When I started planning for this project I sat down to make a list. I wrote out every story idea that popped into my head, and I told myself I would work my way down the list in order. I’m going to stick to that promise, even though this is one of those stories I’d rather not write.

I honestly don’t remember when it started…at some point early in my senior year, maybe the summer before. It was a time when things were supposed to be exciting. A time when I should have been dreaming of the future. Instead, there I was, holed up in my room, gripping the razor I’d snuck out of the bathroom. It was pink and white. The blade was dull. Like most decisions I make, it didn’t take me long to commit. I pulled up my shirt, exposing the stomach I’d been taught to hate, and pinched a bit of flesh between my thumb and index finger. I ran the dull blade across my skin until just a little bit of red spilled out. Relief immediately flooded my body.

Over the next six months my stomach, thighs, and arms became covered in tiny cuts. Never big enough to do any harm. Just enough to feel the burn, to see the blood. Just enough to experience that relief, to let the calmness wash over me. At a time in my life when my depression and anxiety were stealing everything away, cutting became something I could accomplish. Before long it was the only thing I believed I could do right.

It was never about punishing myself. It was about proving that I had the strength, the resolve, to do something, anything. I’d always been driven, successful, but suddenly I couldn’t get out of bed. I was missing school, failing tests, slipping away from all of my friends. I was losing myself, and cutting became my way back.

For months I wore long sleeves in Florida’s summer heat. I carried razors around in my purse, just in case. I kept rolls of toilet paper in my room to catch the tiny droplets of blood. I protected my secret from anyone who might try and take it away from me. Then my grandma died.

The next morning I walked downstairs in a t-shirt. I knew my scars were showing. Maybe I didn’t have the energy to hide them, maybe I needed them to be seen. I was standing in the kitchen when my dad noticed the maroon marks covering my arms. I don’t think there was any yelling or fighting. I guess we were all too exhausted for that. It was decided that I would start seeing a counselor.

For the rest of my senior year I spent an hour a week with Marty. Her office was directly above the dance studio where I’d taken ballet in fifth grade. The first thing she asked me: “Do you want to stop?”. My honest answer: “I don’t think so.” Marty said I had to want to stop before anything she could say would help me. So she had me make a pros and cons list. The pros side, the side with all the reasons I should continue cutting, filled the entire column. The cons side was just a single bullet point.

By the time I started college that fall I was no longer cutting, but Marty had been wrong. I didn’t have to want to stop. I just had to know that there was something better out there. Almost ten years later it’s hard for me to think about that part of my life, because the allure of that burn is still strong. I never stopped wanting that feeling, I just learned to believe that I am worth more than the pain I can inflict on myself.

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