15 May 2016

. . . by a thousand cuts



I’ve seen a lot of photos of people cutting themselves, although I’ve never met anyone in person who cuts – but then again, how would I know?

I have wondered why people do this. From my reading, in most, cases, it’s a reminder of what it’s like to feel when the emotions become numbed. It also tends to relieve built up stress and anxiety.

“I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything”

I get it. I would never do it, but I understand it. The lyrics of ‘Hurt,’ give another hint – by the wound, one might, even for a moment, forget why they came to this point. But as the song says, it doesn’t work – “but I remember everything”

But I believe that that some of us also cut ourselves – just not with needles, knives and other sharp objects.

We cut ourselves with our minds, our memories – because we remember everything – whether we want to or not.

What are these memories that keep haunting us?

The people we’ve needlessly hurt and deeply regret hurting.

The people who have hurt us.

I often say, I never forget two things – a hurt and a kindness shown to me. 

Regrets – missed opportunities, failures of all kinds, roads taken and not taken. 

Too many things to give specific examples. 

We remind ourselves we are weak because we know well-adjusted people deal with their past, make their peace with it, and move on. We curse our weakness and continue a never-ending cycle of self-recrimination. It’s always our fault.

We can’t move on because our memories, our brains, won’t let us. It’s part and parcel of mental illness, especially depression and OCD.

“The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master” – Robin Sharma

So how do I cut myself on the inside?

I forget where I put my car keys a minute before, but remember the girl whose heart I broke when I didn’t take her to her prom 36 years ago. And hate myself all over again.

Over and over again. And in some way, it comforts me. If I hate myself for the things I have done, then I realize I have a conscience – which is good. If I hate myself for those things, in a way, I’m also asking God for forgiveness. It hurts – as it should.

“See, brother Ass . . . thus it is becoming for you to bear the whip.” – St. Francis of Assisi while scourging himself. 

I’m no saint. That’s the point.

These memory cuts not only come in the middle of the night, they can be triggered by a smell, a sound, a photo, a line in a book or a song. 

You can’t see the blood, but the cut is there, bleeding. . . endlessly. 

“Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair.”

If I can feel the pain then, by suffering, I can cleanse my soul. But my hands, like when I had OCD, can never come clean. I am sorry. 

I am always sorry. I apologize for many things, often several times a day – things I have no reason to apologize for. It’s partly hoping for forgiveness for some forgotten sin, partly to fend off anticipated hostility.

I can still hear and feel, the reproaches of the nuns, classmates, my father. They still hold the knife that cuts in silence; the wounds that decades don’t heal. 

I curse myself out loud for the same reason. I drop a piece of fruit on the kitchen floor – “I’m such a jackass.” I strip a screw drilling into a fence – “Christ, I suck.”

“Held in the clutches of an unknown vise, the line of the damned dragged on; their silent screams and unuttered prayers known only to the demons of the black waves and the night-wind.” – H.P. Lovecraft.

Those who cut physically and mentally both hide their scars from the world and suffer their pain and redemption in solitude. They are told they hold the key to their own prison. But they can’t find it. Not until they learn how to forgive themselves. 

“If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way.”

Ready? Take a look. (Pinterest)

And, PS, in case you were wondering: