Mental illness is something that is still misunderstood. Whether we want to admit it or not, there’s a stigma circling around those who are afflicted with a mental illness or two. While those who suffer from mental illness cope in a multitude of different ways, there’s one common act that many follow through with: cutting. Cutting is the act of taking a sharp object to ones skin and literally “cutting into it.” This is done for a variety of different reasons, it could be that the pain from the cut allows the person to focus on something other than their emotional pain. That’s just one example. Those who are cutters have most likely done this throughout their entire life. Some may have obvious signs, scars that are visible to the mere passer by, while others are strategic with their cuts and do it in places that are hidden.
For those that have visible scars on the arms, let’s say, have opened themselves up to the inevitable questions or scrutiny. When I was a teenager I used to cut myself quite often, I used to cut my arms, not thinking that the cuts would eventually scar and be visible to everyone I come in contact with. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked in a joking way, “Do you have cats or did you cut yourself, haha.” I always brush it off and say, Yea I have cats that like to play a little rough, while that’s not entirely a lie because I do have a cat that likes to scratch when he’s playing, but other scars are from a painful time in my life when I found it soothing to afflict pain on myself. I felt like I was taking control of my own pain. It hurts that friends, and strangers a like, think the idea that I’d cut myself is funny. I’m sure they didn’t mean it in a mean way, but it comes across as insensitive and I want so much to scream at them and tell them the truth, but I don’t. I brush it off and even laugh, maybe even say something like “No, not this time, that was my silly cat.” Why do I partake in the joke? I’m not sure. And I feel ashamed that I do because it’s like I’m diminishing the act of cutting, when in actuality it’s rather serious. While it may start out as something small, eventually the need to cut deeper and larger eats away at you and each time you get a little closer to the vein, a little closer to actually causing real harm, but you can’t stop.
I’m happy to say that I haven’t cut myself in a very long time. I’m in a better place than I was a year ago. I’ve overcome my struggles and am learning to deal with my past and learn from it so that I can move forward and lead a happy life. Even though cutting is in my past, I still have the scars. And that’s something I will always have. While many have faded with time, I still have some that can be easily seen if someone comes close to me. I used to wear sweaters and other long sleeve shirts as a way to hide the evidence of my self harm, but i’m comfortable with it now and If someone really wants to have a serious conversation about it, I’m ready to talk. With that said, every time I wear a dress or short sleeves there’s a part of me that worries that someone will say that joke. While they may find it harmless, it’s really quite painful. You may be friends with someone who appears to be the happiest person on earth, and they have cuts on their arms. Maybe they’re from a cat, maybe they’re not. Please refrain from the joke. It’s not funny.