It’s Just a Phase

If you know me, you know something that I love is the moon.

It always fascinated me as a child; I remember staring at it out the car window or my bedroom window, watching the phases grow larger and then smaller.

And it’s the phases of the moon that have particularly become most relevant to me in my life, the deeper symbolism behind it all.

The reason I have come to relate so much to the phases of the moon, is because of my history of cutting (and yes… I promise I will make the two connect!)

For those of you suddenly feeling uncomfortable about the topic of self-mutilation, self-harm, cutting etc… I’m not going to say sorry about it, because mental health needs to become less of a taboo topic and more freely spoken about. So for that reason, I invite you to keep reading. The more we know, the more we can understand and help those in our lives who are struggling!

The Beginning Phase

My own thoughts to cut started back when I was in middle school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. My mom had been diagnosed with terminal cancer the year before, and I was still struggling everyday because of it all.

I had no name or even an idea yet of what these internal, emotional issues I was dealing with every day were. How could I? I was only 13 so at the time I still didn’t fully know what depression was supposed to look like or feel like; or that those awful bouts of feeling like the world was ending and I couldn’t breathe and I thought I was having a heart attack were really panic attacks.

Sitting in health class one day in 7th grade we were in the part of our curriculum where we learned about eating disorders, depression, suicide, and self-mutilation (which for the record: suicide and self-harm are two separate things. However, sometimes self-harm can morph itself into suicidal thoughts and tendencies; it’s just good to know they are initially two separate, but both very serious, things.)

There it was, I finally had a name to the dark face I was dealing with.

It was scary and relieving at the same time to finally know that what I was feeling, this urge to cut myself, was called -self-mutilation; and it was something so many people also dealt with! So I wasn’t going crazy like I worried about all the time.

Once I knew what it was, I did some research in the school library (because yes… I’m old and this was before the days of Googling everything…) and I felt more able to handle all of the feelings I was dealing with in a healthier outlet.

Now I don’t recommend this at all, because I think everyone should talk to someone in their family or a friend or a teacher, or whoever if they are feeling the urge to cut themselves, or are very depressed, or having panic attacks and/or anxiety. But just for me, I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about it. At the time, my sister was dealing with her own emotional demons stemming from my mom’s cancer, and my dad was so stressed and busy and sad with it all too, that I didn’t want to bring that on him. My older brother was currently living in France as he served a Christian mission for the LDS Church, so I couldn’t really talk to him about it either. And of course, I didn’t want my mom to know, because she was the one with cancer. And honestly, for most of the time I didn’t even know what the hell I was feeling or how to even express it, even if I wanted to.

So, brave little 13 year old me decided to deal with things on my own, and I internalized it all. I created ways to calm myself down when I was feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, or the dark thoughts of grabbing any sharp objects in my house and cutting myself. I’m not even sure how I figured it out at such a young age, but I figured out a way of what I can only call meditating, to ground myself when my thoughts began spinning and spiraling to dark places.

Honestly, I can only attribute it to God – hearing my constant pleas for help and peace. He saved me more than I think I’ll ever even know.

The First Cut

Now, fast forward to about 3 years ago.

I was deep in the belly of the beast of my miserable marriage. My husband was a narcissistic, abusive, alcoholic. We had a horrible fight the night before, similar to most nights, and I was feeling worn completely raw from the physical and verbal abuse and trauma.

Standing there in the kitchen, I was food prepping for my new Whole30 diet I had decided to start a few weeks prior, because I felt like the only thing I could control in my life anymore was food. I was cutting some sweet potatoes and I accidentally sliced the top of my middle left finger.

Instantly it hurt and the blood went everywhere on the cutting board. But in a strange way, it made me feel a little better. It sounds so weird and so barbaric, I know, but feeling that sting of the cut and then seeing the blood released from me made me feel better. (Which is actually from the dopamine and endorphins that are released in your brain when you cut yourself. This is your body’s way of trying to trick your mind into not feeling the pain you’re feeling; instead you feel that quick shot of happiness from the endorphins and you feel “good” from the dopamine.)

So… I cut another finger. I only just barely sliced the top of my left index finger, but again I felt that almost euphoric feeling.

Then, I panicked and was like HOLY SH*T WHAT AM I DOING? and I cleaned my hands off and bandaged both fingers. I felt weird, and I felt ashamed for doing that I had just done… but I couldn’t shake the feeling of relief I felt when I did it.

