Self-harm is usually seen as a dark phenomena, undertaken by troubled individuals as a cry for help. Webs of secrecy, lies, and social taboos stand in the way of the individual expressing why they carry out violence on themselves. It can be for different reasons: maybe to relieve some inner pain, to see the blood, to feel something. Here, Lucía talks openly about why she cuts herself, and her personal relationship with self-harm.
I started self-harming when I was twelve. The first time I did it with a fork; I drew two tiny lines on my left wrist. I was scared to death that my parents would see it, as I did it before lunch and it was summer and I couldn’t wear long sleeves.
The aim in self-harm for me is the whole process: cutting, enjoying the pain, numbing away the reason that triggered me to do it in the first place. Although if I’m honest, I don’t remember most of the reasons that led me to one cut or the other. It gets blocked, and all you have is the scar. Realising everything is full of blood, cleaning everything, noticing I’m still bleeding, trying to make it stop, and the most wonderful pain I’ve ever felt: the pain of the days after, where the cut is still fresh and it hurts when you move your arm.
When I first did it I think it was kind of an experiment. I wanted to know what it felt like, but I don’t really know why. I wasn’t feeling especially sad, neither was I deep into my thoughts. I wasn’t depressed or anything. The fork was the first pointy thing I found, I just took it and did it in a kind of ceremonious way. I chose my wrist because it’s close to the other hand that is holding the scissors, or fork or blade, and because the pain you feel there is immediate (the skin in the inner arm is thin)—and mostly because I just had to turn my arm a little bit to see it.
My most beloved instrument is a razor blade I had previously disassembled from a shaving blade. It became a complete ritual for me. Whenever I was feeling down about anything, or I just felt the urge to do it, I would close the door in my room, sit down in my bed, or do it standing if I had a big urge; and cut a straight line, parallel to my arm. I always did it this way. If you do it parallel to your wrist it doesn’t bleed as much, and the scar fades after a year or less. By the time I was fifteen or sixteen I was well practiced and I didn’t do it as often—not everyday—but I started doing it a lot deeper, and in the middle of my arm, before the elbow, but right over the veins. I knew I wasn’t going to die—you have to cut a lot to bleed to death. But I would bleed a lot, and the scars haven’t faded yet. I have thought about suicide sometimes, but I knew it was something that I was feeling momentarily. I think I would be stupid to kill myself right now. Even when I’m really sad and crying all the time, I know I will stop feeling like this and I wouldn’t want to miss out on all the wonderful things life has. Every day has good things, and just because I feel like shit some days doesn’t mean I want to die. Well, I do sometimes, but doesn’t everyone?
I think it has to do with control. When I cut, I decide how deep, or when, and I also choose when I stop. The thing is that, for me, it has always been a thing I had complete control over—excluding the fact that sometimes I felt like I had to cut and if I didn’t have any instruments around I would, for example, just go to the school bathroom and cut myself with the toilet paper dispenser. But only I would decide on it.
When they see my scars, most people just stare for a few seconds and then turn away. Some people ask what happened, and when I say I cut myself they never say anything. But when the cuts are fresh and people see them, God, you should see their faces. It makes me want to laugh, almost, they look scared… as if I was going to cut them or something. One day at uni it was really hot and I took off my sweater. After class a girl came up to me and told me that she had seen the cuts and said, “You shouldn’t be doing it.” And I thought, who are you to tell me what to do? It’s my body and I don’t see a problem with it. People act concerned sometimes, but it’s fake concern. Not once has anyone asked what triggered it, how I felt about it, if I liked it. I don’t expect people to understand, but would you make a smoker promise you he won’t smoke anymore just because you feel it’s unhealthy?
I’ve don’t regret cutting myself or having permanent scars on my arms. It’s something I wanted to do at the time and the scars are part of who I am. Every cut I have made, every night of crying and not understanding myself has made me, well, me. And I’m happy with that,.I know my ways might not be the best to deal with rejection or sadness or whatever I was dealing with, but I think in a way it has made me learn a lot of things. My mother is an alcoholic, and I didn’t understand, until now, that is just her way. I think it has made me learn, amongst other things, that everybody hurts themselves in one way or other and even if you want to help, simply telling them to stop is not helping.
I was attracted to cutting myself partly because it was ‘bad’ and ‘forbidden’, but I also think that some people just hurt themselves more than other people do—whether it is by cutting or by any other way, physical or mental, and maybe I am one of those people. I remember for a while I would burn myself with cigarettes, which is kind of dangerous in the sense that a burn can easily get infected. But I liked the pain so i ignored the ‘danger’. Also, having small burns on your hands after going out is not that weird, right? I have been doing that lately.
I think that cutting myself has a psychological side but it has a physical part in it too, because I like the way I feel when I do it—the rush I get just before I start cutting and everything that comes afterwards—but I also like the pain. I think it’s like any other addiction. Maybe it’s more psychological than others where the physical part is really pushing the person to his limits to get what he’s addicted to, but I also think it’s very relative. I mean, when you’re the one who’s addicted to something, you can justify it any way you want; you can try and discern where it comes from or if it’s psychologically or physically stronger, but in any way you’re still addicted to it. And it all could be in your head, it could be completely psychological, but you still get a headache if you don’t do it so I think the line is very thin…
I haven’t cut lately because I haven’t felt like it, but I’m sure I will probably do it again if I feel the urge. I understand how most people see it as a bad thing, but it’s something that I like and I don’t think I harm myself that much. I do like having something that is ‘my secret’ and I don’t have to share with others if I don’t want to. But I felt very lonely sometimes not being able to talk about it openly or just being able to take my jacket off. Also, I think I’ve learned to cope with bad things or thoughts in different ways. I am more mature now, I think.