Handle With Care

This is a long one, and an important one for me. Please don’t continue if you’re triggered by talk of self harm. 

I want to talk about an issue that a lot of trans people have dealt with, or do deal with, but that people don’t really like to talk about. It’s not directly related, but I feel it needs to be talked about, and for me personally, It is related to being trans. Self harm – hurting yourself on purpose in a physical way, whether it be cutting, burning, bruising, broken bones, or pulling out hair. It makes people who don’t understand it nervous. It makes people uncomfortable. And a lot of the time the two reactions it provokes are the two worst ones – anger and fear. 
In high school, everyone knew I cut myself. All the bracelets in the world wouldn’t cover the dozens of scratches up and down both arms. And after awhile, I stopped caring. I stopped worrying about covering them and wearing long sleeves all the time. But hardly anyone except friends said anything. I was in science class one day, right in the front row, and started scratching at my wrist with a metal ruler. My teacher noticed, took the ruler from me, and never said a word then or after. At my first job I would cut in the back storage room sometimes. nobody ever saw, but they knew. And the reaction was to tell me not to do it at work. That’s all. Just don’t do it here. 
A lot of people choose to ignore self harm because they see it as a ploy to get attention. And sometimes it is, but not the way people make it seem. Sometimes I did want people to notice. To see how bad I was feeling, and try to help. I never did it for attention, though. that was just a side effect that I hoped wound happen sometimes. Why people do it varies from person to person, but it’s hardly ever purely for attention. But the people who do try to help get frustrated, and burnt out, and eventually stop trying so hard. And you get that. But it still makes it worse. It was a good friend that helped convince me to check into an inpatient center – a psych ward – after a really bad night. And it was horrible. Ten years later, it’s still one of the worst experiences of my life. And that friend and I grew apart. We still talk once in awhile, but I don’t think we really know each other anymore. And I think it was the hospital that ruined us. But I stopped cutting. 
For awhile, anyway. It scared me so much to go back that I stopped. For a couple of months. But I never stopped wanting to. I would count the days, but it never made me want to cut less. And soon enough I was back to it, only this time very careful to hide it. but not for long. eventually you forget it’s supposed to be a secret it feels so natural. And I would stop. And go back to it. And stop. Really, I never quit, I just took breaks from my 10 year love affair with a razor blade. I think the longest was about 2 years. 
That’s another thing people don’t understand. You don’t just grow out of it. You fix the problem, or you’re stuck. 
My mother asked me if I used to cut because I was trans when I came out, and I quickly said no. and just as quickly changed it to maybe a little. And I did. The loneliness and feelings of not fitting in and confusion definitely added to it, no doubt. The second song on the playlist I used to put on was “Bleed Like Me” by Garbage. It has a verse I always liked, but couldn’t pin down why – “Chrissy’s all dressed up and acting coy/painted like a brand new Christmas toy/ trying to figure out if he’s a girl or if he’s a boy…”
For me, I obviously started cutting long before I identified as trans, for a lot of different reasons. Short term, it made me feel better than whatever I was feeling. Long term, it made me feel worse. So I’d do it again. Daily, sometimes more. But when I started to identify as trans, those issues added to it. Frustration is a big trigger for me, and being trans is very frustrating. The difference now is that I feel like I can’t talk to anyone about it like before. I haven’t been as bad as I’ve been lately in a long, long time, but everybody thinks I stopped a long time ago. I’m afraid if I talk to people who know my history, I’ll end up back in a psych ward. Or unable to continue transitioning. Or whatever else. So I hide it, and maybe 2 people know I still do. Probably only 1. People that werent there for that part of my life. Transition makes you more comfortable in your own skin, but it doesn’t make all your problems go away. And some people don’t understand that. “Why aren’t you smiling? You’re doing what you want.” But it’s not that easy. 
So if you know someone who struggles with self harm, trans or not, dont ignore it. But don’t freak out, either. Periodically check on them. If they’re okay with it, ask when the last time they hurt themselves was. If they’re not, don’t. Let them talk about it. Ask what you can do to help them. But don’t freak out. Dont tell anyone else without their permission unless they are an immediate suicide risk. Making their life harder is just going to make it worse. Love them, and don’t ignore it. I for one sometimes just want someone I trust to grab my wrists and hold them, and to tell me I don’t need to do that, and that I’ll be okay without it. To tell me, just for one day, to not cut for them. because it’s easier to not do it for someone else than it is for yourself. that comes later. And then the next day, to do the same thing. until I don’t want to for me, finally. but that’s a lot to ask of anyone. 
I debated about writing this. It’s not really a trans issue so much as a mental health issue. I debated as to whether it belonged on my blog. Or whether I should out myself as not just an ex cutter when people in my personal life read this, and have the potential to make my life difficult again. But in the end, it’s an issue for me, and it does relate to me being trans. And that’s what this blog is for. And it would feel dishonest if I lead people to believe I was over it and healing, and this blog is all about honestly and healing. And if I can help one person deal with their issues, or help another person, with this post, then it’ll be worth it. 
Keep fighting like a grrrl, even if that means just getting out of bed in the morning and getting though another day . 
– Natalie 

2 thoughts on “Handle With Care

  1. I recently blogged about the same issue. I cannot give advice, but I do understand. I don’t cut, but my self-harm is nonetheless also painful and leaves me feeling… sometimes inadequate, sometimes relieved. I hope you can get help and will be able to stop. Soon. At least you brought it out in the open now and you have us, your readers’ support and care. Be safe and take care. (((hugs)))

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I engaged in self-harm for many years, and a lot of what you write resonates very strongly with me. The last time I cut was over 10 years ago now, and it is really only recently that I have started to feel that it was truly a thing of the past. Stopping is hard – really hard – but I want to say that it really does get easier over time. The first few years, I would keep myself from backsliding by thinking about how disappointing it would be to start at 0 again, but now – the desire is not even there any more. Seek out as much real life support as you can get! In my case, finding the right medication for anxiety and depression also helped me turn the corner. Cutting was such a huge and traumatizing part of my life for many years – I just really want you and other people to know that it is possible to heal. ūüôā Hugs to you – stay strong.

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