I never thought I would write this story. It’s something I never wanted to be made public. But I’ve recently been thinking about my journey and decided it’s time to confess to something I no longer do.
I am a former cutter. I used to self-mutilate. (As I type this, my chest tightens with tension and anxiety.)
The key word here is not “cutter” but “former.” I didn’t realize until just this moment that it is completely in my past.
When I was 15, I started showing signs of depression. I felt it in everything I did. I was aching with pain from the inside out but had no coping skills to help me handle all the awful emotions I was feeling. I thought I was fat, ugly, a failure, you name it. I was emotionally abusive to myself and didn’t know how to stop.
Then, after a particularly harrowing day of fighting off my personal demons, I had a stray thought pop into my head; one I had never had before nor heard anyone ever even talk about. “What if I grabbed those scissors and swiped the sharp edge against my arm? I deserve it. I’m an idiot. I wonder what it would feel like.” I went for it.
As a teenager in the grips of a deep depression, it was like nothing I’d ever felt before. All the pain and angst that had been building inside me finally seemed to have a place to go. The aggressive stinging that came from my angry swipe was oddly comforting. But now I had a problem.
“What am I doing?! Am I crazy?!” I was absolutely sure I was crazy. All of a sudden, the burden of pain had been lifted, only to be immediately followed by a more pressing problem. I never felt more alone or afraid in my life.
Now, this was the year 2000. Mental health stigmas were in full force back then so nothing was talked about. Living in a town of only 500 residents, I’d never even heard the words “self-mutilation.” I did not know (nor would I have even guessed) that other people actually cut themselves on purpose as a coping mechanism. Or that through talking with a physician about medication and regular therapy, people were able to overcome it.
I just didn’t know. The only thing I knew was that I had to be crazy because no logical person would want to do that to themselves. From then on out, I had a go-to when things got tough. I got good at hiding it, keeping it in unnoticeable places, but I knew I couldn’t keep up the “My Friend’s Cat Scratched Me” facade for long.
Luckily, I have amazing parents who wouldn’t give up on me, whether I liked it or not. They eventually convinced me to take Prozac about a year after my first “incident.” When I finally started to feel “normal” again, I could hardly believe the change in my emotions. I wasn’t crying as much, I could think more clearly, and I had a generally happy outlook on life. I’d wonder to myself, “How did I ever do that to my body?” It was an amazing feeling.
I haven’t looked back since. I’ve had some bad days over the years, but as long as I stay on my anti-depressant, I don’t feel the urge to cut. I’m now taking one specifically for Major Depressive Disorder (which I was diagnosed with about a year and a half ago) and my life has never been better.
It’s been more years than I can even remember since the last time I cut, and that is an amazing accomplishment for me. I struggled with using it as a coping mechanism for years but finally figured out the right balance of therapy and medication. And once I found out I was not the only person who felt the way I did, I was so relieved.
Being able to talk about my issues and feeling like I had a support system were the keys to me getting completely mentally healthy again. I’m hope by telling my story I can reach someone who might feel like they’re crazy, too, realize they’re not, and get the help they need.
Melanie McKinnon is a wife, mother of 3 plus 1 in heaven, and a barre fitness instructor. She loves writing, Diet Pepsi, hugging her kids and dating her husband. On her blog, Melanie Meditates, you will find subscription box reviews, her experience with anxiety, depression and loss, stories about her life as a mother, and some tips for maintaining sanity. She hopes to encourage and inspire anyone fighting a daily battle.
22 thoughts on “Confessions of Former Cutter”
Thank you for sharing your story. Many of my depression issues evaporated as I entered adult hood, but I was also desperate enough to cut a handful of times in my teens. The rush and relief of emotional pain was invigorating. It was also scary. I searched for resources and began to realize how harmful the path could be. I am thankful that I was able to recognize it as addictive and stop it before it even really started. There are many who have much longer battles.
I appreciate your bravery in sharing something so vulnerable. It was people sharing their stories that saved me. I pray your story will bless others, and be healing for you!
Thank you so much for your comment, Lizzy. That really means a lot. I’m glad you were able to find your way out of it, too. I hope you’re having a good day!
Hi Melanie! I lived (and still live) in that same small town as you. I watched you and your siblings grow up and had no idea this was happening in your life. I am very thankful you have shared your story as it is also happening to other 13 and 14 yr olds in our community now. My daughter attends the middle school and has come home claiming it’s the “thing” the girls are doing to cope. I am also very worried about my daughter, who is also struggling with depression. I have contacted the school with no help yet. My daughter also wanted to write a paper on teen depression and they told her it was an inappropriate subject. SAD! Thank you again for sharing your story! It helps me to understand, know what to look for and how to deal with this illness.
Thank you so much for your comment, Jay! That really means a lot to me. I can’t believe the school wouldn’t let your daughter write about teen depression! It’s such an important subject to talk about. Keep talking to her about it and keep the lines of communication open. It’s a fine line of talking without pushing, but if she knows you’re there for her, she’ll come to you when she needs you. I know that was the case with my parents. Just knowing they loved me no matter what was enough to let them help me. I really appreciate your comment. Email me and we can catch up!
We have a lot in common, besides a diet pepsi addiction. I’m so glad you’re parents didn’t give up and that you’re able to talk about this now. It does and will continue to help other people.
Thank you so much, Tammy. I really appreciate that. 🙂
Melanie, I’m so glad you got the help you needed. I hope your story reaches millions of people with the hope they need. I struggled with undiagnosed depression, ptsd, and addiction for almost 2 decades before I entered recovery. I understand the enormous burden and how our brothers and sisters continue in hopelessness. But I also understand the freedom and joy of recovery. May your life serve as a beacon of healing. Supporting you all the way, new friend. Blessings to you.
Thank you so much, Lori! That means so much to me. I’m so glad you were able to find a way out of your depression and other struggles. Keep taking care of yourself! Hugs. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story. I have a son that I recently found out he is cutting. It brakes my heart as a parent because I love him so much. I wish I could take his depression away.
I am at a lost on how to handle it but I tell him how much I love him and that I don’t want him to hurt himself.
I always reassure him that I am here for him no matter what.
Your story gives me a perspective as to why this is done.
I hope he to can realize that he doesn’t have to cut.
I’m so sorry about your son. It’s such a hard thing to see someone you love engaging in that activity. Have you suggested anti-depressants to your son? That was immensely helpful for me and therapy is also very helpful. Good luck with you situation. I hope your son feels better soon!
If your son (or you for that matter!) would like to talk to someone who struggled with cutting, eating disorders, addiction, self harm, panic disorders, etc please let me know. I am an activist and mentor and would love to help in any way I can so he knows she isn’t alone. Kendra.email@example.com
Melanie – your story was shared on a local (SF Bay area) reporters Facebook Page (Frank Somerville KTVU) and a couple things stood out – how brave it was for you to share your story so publicly and how many people have replied on that site that they cut too. So clearly this needs to be talked about out loud and in public. Thank you!
Thank you for letting me know about the article and where it was! It was so great to see such a great response to it. And thank you for your kind words. They really mean a lot to me. Take care! 🙂