I am an adult self-injurer

I wrote this a bit ago . . . before I started blogging. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post it. It’s a tough subject. I’ve always been honest about my self-injury when talking to others, but writing about it . . . posting it for the world to see . . . that’s an entirely different story. Recent events have brought this to my mind . . . I figure that two things can come from this. One ~ the catharsis that always comes from sharing something so deep . . . Two ~ maybe, just maybe someone out there in cyber land will get something positive from this. So, all fear aside, here it is.

I am an adult self-injurer. I qualify that with “adult” because it is almost instinctual for someone to picture a teenage girl when they hear words like “self-injury”, “cutter”, or “self mutilation”.  It’s true that the first time I took a razor to my skin I was 14 years old. I am now 31. I don’t self-injure nearly as much as I did in my teen years. In fact, it has been almost two years since I last harmed myself physically. I am much better able to control my urges now. I have a support system, medication for my anxiety disorders, and I have learned some alternatives to self-injurious behaviors. All of this said, those urges still exist, sometimes daily.

I am impressed with the recent surge in the public’s awareness of self-injury. Every time I see a new TV movie, book, magazine article, etc. covering the facts about self-injury, it gives me a sense of hope. There are still many out there who don’t understand, who think it is attention seeking behavior, or as evidenced by a friend’s Facebook post not too long ago, “emo” behavior. (Her post: “I wish my grass was emo so it would cut itself.”) But all in all, people are beginning to see the truth behind the behavior and for that, I am grateful.

The next step, I believe, is to show the world that it is not solely a teenager’s affliction. Yes, most self-injurers begin in their teen years, but for many of us it does not stop there. I’ve seen episodes on shows like Degrassi, 7th Heaven, and Law and Order where the portrayals of cutting are very accurate, but still they are all teens. I know I am not alone, but I feel ashamed to admit that I still struggle to stay safe because I “should’ve gotten over that by now”.  For me, I know it is an emotional addiction. Whether it is a break up, a death, or simply feelings of inadequacy, my first instinct is to cut or burn myself. It is the easiest, simplest way I know to control what I am feeling. I can still visualize the entire process, and I long for that release. It is not something I ever see going away.

In high school, I found myself avoiding pool parties or wearing oversized t-shirts when I went to the beach for fear of someone seeing my scars. Today, I put off what is supposed to be annual full body dermatologist check-ups and avoid turning the lights on when I’m intimate with a partner. I’m even afraid to talk to a therapist about it. The last two that I mentioned it to basically gave me a “you’re too old for that” look. I feel as if self-injury is still not taken seriously if you are beyond your early twenties.

The interesting thing is that I had an easier time talking about it 15 years ago. When I talk about it now, I mostly refer to it has an “I used to” kind of thing. And while the actual execution of the act is incredibly infrequent, the thoughts and the struggle are still always there. Like an alcoholic who will always be an alcoholic . . . I will always be a self-injurer.

I am an adult self-injurer. I am not alone. I am working on not being ashamed.

11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jim on March 25, 2011 at 1:28 am

    Hi, Dayle. I think I can relate in an offbeat way. I’m 49 years old but it wasn’t all too many years ago I used to slap myself across the face…whenever I would feel guilty, or frustrated, or shamed, or made my wife cry, or anything that I felt warranted self-punishment. And even now I can still catch my thoughts telling me things like “You’re f*****-up, Jim.” I feel my battles have generally been against self-loathing…or self-injuring with my thoughts and words.

    I’m glad you found the courage to put this out there. For what it’s worth, you’re OK with me. Peace…Jim


    • Thank you for sharing a piece of yourself as well! Like so many other self-destructive behaviors, I find it’s a vicious cycle. Years ago when I’d cut, I’d feel ashamed afterwards . . . and so I’d cut again. I can get past that now. If I slip up, it’s just that, a slip up.

      It is not the entirety of who I am, but by accepting that it is a part of me, I can move on and grow 🙂


  2. Posted by Stephanie on March 25, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Hey Dayle,

    Thank you for having the courage to talk about this, and to blog about it so publicly. Your strength and bravery in posting this have inspired me to re-post it on Facebook, which is hard for me because of the family I’m “friends” with on FB. I’ve always been afraid of them judging me, but if I can offer hope and strength to just ONE person by reposting it, then it’s all worth it.

    It’s been a couple of months since my last relapse. I still struggle EVERY SINGLE DAY with the desire to cut myself. I’m 24. I’ve gotten a lot of that same reaction of, “Don’t you think you’re a little too old for that?” and “Shouldn’t you know better by now?”. It’s so easy to brush it off as, “Oh… it’s something from my past…. I’m doing so much better now.” instead of being real and letting someone know that it’s a daily battle. It’s like any other addiction.

    When I find myself struggling with those self-destructive urges, I return again and again to the serenity prayer:

    God(des), grant me the serenity
    To accept the things I cannot change
    The courage to change the things I can
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    Sometimes I’ll say it over and over and over and over again in my head until the urge passes. Mostly this works for me. When it doesn’t, it’s nice to know I’ve got friends like you that I can turn to in love who I know won’t judge me for my struggle and who can offer me the support that I require to keep myself safe in the moment.

    Thank you again, Dayle.


