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Love Beyond the Razor Blade
“I’m in counseling because I cut myself.”
Those words seemed to scream in comparison to all the others surrounding it. I read and reread the sentence several times, each time hoping I had misunderstood. Each time I felt a wave of nausea when I realized I hadn’t.
I raised my hand to ask the teacher if I could be excused to go to the bathroom. I didn’t really have to go, of course. It was just an excuse to get out of the room. I just wanted to get away from them, away from all the oblivious eyes of my classmates, so that I could think or cry or scream. Or maybe do a little of each. My hand stayed suspended in the air for what seemed like an eternity. I didn’t care—just as long as no one noticed it trembling.
But the teacher never saw it. Before she could lift her eyes from her computer screen, I had dropped my hand back down to my side. I couldn’t leave. The writer of the note was sitting right in front of me. She knew that I had been reading it. And she knew better than anyone that “can I use the bathroom” was a code for “can I get out of this place so I can cry without anyone knowing?” We had invented that code together, after all.
If I left now, she would think I was disgusted with her.
So I swallowed hard and kept reading the confessional letter, doing my best to ignore the massive knot in my stomach.
At that moment, I hadn’t known anything about self-abuse. I had always heard that it was something older kids did just to get attention or something whiny kids did when they got too tired of their lives. It wasn’t something she would do. Not my best friend. She was beautiful, talented and exuded confidence wherever she went. People could hardly stop telling her how amazing she was. She was my hero—I would have given anything to be just like her.
Why would she be cutting?
It only took that moment to completely redefine my view of self-abuse. I had a lot to learn—a lot that was way over my high school freshman head at the time. But it only took that one note to teach me a lot about cutting. Cutting wasn’t an attention thing. It wasn’t a cowardly thing. It wasn’t even an “emo” thing. It was a control thing. When her life started falling apart at the seams and slipped beyond her control, she had to make sure she still had power over something.
Years of abuse all poured into one razor blade against her arm.
The following years were a challenge. I quickly discovered that you can’t just as an abuser to stop. It’s like asking a brick wall to crumble. It seems like the solution at the time, but in the end all you’ll have left is rubble at your feet. Rubble that has no way to pull itself back together. So I just had to tell her I loved her—that no amount of scarring would ever change that. I had to tell her over and over again. Because I was afraid the moment I stopped telling her, she would stop believing it was true, and I would lose her forever.
Sometimes people at school would get right in her face and ask if she was a cutter. They would laugh, like it was a joke. I never laughed. But she would laugh—she would play along, smile, and deny it all. Only I could see how their cruel insinuations were killing her. Sometimes the sneakier types would go straight to me, probing me with sly questions about her. I would always just shake my head, eyebrows pulled together like I didn’t know where they could have gotten such an idea. It always worked. They would look surprised, then slink away like vultures that had discovered their potential feast had been an illusion all along. But I’ve always wondered if people notice how I cringe when others make their vicious jokes about cutting.
There were some moments, when I was alone, that I would begin to feel the same way. I would begin to feel like I was losing my grip on life, like everything was too far beyond my control. And I would wonder, in the back of my mind, if maybe I could see what it was like. If I could enter her world for just a few moments and understand how a sharp object piercing one’s skin can wash the pain away. But I never tried. I never picked up the scissors or safety pins. That kind of relief is temporary. And I knew, deep down, that the moment I purposely pierced my skin, my best friend would lose her last hope.
The moment I give in will be the moment she gives out.
People need to stop ignoring this. People need to stop calling it an “emo” problem and stop pretending that it is beyond their control. It’s all around us, taking hold of every person whose life is just a little too crazy. These people don’t need your scorn or your forceful methods. They need love. They need to be told that their scars don’t define them. The moment we fail to love and begin to condemn is that moment we lose them. It is easy for a razor to slip too deep. Every person is different; there is no quick and easy way to “fix” a self-abuser. But love is the foundation upon which all cures will be built. With love comes hope, and that is what the victims of this addiction are desperately crying out for. They just want hope.
It has been three years since I first opened that note. I still have it, the faded words tucked away in the pages of my Bible. My dearest friend is still with me, still alive, and still struggling. She has yet to completely give up her addiction. But I keep telling her I love her and nothing she could ever do will change that. And I know that someday she won’t need the razor. Someday she’ll stop wearing long sleeves and wristbands. Someday she’ll see herself for the beautiful, talented person she is. That day seems a long way off. But, until that day comes, all I can do is continue to tell her I love her. Over and over again. Until she doesn’t need to be reminded anymore.