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What Makes a Legitimate Cutter


lunar47

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I've been cutting on and off for the last 4 years. But never in all that time have I needed stitches. I keep having this recurrent obsessive thought that if I don't cut deep enough to need stitches than I can never truly say I'm a cutter. And I want to cut that deep. I want to hold on to this sick part of my mind. It's a distorted sense of self validation. I envy girls with deeper scars than I do. Has anyone else experienced something like this?

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I'm that way - always was an "amateur' and have felt rather "under the radar" but i slipped yesterday - so discombobulated over hubby's driving and why deep down it feels like he is just leaving me, left undeeded, opinions cast aside for the greater good of the almighty right to drive on a road.

so i slipped - don't need any medical treatment - though it really stings where i got myself and now i have to hope that no one notices during my 2 upcoming workouts (swim today, bike tomorow)

so i think it all counts, i'm angry that i let myself go there, i hadn't done anything since last march - aside from the little cuts on my knuckles that appeared recently - i have no clue how those happened.

take care

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The idea that you need to cut to a certain severity, or amount, or way, or whatever in order to be a "real cutter" seems kind of... ridiculous?

Self harm comes in many shapes and sizes. People pick skin, pull hair, head bang, cut- just to name a few. But no matter what flavor of SI you engage in it all comes down to the same thing- an unhealthy way of coping. No way of doing that is more "true" than another.

I cut for years. It started out small and by the end I had 16 stitches in my leg. That was when I decided enough was enough. I actually worked my way through the 12 steps to help me stop. That was almost two years ago, I relapsed minorly once. However, now I have a habit of banging my head on the wall, so I'm not coping any better than I was. And that's the root of my problems.

Stitches arn't fun. Neither is being cared for by emergency room staff who see you as some kind of lunatic for doing this to your self. Depending on your state and county mental health services, you could also gain your self some unwanted attention if you end up with too many self inflicted injuries. I just found out that in Minnesota, they can actually commit you for long term if you go to the hospital too much and they think you're not stable in the community- even if you're voluntary. That's what I'm dealing with now.

Seriously, people need to drop this whole "cutter" identity thing. Such things do not define you. I'm not a cutter, though I cut- I'm Amanda.

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Lunar47 said "And I want to cut that deep. I want to hold on to this sick part of my mind. It's a distorted sense of self validation."

Yup!

& why I don't post (much) about it.

While I agree with most of what Adnama says, & part of my feeling IS to an extent about "identity/belonging" - I think MOST is probably the same "anger" but almost a "jealousy" that I feel so "contained" but "they" have the nerve I lack. And I felt this way for ages. Like I feel that even though cutting is destructive, at least it's "letting go"! & I can't get to that point so I have no "outward sign" except short lived bloody scratches, (I tell myself I haven;t learned the 'charistics" of the blade yet & that even makes me question myself. "If I was REALLY anxious/depressed/angry etc. I'd do THIS (whatever it is) but I don't - even though I feel like I want to - so I must not really be (whatever) so I must be faking/a fraud etc." (Gets very circular)

& I'm somehow thinking that my post is probably losing or lacking coherence & I don't know if this was what Lunar47 was feeling, but maybe there's a hint of similarity.

& apologies for feeling sometimes that I want to get farther into the bad side when most are trying so hard to get out! ;)

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Steve@3AM, lol yeah I totally got what you meant ;)

recoverymouse, It is very much like an addiction for me. I was once watching  an episode of Intervention about this young heroin user and she went through these very precise steps on how she shot up. I was shocked when I realized that I do the exact same thing. I used to cut in the same place in my house (bathroom shower). I had rituals surrounding how I would prepare everything and how I would clean myself up afterward. If I didn't follow them my anxiety would be worse. When I cut I felt a sense of euphoria and this blessed silence in my mind. The anxiety would be gone. But then you crash and all those negative feelings come back. And that makes you want to do it again until you rely on it so much that you really don't know how to stop. 

