When something hurts that much, it feels like the world might hate you.
God isn’t real. And you are alone. What does alone feel like? It feels cold so I need to hold myself. I’d wrap my arms around myself, cross them in front of my body, and rest my hands on my arms. It was nice. When no one is around to hold you, you can hold yourself. It might feel embarrassing at first, but it will make you feel not alone.
I’d rub my hands up and down, feeling the friction warm my body from my shoulders down to my wrists. It would feel like someone was lying close to me, as if I could roll across my bed and my eyes would fall upon the gentle gaze of someone else.
After some time, draping my arms along the slopes of my skin only feigned warmth. When that started happening, I would squeeze tighter, encasing myself in my grip, like my limbs were serpents. It felt like a hug from an old friend I hadn’t seen for years. Thinking about that made me feel good.
When something hurts that much, it’s nice to pretend you’re not alone.
This would make me happy. I’d grip tighter, tensing every muscle from my neck, down my back, and into the ends of my fingers. If I opened my eyes, I would see my flesh inflate between my fingers anchored into my arms, my nails buried under rubbery flakes of brown-tinted skin.
Holding myself made me so happy that I wouldn’t realize I was trying to sink into myself. If I stayed there long enough, the tips of my fingers would disappear into my arms, digging back and forth over an inch of skin, sometimes 5 inches. If I could convince myself it wasn’t pain, I would pretend that the burning was just rays of sun beaming over me.
When something hurts that bad, people will try to tell you how to fix it.
I saw a psychiatrist once that told me that breaking my skin releases a flood of dopamine to my brain. She gave me a rubber band to snap at my wrist whenever I felt the compulsion to claw at myself.
The snap felt like a stab. A reminder or an alarm. It wasn’t the same as the building sensation of my grazing nails to my skin. It was no longer the touch of an old friend. It didn’t feel like a person lying next to me. I couldn’t control how long. I soon abandoned such a reminder.
How empowering it was to create happiness with the stroke of my own fingertips. To watch the layers of my skin collect under my nails to turn my arms raw pink. Just deep enough for the cold air to dance across those rose-colored carvings, dousing any fire that escaped through the slits in my arms.
The buzz after was the best part. A gentle tingling sensation down my arms, something like a lullaby at the end of a tiresome journey. Almost like an accomplishment. Something to be proud of. Immediately after, I would rinse my arms under warm water. More pain. A narrative that I’d come to expect.