Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My first kiss, and how I cut myself - all aboard the thought train

Sometimes, when I'm just randomly thinking (a process I've come to refer to as brain-surfing), I find myself tracing back the links, wondering how I managed to get there. Fasten your seatbelts, you're in for a bumpy ride.

Recently I've added a fair few new people on Facebook, people I used to go to school with. One of which I had a crush on at school (but I'm waaayyy over it now!). I seem to have a lot of FB friends who aren't really friends, just people I vaguely know from school, or SingSoc, or uni in general, or from blogging.

So would it be weird for me to search for a guy (different one) I once had a weird sort of long-distance semi-relationship with, back when I was 15-16, and add him as a friend?

He was the first guy who'd ever showed any interest in me, a fat, relatively socially inept, frizzy-haired, bespectacled, slightly arrogant, annoyingly smart teenager, whose "friends" had by now pretty much convinced her that boys would never be interested in her.

I met him on holiday. I'll call him John, mostly because that's his name. He wasn't exactly my type physically, same height as me (5'6"), not my fantasy tall, blonde, athletic guy (that's changed now, but not the tall athletic bit). But who was I to be fussy? He did have a nice smile, nice blue eyes and made me laugh, and he was smart too.

His friend Mark was in a semi-relationship with my friend Kerry. He stayed on the same camp site as us for 2 days, and Mark and Kerry tried, successfully, to set us up.

He was kind of sweet, two years older than me. I remember we danced together in the camp disco, then when Kerry and Mark disappeared we ended up going for a walk, which cumulated in kissing in a kid's adventure playground under the stars. It was weird, I was very flattered in an uncomfortable kind of way, having never been kissed before. I guess I was infatuated with him.

We wrote to each other (okay, this was 1995, no-one had email then), then met up again the next year at the same site. He'd had a girlfriend in the meantime, and I played it cool. Well I thought I did. Things went a bit further, and he wanted to sleep with me. Being massively inexperienced and therefore a little scared, I declined, and he didn't pressure me.

Of course, he was my "proof" that I wasn't as hopeless as the girls at school claimed. I thought I was in love with him. I did like him. Probably still would, if I spoke to him now.

I don't remember how we stopped "seeing" each other. We wrote for a while, I remember that. He went to university in Nottingham, fairly close to me.

Sometime during all this was when I first remember self-harming. I used a compass (okay, okay, a pair of compasses) to scratch his initials on my left upper arm, deep enough to bleed and scab, deep enough that you can still see the initials in white scars. I don't know why I did it. Maybe to convince myself that I was serious.

I moved to a different school to take A Levels. Made different friends, went out a lot,
had a few encounters with guys. One night I was out with some girlfriends, including my new friend Kaz - I was pretty drunk and probably a little stoned and we were in an alternative music bar, listening to the band. I spotted an old friend from school, Penny, and sat with her in the floor for a while. Someone dropped a glass near me, and I picked a piece of the broken glass up and made three cuts into my ankle, in the shape of an asterix, then some random cuts on my left arm (actually trying to cross out the initials). I don't know why I started. Penny tried to stop me, but she was even drunker than I was so she didn't get very far.

Kaz was more successful. She noticed I'd cut into a blood vessel in my ankle, and managed to stop it bleeding using loo roll, and getting me to lie on the toilet floor with my leg in the air. She was scared to death that I was trying to kill myself, or that I was working up to that.

I stayed at her house that night, and she kept me up talking in the kitchen for hours. I was confused and tired and tried to reassure her that I wasn't suicidal, and that I wasn't intending to do it again. She insisted that I had to tell my parents, which I refused because they wouldn't understand and would just go mad at me.

A few days later, at school, she insisted again that I had to tell my parents and threatened to tell them herself if I didn't. Which pissed me off a lot at the time, but I later realised that she was trying to make sure I got help because she was worried. Anyway, we argued, and a teacher intervened and mediated between us. Kaz agreed that she would keep quiet, if I promised to go to see my doctor, and get treatment if necessary.

I did see the doc, who told me that self-harm is quite common and not to worry about it unless I did it again. Things were a little fragile between me and Kaz for a while, much more so when I slept with her boyfriend while very very drunk. In her living room. Oops. Took her a while to forgive me, but we did make up. She like to bring it up occasionally even now, in a jokey way, like when I met her new boyfriend recently and she said "This is X. No, you can't sleep with him." In my defence, I only have vague memories of the event, I was pretty out of it. Anyway.

I didn't cut again for a while. At almost18 I got my first proper boyfriend, Chris, and he asked me not to, so the few times I did it (always with broken glass) I told him it was accidental, and hid them from everyone else. After a few years, I stopped altogether.

