Friday, May 25, 2007

Bare arms.

Now that it's Spring and the weather has warmed up, I am wearing short sleeves again. Every year, I enter into a dangerous cycle when I look at my arms and notice that other people are looking at them too. My arms tell a tale of great sadness and desperation with their long, wide scars. I am a cutter.

The scars show times when I ran out of options for dealing with emotional pain. The older scars run the length of my wrists and have faded with the years. When they run parallel to the length of my arm, they are attempts at creating an ending. The scars that run perpendicular to the length of my arm are attempts at distraction. Physical pain deters my attention from emotional pain. And once the episode is over and the scabs fall off and reveal red, sensitive scar tissue, I am left with shame. Deep shame for the way I feel and the choices I make. It's a never ending cycle that usually results in more cutting.

That same shame sucks me in when friends, family, and acquaintances stare at my arms or actually ask about what they see. I never have any idea what to say. Usually, I come up with some especially lame excuse like falling. But, only if the person wants to believe that, would they actually accept such reasoning. After all, not too many falls give you such straight and long scars that run the length of my forearm and are obviously from different time periods. Some people will actually ask me multiple times to see if my answer changes, mostly that's my mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

And, so I sit here staring at my arms, wondering where the next cut will be and when. I am impatiently waiting for my husband to call me. He is out golfing and was supposed to call about an hour ago so I could meet them all for drinks and dinner. A delinquent husband, shame, and lack of medication are a recipe for disaster.

39 comments:

Aurelia said...

Nicole, Dear sweet Nicole, you did the best you could in terrible times of crisis, and you are truly an amazing awesome woman to have survived.

Those aren't scars, they are badges of honour. Some people DON'T make it, but you have. I'm so proud you have made it this far, please don't let this moment in time become the tipping point.

Love and hugs to you my friend. XX

Jackie said...

Oh, Nicole, sweetie, Aurelia is right. You are an amazing woman. Please don't let those reminders from the past send you to the sharp objects. Do your best to end the feed-forward now.
I am here, do not hesitate to contact me (despite the amazing drugs, I can't seem to sleep). Thanks for stopping by to wish me well, I hope to be back to full speed in a jiffy.

thrice said...

Nicole, thank you for coming forward with this post. Because of you, I have and can learn more about bipolar, cutting, etc.

I wish I knew what to say, even though there is probably nothing to say, I should just listen. Please take care.

niobe said...

I understand what you're saying. I wish I didn't, but I do.

ultimatejourney said...

Nobody can change the past. Please don't be ashamed of it. It has made you the strong, wonderful woman you are today. I am in awe of everything you deal with. Please don't lose faith in yourself.

The Momcaster said...

how courageous of you to write that post...
remember, while it is your mission to get well and feel well (and get pregnant!), it is NOT your mission to explain everything to everyone.
the scars tell the story of your past but not necessarily your future.
all the best to you...

DD said...

You truly amaze and touch me so deeply, Nicole. I hope you don't take shame in knowing that.

I hope by now your husband has made contact with you, and that soon those arms won't bear so much the pain you feel inside, but the warmth and caress of a quiet, warm summer day.

Renee said...

I agree with what everyone else has already said.

But I got to thinking about that stuff they're advertising that is supposed to help make scars go away. I don't know if it is over the counter or not...but if it works it might help with the shame part...although I don't think you need to be ashamed of it.

We are all different. We all do things differently. Hugs!

Caro said...

Everyone else has said want I want to say but so much better than I can say.

Hugs XX

Sarah said...

ditto on all the wonderful comments above. the only thing i can add is that your in-laws totally suck for trying to trick you into slipping up.

Sara said...

Everyone else has said what I would like to have. Please be good to yourself. You're amazing, really.

Having read quite a few stories about your in-laws, wow, they combine the same nosy, know-it all, but utterly clueless traits as some of my mine. Oh, I could tell some stories, but it'd make me sad and mad all day to think about them.

I hope your husband called right after you posted this and you had a nice evening.

Caroline said...

Nicole, everyone else has pretty much said what I intended. I realize it is hard with such constant reminders, but I try to tell myself every day that the past is what it is. I can't change it no matter how hard I try.

Sticky Bun said...

Ditto from me on the comments above as well. You are so brave to be so open with your thoughts and fears. I wish you all the best.

Barbara said...

Hmmm, I wish there were answers out there for you Nicole. If they ae there, I hope you find them.

Rosepetal said...

I hope you don't cut again, but I understand why you did. I understand the shame you feel when looking at them, but not why your in-laws are on the side of emotional pain.

terri s. said...

For what it's worth, I have never noticed. I thought you were looking really good the other day, very sharp. That was my impression.

Casey said...

I find extremely vigorous exercise to be a nice substitute to cutting/other methods of self-destruction.

If you need to talk to someone, I'm pretty much always around.

Modern Mommy said...

Nicole - I am a new reader to your page and I was drawn to your experiences and writing the moment I clicked in. I too am bipolar and my diagnosis is very new (few months) It went untreated and misdiagnosed for so long. There is a string of broken friendships and lost jobs, much pain, shame and self hate lying behind me now. Today I have two beautiful daughters (14 mos and 3.5 yrs old) and a good husband who has passed up many opportunities to bolt for the door. I do not write a lot about bipolar on my blog yet, I am still so unsure and confused - I hope you will visit my page sometime. I wish you luck, happiness and peace of mind. There is nothing more important than the peace right? Anyway, you hold on girl, today you have one more friend and one more person pulling for you to succeed ! I will be back to your page often to check in! I hope we could share some insights in the future!

Amanda said...

