So in spite of the fact that I’ve laid my soul pretty bare for you guys, there are some things I haven’t told you. I’m going to tell you one of them now. I know, you’re like, “elm, you’ve told us so much and there’s more?” Yes. There’s more.
I’m a cutter. I know, gross, right? Who DOES that? Who cuts their own skin? That’s for teenagers with angsty feelings, right? Adults don’t do that, do they?
They do, actually. Or I do, anyway. But not all the time. Let me explain.
I’m a very clumsy person. I trip a lot. I bump into stuff a lot. I’ve kind of always been this way. I went over the handlebars of my bike when I was around 10 because I’ve never been very coordinated. And when you fall, a lot of times, you get cuts and scrapes. And they start to heal and you get scabs. And they itch. And you know it’s gonna hurt if you scratch, but you do it anyway, and there’s something satisfying about peeling the scab off your skin.
“God, elm, gross.” I hear you. It is gross.
I know. It is gross, but the pain it brings is so fucking soothing. It’s a pain that won’t kill me but still brings some of the pleasure that cutting my own skin will bring when I’m in my darkest hour. It’s a pain that lets me know I’m still alive without taking that final step. It’s soothing. I know other people do the same thing but for entirely different reasons.
My dermatologist has asked me what some of my scars are, and I’ve had to be honest with her about it. When I’ve had chunks cut out of my skin, she’s begged me to not pick at it until she knows if she’ll have to go back in to take out more after the one time I let the wound dry out so it would become a scab and she saw it. She asked me why I did it, I put her in touch with my therapist, she took another piece of my skin to make sure the cancer wasn’t still there, and it took everything I had to not let it dry out again. I don’t know why I do it. But I can’t help it.
There’s something about peeling the scab away from the skin, the pulling, the pain, the blood, knowing that it will heal over and I can start over. Knowing that this is the one kind of pain I can inflict on myself that isn’t going to be permanent, other than a scar. It’s something I do so I don’t do something worse. Scars don’t scare me.
When I haven’t been clumsy, and there are no scabs, I’ve cut myself. Only shallow cuts, never anything that will kill me. Those are the cuts I’ve made when I need to feel the relief, but I’m not ready to die. Those are the cuts I’ve made when I’m ready to heal again. The ones where I need to feel the pain, but I’m not ready to die.
There’s a spot on my index finger that I couldn’t leave alone after hearing the news about Chris Cornell this morning. He is proof that money and fame don’t buy you happiness or protect you from the bullshit that depression is. I burned myself trying to get a piece of pasta that fell out of a pan over a week ago. I told you I’m clumsy. It hasn’t healed yet, probably because I keep messing with it.
But it’s better than the alternative, right?