  3. First off Stephanie . . . I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you!!!!!

    Thank you so much for reading, for sharing the link, and for sharing your thoughts. You know all too well how difficult this is to talk about . . . but it NEEDS to be talked about. I find it interesting that many people (at least from my experience) are more comfortable talking about severe depression and suicide than they are talking about self-injury.

    You are me, I am you . . . I’ve said it before, we’re two peas in a pod!

    Prior to my last relapse, I was safe for 6 or 7 years. To anyone who doesn’t get it, they’d think it was over, that I was fine. But an alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in 20 years is still an alcoholic. I look at self-injury like this . . . how many people (not just alcoholics, but even occassional drinkers) say, “I could really use a drink” after a stressful day? Well, instead of, “I could really use a drink,” I think (as I am sure you do as well) “I could really use a lighter (or blade or whatever)” . . . It’s the same kind of escape.

    People are uncomfortable with things they don’t understand . . . so I say, let’s help them understand!!!


  4. Posted by poolman on March 26, 2011 at 2:44 am

    I think when we hurt our physical fleshly selves we are transferring the hurt from inside to the outside, attempting to better deal with it. If we don’t feel loved, and we hurt inside, we’ll do most anything to get pain out. We need a release. There is a spiritual power of pain that has to be dealt with and you choose to damage your spirit’s temple to appease it and suffer the flesh over the pain of the heart.

    This world steals our love for the pretty, the shiny, the rich. We feel less valuable by its standards. The truth is, the pure, the humble, and the poor, hold greater value to the Creator. The last will be first and the first will be last. The first trick is to last. 😉


    • Turnng the pain from inside into something real and tangible was exactly what it was for me. It was always about control . . . controlling how much pain and how and when and where. Sometimes I’d cut when I was happy, because I didn’t think I deserved to be happy. Sometimes now, if I accidently burn myself baking cookies, it reminds me of that feeling and I have to fight not to mimick it. There *is* something spiritual about it . . . I wrote that once, years ago, in another piece on self-injury. It’s a numb kind of high. Though, I can only speak for myself. I’ve known a lot of other self-injurers through the years . . . and just as a dozen alcoholics will tell you about a dozen different experiences, so will a dozen self-injurers.

      The point of this all was not really about self-injury itself. It was about voicing that becoming a “grown up” does not make it go away. It was about admitting a part of who I am to the world . . . in hopes that even just one person can find solace in know he/she is not alone.


  5. Very well written and brave. I agree that it’s about control. I once wrote that at least in this way, I controlled the pain; I dished it out on my terms. Just as with eating disorders, it isn’t an affliction limited to teens.


    • Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. Eating disorders are another issue that people can’t seem to understand affect adults too. I think the more we talk about these things, the more we see that we’re not alone, the less ashamed we’ll feel . . . and the more we can progress.


  6. […] me, and it certainly holds a special meaning. I wrote more about what it means, for me, to be an adult self-injurer several months ago.*** Advertisement Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on […]


  7. I am so glad you posted this. I was searching and searching other blog sites to try and find someone I could relate to. All I could find were teens and alot of them glamourize cutting.

    I started self injuring at age 9. I am now 41. I am anorexic, bulemic, have anxiety disorders and bouts of depression.

    I went 39 days without cutting…relapsed this morning. I’m feeling so sad, and angry, upset. Ive been reflecting back on low points in my life. Cutting was always there. Not long ago my 20 yr old son admitted that he cut. I feel to blame, though he never saw me do it…I feel a failure as a mom.

    I thought I would stay clean this time.

    I’m sorry for ranting here. I was so glad to see your post. You’ve given me hope and helped me not feel so much shame for not…getting over it.

    I’ll start new tomorrow admittedly terrified that I will fail again. You’ve given me the strength to keep hoping, keep trying.

    Thank you so much. Strength to you.


    • I am so happy that you found your way here and that this post could help you feel a little less alone. Because we are *not* alone. It’s ridiculous to think these urges/desires,this addiction just goes away because we reach adulthood.

      A friend shared this blog with the other day – http://thebloggess.com/2012/01/the-fight-goes-on/ . . . . Further proof that we are not alone.

      As for your son, I would consider it a huge success that your son was willing to talk with you about his cutting. My mom was an amazing mother and my aunt was an amazing aunt (I moved in with her after my mom passed), but I still could never talk to them about self-injury.

      I know that it’s totally cliche, but you don’t have to worry about never cutting again . . . focus on not cutting today. One day at a time. And when one day is too long, one hour at a time . . . hell, one minute if you have.to!

      Do you know what your triggers are? Can you start working on removing them? Do you have any alternatives for cutting? I need to keep my hands busy – snapping a rubber band on my wrist, writing/typing (whether it’s a conversation, a journal entry or just rambling), crafting (I make jewelry), sometimes just playing a repetitive game on the computer . . . . anything that’s doesn’t take too much thought, but keeps my hands moving will often calm me to the point of no longer *needing* to SI.

      I will be keeping you in my thoughts and sending you tons of safe vibes!!! I have my email, Facebook, etc. all listed on my “Where to find me” page . . . please, feel free to get in touch any time!

      ::Hugs:: and strength right back to you!


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