Adnama, In the rational part of my mind I do believe that it's silly to categorize and label yourself (i.e. as a cutter or as your diagnosis). It limits who you are and what people think of you. But the part of me that doesn't know who I am is very quick to adopt labels. It gives me a sense of identity that I didn't have before. It's one of the major themes I've worked on in therapy and have made progress with but I'm still not at the point where I can just be me.

Thanks to all of you who responded. It's nice to feel supported in a positive way and to know that other people struggle with the same things that I do.

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lunar47, I get what you mean about labels. I think I made myself sound a lot healthier in that post than I actually am, lol.

I think what I said was sort of my... ideal advice, because I'm so so good at telling other people what to do about their problems. To be honest... I guess the whole "I'm not a cutter, I cut- I'm Amanda" thought is my ideal "that's how I should think." And I do some of the time. But, a lot of the time I do cling to the labels of "bipolar" and "borderline" and "crazy" and "mentally ill" and all of that.

I may be "Amanda"- but who the hell is she?

When it comes down to it, cutting and SI are very understandable responses to intense emotion. I use to think, "Look, it's either this or I die, would you rather I died!?" And I heard a thought once that SIers should be congratulated in a way, for finding a way to survive. The problem is that it is very unhealthy, and even dangerous, and there are much better ways to cope out there.

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Would you feel like having deeper scars would be a sign to yourself and others of the depth of your pain?

I only made superficial cuts for the decade that I SI'd and the scars are minimal, but sometimes I longed to cut deeper just to be able to get outside of me the true depth of the shittiness I felt, I wanted to see in real life the externalization of how truly awful I felt inside.

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I don't know if you really need stitches a lot of the time when you need stitches. I've "needed" stitches before and I've never actually had stitches.

I'm not saying you shouldn't get medical attention or anything like that but I've had a lot of cuts that would definitely have been stitched if I went to a hospital that I dealt with on my own without any trouble. The only thing that would have been different was the scar.

I know exactly what you mean about not feeling like a legitimately messed up person/legitimate cutter, I go through that a lot.

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Karuna, people know my pain and what I've been going through. When I first started to SI it was a call for attention (even though I would never admit that to myself). I thought that attention seeking behavior was for high schoolers not college students like me. But it was indeed a way to tell my parents that things were not okay with me. Please help me. It took a long time but they came around. In the meantime I got a therapist and a p-doc by myself. My SI turned into a compulsion. Something I had to do to relieve the unbelievable amounts of anxiety caused by my yet undiagnosed mixed bipolar episodes. But now my reasons for SI have changed and I'm not sure what exactly I'm doing. I'm feeling relatively normal so why an I still flirting with it? Am I bored? Am I trying to push myself, to see my limits? Do I miss the scars and the marks? I don't know. Something worth journaling I suppose.

iceblink, I did cut after writing this post the other day. the edges are separated and it bled for like half an hour but all in all I didn't feel like I needed to go get stitches. And I did get that sick sense of validation. That I felt like a "true" cutter at the time. But it's all bullshit. I don't really feel anything about it now. I just wish I knew why I'm deviating from my usual SI rituals.

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From what my pdoc said, you are a "legitimate cutter" if you cut chronically, regardless if the cut needs stitches or not.

I used to be a self-injurer too, started when I was 11 and ended when I was 24 (just last year). I promised myself I would never cut again. Ever. And so far, I'm feeling so good with my meds that I have never felt the urge to self-injure again.

That, and my diagnosis changed from borderline PD to bipolar 1-- and the lithium IS helping tremendously.

So, yeah, don't concern yourself with labels. I understand how you feel. There is a way out of all this. I promise.

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Ahh, I've felt that way too. When I self harmed.

I would search up pictures, and videos, of self harmers, to see how deep they went, then see if I could go deeper. I was so jelous that they cut do that, but I couldn't.

