Cutting is not a new thing though I suppose the term is on the new side. Years ago you were not necessarily called a cutter; you may have been called depressed, abnormal, suicidal (though there is a difference between suicidal attempts via cutting and cutting. One utilizes a blade in an attempt to end one’s life while the other utilizes a blade not to end a life but as an attempt to at least temporarily alter a feeling, perhaps to show that they have control over something, perhaps as an attempt to feel anything after becoming numb from abuse, perhaps they are obsessed with the desire to cut or alter their appearance or to show that they are in distress, among others).
Today there are interventions and trainings that center of identifying cutters, the techniques often utilized by cutters to both cut and to conceal the wounds as well as how to intervene, treat and monitor cutters progress. These programs by and large have been found to be beneficial for the most part, though cutting remains a growing issue for tweens, teens and young adults. Years ago few knew to look for it and even fewer knew what to do once they had found it. Thankfully that has changed.
I spoke with several people and asked them “What does a current or former cutter look like?” and “have you ever known one?” I found the responses to be interesting and encourage you to try it as well. I found that many folks referred to “goths” or “emos” to describe what a cutter looked like. One person said “loner.” My favorite was “anyone” as anyone may be or may have been a cutter.
The weapon of choice differs at times depending on access and type of cut desired (among others). The sharper the blade the quicker and possibly the deeper the cut, though some talented and experienced cutters have fascinating control over the blade. The sharper blades tend to cut quickly and provide a brief burning sensation whereas the duller blade tends to tear a bit and burn longer. It also tends to provide a wider scar due to the tearing. Repeated cuts on the same areas over time can cause raised scars sometimes referred to as keloid scars. Keloid scars can also be part of ritual or cultural rights of passage and typically are used to make specific, meaningful pattern. In this writer’s experience, though cutters may have many raised scars, they did not intend to do so. Still, the keloid term technically can apply.
Cutting knows no on demographic. It knows no one age group nor ethnicity, though teens and young adults may be the most widely treated for this issue.
Years ago this writer had experience in this area. As a child of abuse, a socially awkward teen and natural loner, it was discovered after a long bought of depression. The first few cuts were in an attempt to end the pain but finding a lack of ability to cut deeply enough coupled with the revelation that the desire to die was far less than the desire to live. Though at times determined to end the pain permanently, this writer found himself exploring very dark ways to end it all (though that is for another blog in the future) lacking that, cutting became a way to “feel” again, or at times to be able to control the pain.
Mental scars may last a lifetime but at times they can be easily concealed; at least temporarily. Physical scars may be far more noticeable depending on location. Cutters may initially start in areas that are easy to reach but not so easy to cover. With experience and notoriety, the experienced cutter often finds areas that are harder to be found. At times these may include the groin, breasts, inner thighs or other areas that are not easily viewed in general society.
As for this writer, cutting is something from my teens. It is in the past. It has been let go as things improved. As time went on, the abuse was ended, inner strength was increased and the mindset of victim was replaced with the mindset of survivor. Things got better.
On my left wrist there are a handful of tokens from the past; a handful of scars, some hard to see while others are a bit more prominent. They are all the same color as the rest of the area, as many scars fade with age. They are a reminder of what had happened, where I was and where I hope I can prevent clients from ever visiting for themselves (and for those who are doing it, a place that they can move away from).
I am not one for jewelry as growing up poor I never really understood the need for buying things that were expensive or lacked practical uses, but if I did wear it, I would buy myself a silver name bracelet. I would not have my name engraved on it because I know my name. Instead it would simply read “”It’ll get better.”
To those who cut, have cut or are thinking of cutting please know that it’ll get better.
To those who feel that life is a series of pain filled events: it’ll get better.
To those who are or have been abused: it’ll get better.
To those who feel that there is no escape: it’ll get better.
It will get better IF you seek the help that you need. It will get better IF you end the cycle. I will get better if you find or refind meaning in your life. Cutting will not help you escape the pain, it will only give you physical scars that match your emotional ones. With help, with determination you may find that the life you desire is within your grasp. If you keep working, it will get better.
Warren Corson III (Doc Warren) is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of a community counseling agency in central CT (www.docwarren.org).