventually lead me to Treatment #2, which slipped seamlessly into Treatment #3 when the kind folks at #2 deemed me a poor fit (i.e., a little too far gone) for their program.
I was in the beginning of my 6-month stint at Treatment #3 when i cut myself for what would become that last time.
it was February 15, 2005.
and here i am, ten years later. anniversaries like this are funny things. once i realized i had a “streak” going i began meticulously counting weeks, then months. at one year i bought myself a bracelet (which i still have). every year for the first seven years i got myself something on my “sobriety” date – a new shirt, a fun snack, something. at five years i got a custom-made necklace that i would wear every day for a few years, and after that, every February 15th. last year, when i thought i had lost that necklace i tore through my entire apartment until i finally unearthed it, tangled amid jewelry i rarely ever wore and had all but forgotten about.
and here i am. ten years. one decade. a pretty significant milestone.
but instead of it feeling celebratory, it all scares the shit out of me.
the terrifying thing about being addicted to hurting yourself is that you can never get away from your intended target. every night i go to bed in this body that i crave to attack, and every morning i wake up in it. we are inextricably linked, this body i live in and the demon in my head that yearns to destroy it. and even though it has been ten years – ten entire years – when i’m acutely distressed my default emotional response is to want to dig into myself.
ten years. and i am still frighteningly attracted to sharp things.
ten years. and when i feel like my heart is breaking, i am compelled to break open my skin.
ten years. and some days i am still that 13-, 17-, 20-year-old girl, literally shaking with need, and the best i can do is close my eyes and bite the inside of my cheek and remember, recall, but try not to fantasize. because that is too dangerous.
because it takes only eleven steps from my bedroom door until i am standing in front of the butcher block stocked with a plethora of tantalizingly sharp edges.
because there is no “only this once.”
because ten years is a long time. and while it may seem like a badge of honor, some days it feels like an albatross. like a thread that has been stretched just one inch too long, my timeline is fraying, spinning in upon itself, threatening to snap.
so i try not to think too hard. i try not to remember too much. but i try to remember enough that the ten years still seems worth it.
ten years. and i’m still afraid to let it feel permanent. because above all else, i am always myself. and this is part of my story; some chapters never end.