Why do cutters cut? What does it accomplish? It seems like such a foreign concept to someone who has never been such a vestige of a human, that the only way to feel human is with a sharp blade. I never knew what to say when people would point to the scars of my arms or ask what happened. A shorter answer would be what didn’t happen. I didn’t put the knife down when logic says I should have but my hypothalamus was too buried in hyper active neurotransmitters to formulate an alternative solution.
But I never knew how to explain why it felt so cathartic.
I guess cutters cut for the same reason people visit memorial sites and sit there, zoned out staring at a tombstone and trying to imagine all the ways they could negotiate with the creator to bring that person back. It doesn’t help. Physically. But sometimes we need to hold onto our pain, theorize it, rationalize it, prioritize it, and try to understand it so we never have to experience this again. Sometimes we need our memories and pain to drown us for a few minutes to remind us how alleviating oxygen is.
Cutters cut for the same reason people listen to music and cry. Sometimes the only way to express an emotion is with a piano or a bass drum or a guitar riff or a gash on our arm. There aren’t any words that could explain some things better than 1812 Overture and a bar code drenched in blood on my arm.
I’m sorry. I’m not good with words. Sometimes talking feels like lifting cement bricks with my sphincter muscles. Sometimes it feels easier to just let the bricks fall through my body, ripping and tearing holes along the way until they finally land in my feet and make it painfully impossible to stand up. Sometimes my pulse is a migraine-inducing burden that compels me to imagine a life without that bass inside of my chest. Reminding me that for better or worse, it’s still not over yet.
I guess a lot of people view cutting as “attention-seeking” or maybe even a “guilt trip” or an act of pessimism. The truth is, while all of those could be true for some people, cutting is actually an optimistic act. It’s not an attempt at suicide. It’s an attempt to soothe the pain for one more day in hopes that life will become so awesome one day, a blade isn’t required. It’s an attempt to feel pain we can’t otherwise express. It may not be the right way to achieve our goals. But in the moment of hysterical, overwhelming emotions, sometimes it’s the only solution we can think of to get that dopamine rush we so badly need.
Depression isn’t adequate enough of a description, nor is it fair to say cutters are “just depressed.” Depression is the hunger pains travelling up and stabbing your heart and still not having the energy to formulate a type of food that will soothe the pain. Everything tastes disgusting. Heartburn or hunger pains? It doesn’t seem to make a difference which one causes the pain, so might as well not make an effort just to change the location of the pain.
Depression is too simple of an answer that gets misinterpreted by people based on their own experiences. Depression isn’t feeling sad. Depression is trying to lift the bricks out of your feet with your heart beat and hearing the pulse ricocheting inside of you until your obnoxiously loud pulse becomes a euphemism for defeat. Depression is knowing that continuing to live is a sign you were a coward and couldn’t follow through with your plans to be a coward and leave your earthly life behind. Watching the first of your blood race down your arm and onto the floor is a lot different than watching until the last drop slowly falls.
Depression is so much more than depression. Explaining it to somebody who has never been there is almost as impossible as getting rid of the hunger pains when everything tastes gross.