I was never abused as a child. I never saw someone die. I was never part of a violent accident or tragic event. I lived a normal sheltered life filled with warmth and support, and I hated myself for it.
Inside of me lived these ideas, and this pain that had no shape or size, just a weight. A heavy pain that would drag me down at points and I couldn’t explain why.
Why do I feel this way?
When I was thirteen I started cutting myself. I did it because I wanted to give myself a story, a painful past to look back on. I was both right and wrong. I look back on that past and feel shame. I wasn’t really depressed, I just needed a release. And to be honest it was a bit of fad. My thirteen year old boyfriend cut himself and I thought it made him tragic and romantic. My best friend at the time also cut herself, because she had an even heavier depression that would eventually drive us apart.
But as shameful as that time was, and I say that only because I never felt like I had any real issues that justified me cutting myself, I also look back on that past and feel relieved that I was able to express the pain and inadequacy I felt as a teenager, going through what I imagined was a very normal phase. I just happened to pick up a safety pin one day and slowly drag it across my wrist until my skin turned a puffy pink.
I picked up the safety pin and later a plastic knife, to see if something so harmless could draw blood. I felt like a harmless person, a meaningless person whose words or desires to write were so small they could not possibly touch anyone else or change the world as I hoped to. Later I switched to razor blades, because it wasn’t about whether I could draw blood but about how much.
I am embarrassed about that time because even then when I was hurting myself for a distraction, for a connection, and for inspiration for a story, I still didn’t feel good enough because my sadness seemed so circumstantial.
I remember thinking that even when I cut myself I never wanted to do any real damage. I always cut myself in the same spot. I would let the wound heal. Pick the scab and let it bleed. Watch it coagulate. Let it heal shut, then slice it open again. I didn’t want to be covered in scars. I knew, like a bad tattoo, these marks would one day bring me shame, because I already felt shameful.
One day, when I was breaking open a not quite healed wound, I used a razor that was too sharp. I pressed too hard. My wrist was bleeding for too long, the way a finger bleeds relentlessly after a quick slice in the kitchen. I was scared. I was terrified I could cause real damage, because everything I though I was doing seemed so inconsequential.
One day I stopped cutting. I don’t know when it was. I guess it was around the time watches were no longer cool to wear, and my plastic Walmart watch hiding the thin pink scar seemed more obvious that the scar itself.
I think I stopped because I realized that it wasn’t working, whatever I thought it would accomplish. It was a release. It felt good to have control. I liked being able to call my blood to the surface whenever I needed a reminder that I was alive. But it never made my life more or less dramatic than it already was.
I was still never abused. I still never saw someone die and was never part of a violent accident or tragic event. The only tragedy of my life was that I was so very normal and my problems and sadness were so very normal.
When I feel the weight of pain come over me now, I wallow in it. I let it consume my day. I let it distract me from my work and the people I love, and I try to drown it out with sleep or Netflix marathons.
These to me seem like normal ways of dealing with a very common problem that I never wanted to admit I had. Depression.
Maybe it’s circumstantial or seasonal. Who knows. But either way the weight has a name, and he will probably always be with me, no matter how hard I try to cut it out.