I was your stereotypical troubled teen; sex, drugs and alcohol, the teenage trifecta. Add to that a fascination with cutting and some suicide idealisation and there you have it: a recipe for bad poetry and fucked up diary ramblings (amongst other things).
I still have most of my diaries (I kept one up until my early-twenties). Every now and again I’ll open one up and cringe at the person I once was. I wish I could say I don’t recognise that person any more but I do. She’s still in there, muddling around, crashing against walls and screaming at the night. All my insecurities stem from her. Actually no, I’ve picked up some new ones along the way. She’s not totally to blame, even if she is my Eve in the garden of Eden. My original sinner.
I’m not sure when I first started cutting but it was probably around 15 or 16, right when the hormones get serious about fucking with you. As an adult, you look back and realise everything before that was a cruise. This is the real deal. This is where your brain starts freaking out over the steady diet of hormones and straight fucking insanity. Oh, my brain put on quite the performance. And, of course, you can’t forget what your body’s doing. In fact, your body’s the star of the whole damn thing, the prima donna demanding its ridiculous rider of drama, self doubt and oh wait, yes, you know what? I would like some blood. Lots of it, actually.
My body. God, I hated it. I was super skinny in a country that valued curves. I was brown in a country that valued brown but I wasn’t the right brown; I was a brown by dilution, a half white person, desired but never really fitting in. Still, I managed. But I was ashamed, so very ashamed of how I looked, of how my body was, something that is so far removed from who I am now. The current Natalie shows her body off at every opportunity. Fuck, she even did it for a living for five years. Perhaps I do this to negate the me I was… perhaps I’m just an exhibitionist now that I’ve ‘blossommed’ into a woman. Perhaps perhaps perhaps. Who fucking knows why we did anything as teenagers? Oh wait, hormones.
I think I started cutting because it gave me some control over the body I hated. Maybe as a kind of punishment for not being what I wanted but also because I think I liked the pain a little bit. It wasn’t a huge thing for me, not an obsession as it can be for some people. In some ways, I think it was partially born out of boredom and loneliness. I don’t bear any physical scars from it. The spider web-thin lines of blood eventually hardened to scabs then faded away. There’s no longer any evidence of my self-destruction, except in my memories.
Most girls cut their thighs and inner arms but I liked my ankles, I don’t know why. It was a place rarely seen, unless my socks slouched down. Plus people don’t tend to look there and, if they do, it just looks like a scratch. I rarely had more than one fresh one at a timem as I said it was sporadic, rather than obsessive. One day, I cut a perfect crescent moon into my inner ankle and rubbed it with ink. I considered it my masterpiece because it faded and left a faint outline that I thought pretty.
Pleased with the outcome of that little experiment, I let a friend try to tattoo my back/shoulder with a safety pin and some ink. It didn’t go well. I think because I didn’t have control of the blade/needle, the pain didn’t feel gratifying. It just hurt. I wore the sliver of ink on my back for years and watched in the mirror as it slowly shrunk then disappeared. I didn’t like or dislike it. I didn’t feel anything for it.
As I got older, I no longer felt the need to cut myself. That seething hatred faded and I felt more in control of my body and my life. My mother once said to me, “This is the worst time of your life,” meaning my teenage years. And she was right. But we get through them, we survive and somehow they mould us into the very beginnings of the adult we might later become (depending on what the rest of life has in store for us). It’s not something I’m proud or ashamed of. It’s just something I did, that I felt was necessary and beneficial at the time. It doesn’t define me but I suppose it shaped me, as everything we do shapes us in some small way.
Image credit: Rebloggy
Post script: in the quest to find an image for this post, I made the mistake of searching for “cutting quotes”. Everything Google offered me was way too hectic to really reflect my experience of cutting, which reinforces my belief that I was a light user. To spare everyone the sight of all that graphic imagery, I’ve just gone with a simple text quote. You’re welcome.