A few years ago a friend of mine… Who has been my friend since the dark days (High School LOL) was staying at my house and upon getting out of the shower… Towel still wrapped around her head, pulling her eyebrows up and making her look like a Vulcan… Tracked me down and in “that” voice (you know that voice right? the I’m really concerned about you, firm because I think you’re doing something wrong, but scared your going to go off the deep end if I mention it voice… I hate that voice)
She: ” Do you need to tell me something?”
Me: “Want to be more specific?”
She: “I found a piece of broken glass in the shower”
Still Clueless as to what the point is ME: “I don’t think i even own a glass shower product? What happened? Did you get hurt?”
She: “I was just concerned… Do you have anything to tell me?”
….. OOOHhhhhh I get it Me: ” About the glass? You don’t seriously think? Still? Its been almost 18 years”
She: “Are you okay?”
Me: “Never Better”
She: “Let me see your arms”
………………… I raged inwardly a little bit, but it really has been long enough and I at this point have raised a teenage daughter of my own and understand the fear that something could be wrong… warning signs could be being missed… did I do enough?…. and I raise my sleeves and show her the skin… Scars still jagged and criss crossing over almost every inch… but they have lightened with time, light like the color of my skin…not purple and raised… and screaming out the pain and shame I never spoke out loud….
She breathes a sigh of relief and states “You know I had to ask”
… and I hugged her and looked at those arms … excused myself to my bedroom and then checked my shoulders, my stomach and my thighs… Cutters are creative…. and noticed that all of them were right where I left them on my 19th Birthday… The day I decided that no one was going to hurt me anymore… that included me…. I deserved better. I’m 38 years old, a mommy! I am a “Recovering <insert several different options>” and I survived…. Okay, continue to survive, sometimes barely.
Most days I struggle still, but I find myself looking at new ways of dealing with feelings and situations, one of them is finding help on the internet… Several years ago, when feeling super self-destructive… I googled a few choice phrases, that I was feeling, and surfaced a page www.TWLOHA.com… And I found what I was looking for that day, to get through whatever it was at the time, and have used that same resource several times and this week, as I found myself sifting through this amazing organizations site I realized that maybe I should tell someone about it… Maybe someone hasn’t found it, hasn’t talked to their preteens and teens about it, and hasn’t found another way to deal with things yet… So inspired this blog.
I remember clearly the first time I saw someone with cuts on their arms, I was fifteen, she was a friend of mine, I was already in a tailspin of drugs, drinking, running away, being in all the wrong places at all the wrong times… but we were “friends”… and I told her, that if I ever saw something like that on her again, I would cut myself too, Thinking this would deter her, because I didn’t want her to hurt herself… She did it again, and I kept my word, I don’t even think we were friends for more than a couple of weeks, but I carried something from that friendship… a new coping skill… an escape route… and the single hardest thing I would ever have to leave behind to this day. It continued for years with me… Sometimes just to feel in control, sometimes to deal with what I was feeling, eventually just to feel anything at all…
Sometimes it wasn’t so bad, Sometimes I needed stitches, Sometimes I was angry when people tried to stop me, Sometimes I was angry when no one stopped me, Sometimes I resented the “body checks” Sometimes I wish they really knew what they were looking for, because I was finding a way.
I remember clearly why I stopped… Finally someone looked at me, not with fear, not with sadness, not with concern… but with a quirky little smile… She said to me “You know, this is a choice for you, some people don’t have the choice, but you do… You don’t have to be like this… you don’t have to be sick… you could right now choose to not be “that” girl anymore… But if this is what you want, we will always be here… open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year… even on Christmas, with our Styrofoam bulbs… because you can’t be trusted with glass… and we will take care of you.. But what you want is to be loved, and no one can love you until you learn to love yourself” … No one could love me unless I loved myself… I don’t know, now as a mother, if I agree with that… because I love my children unconditionally, regardless of if they love themselves or not… but I know it is hard …. Something about that rang really true to me then… and it still does… I didn’t stop right away.
Oh god forbid I let her think she had gotten through to me, or helped me… But it changed from then.. Suddenly I thought of myself as a the little girl they were looking at… a little girl that I wouldn’t let anyone cut into her skin… she deserved better than that… no one deserved that… and I started treating her/Me differently.. it was slow.. and I had to try one more time… several more times… to see if I could still find the release I needed… but it was gone… I didn’t want to hurt anymore… and I stopped.
Once a year, My Friends… my children… and I write “Love” on our arms (Sometimes it turns into an art contest)… To remember and raise awareness for those who are hiding this horrible secret… and to remind ourselves that all we want… and we can learn to Love ourselves. You will never find me in short sleeves, or really short anything… I don’t run up to strangers and show them my arms… And I’m sure 50 years could pass… and I will still have to bear skin if there is broken glass or a razor blade in the room… But it’s because they love me…
But I can show you my arms, I learned to love myself.
So there is my random story… and my random promotion of TWLOHA.