But one day, I had a new razor, and it was sharper than I thought it was. 'Kept on telling myself deeper and eventually did, I scared the crap out of myself though, let me just tell you that. Blood everywhere, I was screaming. I 'needed' stitches, but I never bothered. I now have a huge, disgusting scar on my fore-arm, as well as all the little ones. And i've come to regret I ever wanted to go deeper. So I suggest you just stay calm, and just stay the deepness you're at, and be careful. It may take up to 100 cuts to get the relief you would, but it's worth it, in every way possible.

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I also often feel that I do not cut 'badly' enough to be a 'real' self-harmer.

I am now starting to think this might be what my psychotherapist was talking about when she said that I 'invalidate everything I do'. ;) She's probably right. You feel insecure, you belittle everything you do and you deny yourself the 'self-indulgent' label of 'cutter'.

I'm much better than I was now, thankfully, and I'm starting to feel able to really consider this a problem, which I know it is.

V

x

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Also, even if you "only" cut a bit, there's always the chance that it's escalating... I'm pretty sure that for me at least it feels almost like you build up a tolerance to it, so in future you cut more to achieve the same effect. There is also the fact that, now you have the habit of cutting when you feel down/agitated/numb, something will happen that will make you feel much more down/agitated/numb, resulting in dangerous out of control cutting. And that's because once you have self harm as a coping mechanism, it's there. If you know what I mean.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest rosegirl

There is no one type of cutter. Are you using it as a coping mechanism? Do you want to do it when you are overwhelmed, anxious, upset? Than you are a self-injurer. I have been injuring off and on for 13 years. The period when it was at it's worst was a two year stretch were I was cutting almost every day, but never needed stitches. Because i had been doing it for so long and so much at that point, I had mastered the art of knowing where on my body and with what instrument I could cut to maximize pain and blood, while minimizing depth and scaring. Something I was very proud of. Not a cutter?

Your thoughts about envying other peoples scars/stitches are actually very very normal. Cutting is something in your life that you control, that validates the amount of pain you are in, and most likely has many other meanings and functions in your life. At this point in your life it is a major part of who you are. And the thought of having something so big be dismissed as not a serious problem is infuriating and invalidating. Especially if it is dismissed by the only other people who might understand it, i.e. other cutters. Cutting is so complex. We hate and love our scars. Hide them and want them to be seen. Our relationship to it is twisted. Just as a drug addicts relationship to the amount of drugs they can handle is perverse or the recovering anorexics envy of the thinner girls around them is irrational - irrational but normal. In fact, this sort of twisted competitiveness is one of the many reasons some therapist find group therapy for those with eating disorders unproductive and why there has been resistance in the psychiatric community to group therapy for self-injurers.

All that being said, please try to stay safe. Your feelings although normal for a cutter are not a reason to cut deeper. The real physical danger in self-injury is that it escalates and that once it is such a habit, one moment of extreme emotion can cause a loss of control resulting in permanent physical damage or death. The emotional danger is an inability to cope without it, leaving past trauma and problems unresolved, and massive negative impacts on your relationships with other people. That being said, cutting has a function in your life, so me saying "just stop" is not helpful. But I can say: be safe and work towards figuring out why you cut and what healthy mechanisms you can use to eventually replace cutting.

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This is my first post and I have been cutting on and off for about 14 years. I have cut myself so badly that I needed 3 hours of surgery to repair the wound. Cutting yourself this deep is more than just dangerous, you lose control over your life. Suddenly you have doctors and therapists delving into every aspect of your life. It feels like every thing you say and do is placed under a microscope. I alsmost lost my career. Lately I have done small superficial scratches that release enough blood to snap me back to reality. I have small scars that are really not a lot different to the scars from my ultra deep cuts. I have kept a certain level of control over my life when I have cut superficially, whereas I feel powerless to the deluge of negative opinions and consequences when my cuts are deep and require suturing or surgery. I have a husband and children who need me and therefore I cannot afford the consequences of making deep cuts.

Carolyn xx

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