“It’s okay to cut yourself.”

The title of this blog is about as important and controversial as what I’m about to tell you. I’ll start by saying that no, I do not agree with the title. However, you may be surprised and angry to find out who does.

My trials with mental illness began when I was a kid. My first trip to the therapist’s office was when I was quite young. Mom can confirm those details. It wasn’t a “major” thing. I was terrified everybody I loved was going to die. Especially when they left the driveway and drove off. I played car accident scenes in my head and I waited for the call. It has yet to come, thankfully.

Flashforward a few years to when I’m twelve. I hit puberty and it brought a special gift with it: Major Depressive Disorder. That was fun.

A few more years passed… then bam... anxiety disorder. I was about fifteen or sixteen when this happened and things got worse. I won’t talk about what happened when I was on the drug Paxil (Paroxetine) – we’ll get to that in another post. What I want to talk about today is my struggle with cutting.

First I want to explain to you why I cut, why it helped me, and why it’s not about suicide. Cutting relieves chemicals in your brain similar to running. When you cut yourself it feels euphoric, wonderful, and like all the shiny rainbows and stars have all aligned to make you feel perfectly happy. At least, before the guilt, shame and anger set in. The reason cutting becomes an addiction is because your mind starts to identify cutting as a release. You want that fix. It’s literally a drug that your body can’t help but want… Then, you start to crave it. Eventually it becomes an immediate reaction to pain. I’m hurt, therefore if I cut myself I will feel better. I still, to this day, get this craving. Whenever I’m anxious or stressed it’s my first reaction. It’s a lot like alcoholism or drug addiction.

Anyways… the real reason for this post. I went to three doctors about this. Three. They all had similar reactions. I’m going to best transcribe the conversation from memory with an emergency room doctor in Antigonish.

Doctor: So, you cut yourself?
Me: Yes.
Doctor: Do you ever want to die?
Me: No. I want to live.
Doctor: I see. Do you clean your cuts?
Me: Yes. Always.
Doctor: Good. So, if you cut yourself too deep what would you do?
Me: Bandage it and go to the hospital, probably.
Doctor: That’s good. I can’t see the harm as long as you clean them.

What? That’s the state of mental health in this country? If you’re not suicidal then you’re helpless and you’re going to be fine? Would they tell an alcoholic that it’s fine to drink now and then as long as they go to the hospital and get their stomach pumped if it goes too far? Same with a drug addict? No! Of course not! We need mental health in this country that is more than a bandaid. It’s not about keeping people alive – it’s about helping them cope and recover. Two other doctors agreed with this one. It’s ridiculous.

By the way, I don’t cut anymore. Not that the doctors helped me stop…

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