Well, that was the gateway cut for me, to begin a short lived but very dark period in my life. Quite honestly, I think that for sure was my rock bottom. I was beyond depressed, I had been isolated by my partner from my family and my friends, and I had no outlet or way to deal with all the trauma and pain.

I continued to randomly cut my fingers, because it was easy. Eventually, I started using razor blades to cut on my upper right hip, and then moved to my inner left elbow. I’m not sure why I chose where I cut, it was just where I felt inspired to do so in the moments it happened.

And when I say “inspired” it was not an uplifting thing, it was quite the opposite; it was as if my body were taken over by a very dark presence and I was out of my body watching myself do it. It’s so hard to explain.

Finally, one night after I had cut my arm, I broke down completely in tears in the bathroom, and was afraid I would wake the sleeping drunken beast in the room, so I went downstairs. I felt so crushingly alone, as if the entire universe were pressing down on me. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t even think straight.

I texted the one person I knew would answer, and I knew would be there for me in that moment: my twin sister.

I can’t remember exactly what I had texted her, but it was something along the lines of “I’m Ok, but I just wanted to reach out to someone and let you know I cut my arm tonight. I’m just feeling really sad.”

Of course, immediately she called me. It was around midnight from what I can recall. The worry and panic in her voice made me feel ashamed for what I had been doing, because I felt awful I was hurting her by hurting myself. She talked to me for awhile, and listened while I cried, and I promised her I would never do it again; and if I ever felt the urge to do it, I would call her. The most important thing she said, though, was that she loved me and would always be there. That snapped me out of the isolated gas-lighted prison I had been trapped in, and I realized she would always be there for me; and had been this whole time. All I needed to do was reach out. I hadn’t been alone, like I’d been manipulated and controlled to feel… of course my rock, my twin sister, would never leave my side.

Having her keeping me accountable, definitely helped me control my urges to cut. It made me think more logically about what I was feeling, and then of course I never wanted to hurt her again by having to tell her I had cut myself again.

It made me think of this quote I heard once…

If you can’t tell your best friend what you’re                                                                    doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it!

Now, again fast forward to the present. The last time I cut myself was what I just described, 3 years ago. Granted, the urge to do it still rears its’ ugly head every now and again, but I have the emotional stability and strength to not go there again for relief.

Also, I attribute a lot of my recovery to therapy, self-love, and making an effort to only surround my life with positive and uplifting people and activities. I also finally plan on starting EMDR therapy, which specializes in PTSD  and trauma specifically. I will definitely post about that when I start!

Just a Phase

The reason I love the moon so much, is because of the symbolism behind the phases.

The moon constantly fluctuates from being whole, to diminishing into completely darkness. Yet, no matter what, it always phases back to become whole again, and back to it’s full light potential.

This resonates with me, because that part of my life, that uttermost darkness I was barely surviving in; it was just a phase. It was not my forever.

So I have been able to slowly build myself back up, to come back from the darkness, and become whole again in the light. It’s symbolic of reincarnation, a new beginning. An ever forward moving cycle of life.

Because of this, I have been considering for a long time about getting a tattoo in that spot on my left inner elbow (which I briefly talked about here) which would help me remember where I am now, and not remember that dark phase before. I have a tiny scar there, and wanted to put something there that would inspire me and strengthen me, and remind me that I am in a new phase of my life, a wonderful and amazing phase; instead of remembering how sad and hurt I was when I created that scar.

I finally went, a month ago, and got my tattoo. If you’re in the Salt Lake area, Alex Gregory is fantastic and I recommend her to anyone!

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This is the day I got it! Right when I walked out of the tattoo parlor

If you, or anyone you know, are having thoughts of cutting, suicide, anxiety, depression, and feeling impossibly alone… I urge you to please reach out to someone! Don’t deal with it alone like I did, there are so many resources and so many people who love you and want to help you!

Also, if you are in an abusive and/or dangerous relationship, there are resources for you too. There are places you can go to be safe.

I will list a bunch of hotline numbers you can reach out to you, and I beg of you to please do. Also, I know many of you don’t know me, but I am here as a resource too. I will help you as best as I can, and get you directed to where you can go for the best advice or care possible. My email is: aly.paintedwithgold@gmail.com

Remember, it only needs to be a phase. It doesn’t need to be your forever. The darkness can always change orbit again, and you can become full and whole again in the light.

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National Hotlines:

 

Utah Hotlines:

  • The CrisisLine : 801-587-3000
  • Utah Domestic Violence Coalition : 1-800-897-LINK (5465)