Fast forward to age 23. I'd broken up with Chris, started seeing Michael, put up with living with Chris for four months after the breakup while he saved money and found his own place and annoyed the shit out of me, and finally got my own space when he left. I was working in a school by then, as a lab technician, so I had practically unlimited access to broken glass and often cut myself accidentally. I was suffering from moderate-severe depression, and wondered how many visible cuts I'd need to have before someone asked me what had happened - turns out that for everyone except Michael, it was a lot. More than I dared to inflict. I was testing people, it wasn't that I wanted attention particularly, just wanted to feel that other people knew (and cared) I was alive.

On a few occasions, I used chemicals. Concentrated hydrogen peroxide was a good one, because when you apply it neat to the skin it takes maybe 10 minutes to actually hurt, so it can take you by surprise. You can pretend you didn't realise you'd spilt it, if someone noticed. And it hurts a fair bit, a stingy, burny kind of pain, so it's great as a distraction. I was in a lot of mental/emotional pain, and physical pain could make me forget everything else, even for just a second. It sure as hell was better to cry because of a chemical burn, rather than because you feel like you're in some sort of horrible limbo of blackness and despair with only one way out. I didn't want to go on living, but couldn't be bothered to kill myself. Weird to think that I was ever that bad.

Once my depression treatment started working, I stopped with the self-harm. Possibly because I knew that someone else cared at that point. Michael did, and my psychiatric nurse Lisa and my counsellor Mike did. They noticed, but didn't judge.

And I haven't done it since. Nothing worse than picking off scabs before they're ready, or squeezing spots, or scratching mosquito bites. Maybe I don't need people to notice any more.

I don't tell people, generally, that I used to self-harm. Most people don't understand. Either they ask me why (and I don't really have a proper answer), or they sympathise too much. And also SH has become almost trendy in some circles, particularly with goth and emo teenagers - I'm not going to comment on that particularly other than to say that it's a bit like the boy who cried wolf, detracting from the seriousness of the act - when I tell someone I have the urge to qualify it by saying, "But I did it before it was (almost) socially acceptable, I never knew anyone else that did it, I'm GENUINE."

But I guess you guys know me well enough. If you don't understand, to be honest, I don't much care. I'm not here to make everyone happy. I just am.

So yeah. That's where my thoughts took me this afternoon.


  1. So did you find John?

    My first kiss I was dressed as a 'Santa's Elf' at a school disco. Teeheehee.

    I corrected Ed last week about it being a 'pair of compasses' and he asked me 'why call them compasses - is it from the same origin as the one that point's north?' to which I don't know the answer.

    I admire your blogging because you properly write your feelings down. I always feel that mine is more of a performance for an audience. Hmmmm...

  2. No, I did search but he's not on there. I probably wasn't going to add him, just take a quick peek at his profile!

    Damn, you've got me wondering about that now!

    I'm not usually so sharing, mostly because I think it looks like I'm trying to provoke a reaction, or asking for sympathy. And usually I'm not. But there's something rather fun about baring your soul a little - and it's only stuff I'd probably tell "real" people anyway, if I was asked, or it came up in conversation.

    When I first started blogging, some of my friends commented that they admired my honesty (I think they really meant my complete lack of shame! ;)) Stuff you blog about depends on why you blog in the first place I guess. Mine's just about me mostly, whereas a lot of others are about something specific, like food or humour or being a mother or whatever.

    Well that didn't make much sense... never mind.

  3. Self Harm is fairly common and not commonly talked about here in the states. We call them cutters, so I never really equated what I did with self harm, but it was essentially the same thing. When I was married to my first husband, who was abusive, I used to hit myself with a belt. Face, back, legs - anywhere I could get a good swing. Occasionally, it would leave welts, but mostly I lived for the sting. The sting was pretty good. It's rather embarrassing to write about it now, but when my son was having his problems and I wasn't dealing with them well, I did it again. 20 years later! It surprised the heck out of me, but it got me to go see someone about how I was handling things. In a weird way, it helped.

  4. you know I didn't see anything wrong with your train of thought. Hmm, I wonder if that's because it was actually sraightish or because I can think in a winding manner as well. ah, well I'm glad your not SH any longer. other then that thought I'd pop in and say HI.

  5. Hi Sayre, strange how we all have our pet methods. It's not really something I've had discussions about, like how people self-harm. Most people look scared if you start to go into details. But I'm interested.

    Oh and hi Cindy! I keep meaning to head on back to LJ but then I forget... I'm a bad blogger! Hope you and Bill and Ally are all good. :)