By Aleccia Lin Shaffer

A timeline of pain is written across the skin I hide from public sight…
With pilfered razor blades as a quill and my body as parchment, I wrote out the stories of the hurt I had endured. It was easier to bleed out the shame I felt for who I was a person than to endure the way the words and actions of others tore at my insides. Pain on the outside healed. Tears brought temporary numbness….
There are people in the world that called people like me attention seekers.
I didn’t want attention. That was the furthest thing from what I wanted.
I was addicted to self medicating with pain.
My scars still itch when I am hurting deep down.
My inner demons whispering “Bleed…bleed…” when I ache inside.
I have wanted to cut deep and bleed away all of me.
I still vividly remember the last time I lost control….
I was locked in the bathroom for a shower. I had hoped the hot water would make me feel better in that moment, but it didn’t. My hands shook as I stepped from the shower to the linoleum floor, making my way over to the medicine cabinet to locate a disposable razor to disassemble. I pressed my fingertip to the corner of the blade as I used my other hand to clear away the steam from the mirror over the sink.
“I hate you.” I said to my tired, world weary looking reflection. I hated the way her hair was always a mess. I hated the dark circles under her eyes. I hated the imperfections in her teeth, and the freckles on her nose. I hated the angry and accusing look in her eyes…
I hated what the world expected of her, and all the ways she fell short.
I could feel the first warm trickle of blood drip down my hand from my finger…and that sudden new focus for my pain lifted the weight on my chest and shoulders. “Bleed.” urged my inner voice. I listened.
My first cuts were never deep when I was like this. I could make more of them at less risk if they were shallow. I’d take the blade to my arms, my legs, my feet, the roof of my mouth….anywhere it would be felt when I moved. I couldn’t think if I only felt the sting. I couldn’t dwell, and the pain could make me numb if I was willing to hurt a bit more each time.
I turned on the faucet and watched crimson swirl eagerly around the drain, leaving me with all haste. I always found the color beautiful and sickening at the same time.
It was about the time that the crying began that the cuts became deeper. I had lost count how many I made by that point…but the crying…my hair still stands on end when I think of it. I had suffered a deep betrayal that day, one that still makes me sick to think of…and the way I cried because of it could be almost described more accurately as a howl of agony. A pained gasping I couldn’t catch my breath from.
I found myself lying on the floor, wrapped in a towel that was soaking up my blood. Every muscle in my body tense as I did all I could to cry and bleed out every ounce of feeling I had. I only wanted to feel the vibrations of the music I left blaring in the next room when I had come in. Nothing else.
“Maybe I’ll die.” I thought. I was almost hopeful. I didn’t quite want to ensure it…but to have been surprised by it at that moment didn’t feel unwelcome to me.
I’m not sure how much time passed with my lying there numb on the floor, calming from wails, to tears, to sniffles, to utter nothingness. I do know that by the time I began to have actual thoughts again, my hair was partially dry, my eyes were on fire and I felt sticky all over from the blood.
My body felt weak, and my mind felt run down by the experience. I stood to put on my t-shirt and pajama pants, and the world seemed to lean to a side as if I were drunk. Some of the cuts began to bleed again as I moved and disturbed them. I didn’t care. I didn’t bother to clean any of it off. I was now possessed by the singular determination to go outside.
If I was going to die…and I wasn’t entirely sure if I would at this point…I wanted to see the snow. Winter was my favorite, and even in my worst moments I always loved snow.
I stepped out the front door barefoot and in my pajamas in the dead cold of January. At this point I hadn’t been to school in 2 weeks because that winter had been so bad.
I stood there for a moment, dazed by how bright it was outside, then simply stumbled out a few steps and sat down in the snow.
It was at this very moment that the Midwest USA decided to be -just- warm enough that it could now rain instead of snowing….
So I sat there in the slowly mushing and freezing snow, looking between the sky and the chilling rain that was slowly washing away the mess I had just made of myself. In the middle of nowhere, no one noticed the bloodstained teenager in the snow.
I watched the red seep into the white, then trail away with the water.
I watched all that hate get washed away.
It actually made me smile. The first real smile I had shown in a long time.
Something simple and beautiful that I loved washed me clean of what I had done to myself.
In its strange way it felt like a sign to me. A sign that there were still things worth sticking around for, even if I couldn’t see yet that I was one of them.
I cleaned myself up, and never looked back.
I have not self harmed in years.
I am tested every day as I square off with PTSD, social anxiety, agoraphobia and depression.
It’s an addiction, not a social stunt, and addictions never really go away.
The real fight is in self care, not self harm. It’s hard to say I love you to a reflection you aren’t proud of. It’s hard to ask someone to listen to you, and not judge.
It’s hard to call that emergency hotline for help.
It’s damn hard to be a person in a mean spirited world where it’s just easier to bleed…

If you are suicidal please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.