Yes, it's a recipe for disaster but we don't have to cook it today.

(((((((((Nicole))))))))

Tara said...

You are indeed a very brave and strong woman to post this - and I appreciate it more than you know.

Thank you.

BerryBird said...

((((Nicole))))

Stay strong, sweetie. Your inlaws sound just plain mean. I think I'd be tempted to make up obvious and shifting lies, so that every time they ask, they get a different bullshit story... I was rock climbing... I adopted a feral cat... I got washed onto a coral reef... I fed the bears...

Emilija said...

I used to cut, and still have the scars. For years I wore long sleeves, then decided that this was drawing even more attention than the scars themselves. I used to be very self-conscious about it. But it has been so long since I have cut, I have started to have times when I completely forget about my scars. And then someone will ask me if I have a cat, etc., and I will remember. I get embarrassed, but I am not ashamed. There is a difference. Cutting is not the worst thing a person could do. I didn't hurt anyone else.

Adrienne said...

I don't have anything to add to what others have already said except - continue being as strong as you are. You will get through this. And we are there for you.

Ol' Lady said...

I can understand where your coming from...and hopefully you don't go back there.
I hate it when anyone asks me something personal especially if they don't have any need to know...that would be why it's called 'personal' I usually stare at them for a moment with a blank look on my face then I ask them if they really think that the answer is any of their business...and what would they do with the information...will it make a difference in anything.
But that's just me...over the years I have gotten less interested in being around anyone so if I offend them (after they have offended me) then oh well...

marlena rivers said...

really great and brave post. we all have scars, but not all of us have to deal with them being so visible. if only more people who see yours would shut up and be reminded of their own scars that they wear on the inside and respect you for dealing with all the struggles you have dealt with. you are a brave survivor! hang in there...

My Reality said...

You are a brave, stong woman, Nicole. You have conquered so much. Hugs to you.

Cibele said...

Dear Friend... Just want to send you a big hug and say that I admire you a lot for being so brave to write this post, for letting us in, for being honest... I wish you peace and happiness.

Bumble said...

Hugs my sweet friend. You're such an amazing and brave woman. I'm sorry for what you've been through and I'm here for you. x

Anns said...

Hmm, I dunno about you but to me those scars should represent success, not failure or embarrasement. Your scars are that -- scars. They are not new cuts but more a symbol of recovery. Though it can only be incredibly difficult for everyone else to understand, this summer could also be a venue for you to educate others who may not know the pains of bipolar disorder.

So wear your scars as a symbol of growth and an opportunity to save others.

Anns xo

Michelle said...

I am a cutter. I know exactly how you feel and what you have/are going through. I am a lurker on here but I enjoy reading your blog especially b/c I can feel your pain. The medication, trying to get pregnant, etc, etc. I've been there. My heart goes out to you!

megan said...

i don't have many words for you right now, Nicole other than to reiterate what some of the other more eloquent commenters have already said. you are a strong and corageous woman. i admire your strength and can only hope that i'm half as strong as you. take care of yourself. sending you big hugs.

Tam said...

I'm reading your comments and hoping that you are feeling the love, life can be hard and I'm sorry that it has to be this way. You are incredibly strong and just so amazing, I'll keep you in my prayers and thoughts, you can do this sweetie, all this will be worth it. Hugs xxx

Dream Writer said...

There is stuff called "Mederma" and it is suppose to do wonders.

I agree with what everyone says here...

It was very courageous of you to write this post and I would think it will just make you even more strong. :)

Reproductive Jeans said...

Those scars are reminders of the past--and also a reminder to push forward! Let them be a positive reinforcement for the good and positive times. Such a brave post--keep your chin up!! xoxo

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

That's must be scary to wonder when you might do it again and how badly. I'd be scared anyway.

If I was there I would hug you!

((((Nicole))))

Being gently held and loved usually helps me when I'm scared or depressed. I hope there is someone clsoe enough to give you real physical hugs! You deserve them!

LIW (Lady In Waiting) said...

You have received some amazing responses here so I am not sure that I have anything to add but...

My ex (who, as you know, was bipolar and not consistently on meds) was a cutter as well, though not actively while we were together. She had significant scarring on her arms, especially on her left one. The first time she showed them to me, I kissed them with a heart bursting with love and forgiveness. My hope was that she could absorb some of my emotions and feel them towards herself.

Those scars represent the road of survival. Like others have said, you have no obligation to explain them to others. What's important is that you accept them as part of you and find the strength to leave them as they are, without adding to them.

Please reach out to someone when you feel like cutting. You can always email me.....

The Oneliner (Christina) said...

oh you poor thing. i'm glad you share with us. it actually shows that you are healthier than you think. You tell us because you know you need to hold yourself accountable.
i'm glad those are "scars" and not current wounds.

anonymous mom said...

i'm with ol'lady - probably 'cause i'm an ol' lady too. people really should keep their stupid mouths shut - people can't help but wonder, but only a moron is going to open their mouth and ask such a personal question. i kind of like berrybird's "adopted a feral cat" response - it might be worthwhile to respond if that will be the answer. it makes me laugh just thinking about their reaction.

Sarah said...

Sweetie, I hope that after your husband got home from golf and you read some of the comments from all of these wonderful women, that you now feel a little less shameful about your scars.

I used to not really understand cutting, but have had a personal glimpse into those feelings and actions, and think I may understand a little tiny bit. My experience was only involved making many long 'scratches' on my arms or belly that left red welts for a week or so, but didn't really involve bleeding much. And i know this probably sounds so minor to you, but I wanted you to know that I really hope that you can try to let go of some of the shame you feel about you scars. Just love yourself for getting through the hard days.