The Cutting Room

Scars on “A”‘s arm

She led me to a room which was really her walk-in closet. It was maybe the size of a small bathroom. Clothes hung on each side of the closet. On the right, she organized all of her pants by style, color and hanger color.  On the left side hung sweaters, corset’s and dresses. All in order by hanger color and clothing color. There were two shelves on each side covered with stuffed animals. A light bulb clung to the white stucco ceiling. I saw bits of broken blue plastic on the hardwood floor. Then I saw hidden, in the corner, red specks and shiny, silver razors.  There were four razors lined up neatly next to each other. A stained white shirt lay next to the razors along with a black box.

“This is the cutting room,” she said.

For privacy purposes I will call her “A”. To begin the interview she asks that I shut the closet door.

Me: Why do you call your closet the cutting room?

A: Because it is the only place where I feel safe cutting. I mean, before in our old house, I did it on my bed or at my boyfriend’s, in the bathroom at this house. I can relax in here.

Me: How long have you been cutting?

A:  Three years.

Me: Why do you have a white shirt with blood on it?

A: I do not want to talk about that.

Me: When was the first time you cut yourself?

A: When I was 19, it was actually like a week after my nineteenth birthday.

Me: Where?

A: In my bedroom at my house.

Me: Where on your body?

A: My wrist, my left wrist. Three thin invisible lines.

Me: Did anyone notice?

A: The first time, no.

Me: Why did you cut yourself that first time?

A: I don’t remember exactly why, but I remember the feeling of why.

Me: What was the feeling of why?

A: I felt at that time, I don’t feel that way now, but I think I felt worthless. In fact I ended up writing worthless on my arm with a needle. You can see parts of the W on my arm.

Me: Did anyone notice when you wrote worthless on your arm?

A: My boyfriend.

Me: What was his reaction to what you did to your arm?

A: Well he threatened to break up with me; it was a very emotional time for both of us. He was really mad that I hurt myself. I was afraid he would leave me but he didn’t.

Me: Why have you continued to cut yourself?

A: Cutting isn’t something that I do every day, or every week or every month. It, for me is a coping method. Its comfort: my form of a cigarette. My scars never leave me. I used to drink, then I started smoking, then I started sleeping around. Cutting isn’t as bad to me.

Me: Do you cut in the same spot?

A: Yes and no. I started out with my wrist then, the area inside my elbow, then my right hip and then my foot. Now I cut in the same place, the same scars.

Me: Why the same scars?

A: It’s hard to explain. I think different people cut for different reasons. I cut the same scars open because the pain I feel, the emotional pain, in those moments is the same pain I have felt before. The hurt is the same. It’s like in those moments I have no control, I can’t bottle up the pain I feel anymore so I cut. I take pleasure in feeling my skin rip open, I love feeling the toughness of the skin tear open. I enjoy the feeling of the cold blood trickling down my arm. The more I bleed the better I feel.

Me: Do you realize this is weird? That this isn’t normal behavior.

A: Yes and no. To everyone else it is weird, or gross. But to me it is how I cope with life. It has become a crutch, an emotional crutch. If I don’t do it I get anxious. I do what I do to function, to go to work, to get through school, handle relationships, deal with regret, deal with emotional pain, I can’t cry unless I cut myself.

Me: Do you want help?

A: Yes and no. I hate my scars, but it’s a scary thought  not being able to cut.

“A”( 2011, November 21) Personal interview.

“ A” is a close friend  of mine. When she confided in me about her cutting I was not surprised. I noticed her band aids, and the small cuts on her finger. Looking at her no one would ever guess that she cuts herself. She is beautiful. Attractive.  Everyone describes her as sexy or a Barbie doll. I can’t understand why she would want to damage herself.  She always seems bubbly, confident and happy, yet she cuts herself. I often wonder what could hurt her so badly that she feels the need to hurt herself. Self-mutilation knows no color boundaries. “A” is black, and she is not the first black woman that I have met that engages in this type of self-destructive behavior.  Self-mutilation does not discriminate against class: “A” is neither poor, nor wealthy she is middle class. It’s not something that just happens to social butterflies or the socially inept. I did this interview in the hopes of gaining understanding and insight into what is going on in her head when she does this, the why behind those scars. I hope this interview will provide some understanding to those who have friends or relatives who are cutters.

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