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I carved the mark.

Content Warning: discussions of self-harm and cutting

I carved the mark.

Over and over again, I carved into my skin with X-Acto knives and clipped off razor blades so the white scars would stand out against my flesh and remind me why I was hurting, why I was seeking relief in pain. The deepest marks sit on my left forearm, clean little lines intersecting one another. Those clean lines led to years of messy rehabilitation, therapy for mental illness. I was borderline, self-destructive. I was bi-polar and reckless. They were right. I wanted to hurt myself because the world moved too fast then too slow, it made me too anxious, too depressed. The only thing I could control was food and pain. Not eating and bleeding. Those were my comforts.

I carved the mark.

I learned how from young adult novels. I was seventeen when I first came upon the idea that cutting would allow release. I won’t name names (I’ve forgotten which title it was), but the YA book was targeted at teenagers, at people my age and in my demographic, didn’t demonize self-harm or cutting. It was a thing, something a side character did for relief. I was desperate for a moment of reprieve where I didn’t have to feel the weight of the world crushing down on me. I was expected to be more because I was gifted, but no one taught me how to manage the racing thoughts and darkened nights where storm clouds thundered through my mind, telling me, “I can’t do it, I just can’t do it anymore.”

I carved the mark.

In college, when I was assigned to read another YA book specifically about cutting, I stared at the exam question and nearly cried when asked what I’d do if a student came to me with thoughts of self-harm. I couldn’t tell them it was wrong or preach how they should do better. The mirror would shatter, break into a thousand pieces I’d want to take up and use to…to seek relief.

I carved the mark.

The scars that line my arm are a reminder of how far I’ve come and that I will not return to those solitary moments in the bathroom, wishing I could stop and knowing I never really will. I did. I have. I swear. That’s probably a lie because I’m only human and humans have triggers: they see promotional items like temporary tattoos where teenage readers can plaster their skin with gashes dripping golden blood and pretend to be a glorified version of what I was—what I am—and they want so much to hurt one more time because it will mean relief, relief from anxiety, from pain, from the racing thoughts they can’t out chase. Don’t tell me to calm down, it’s a gag, it’s a game when there’s a pocket knife two feet from me and I’m thinking thoughts I haven’t considered for years. It’s my life. They’re my scars. They can’t be scrubbed away with a little alcohol. Those white lines intersect like the lifelines on my palm. I made them myself. I inked my own path. I dealt with the consequences of my actions ten times over. The question is…have they?

I carved the mark and I beg you not to.


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