The mind can often hide behind a clever face, but once you take what's hidden and carve it into your flesh, well then people don't react quite so well. Please don't read on if you think reading about cutting might be a trigger for you.
I should begin by saying that this particular method of self-harm is not something I still engage in - and I'm going to tell you why.
I was extremely squeamish in my teens, as many of my schoolmates will confirm. I passed out watching a video of kidney dialysis in a science lesson once, much to my embarrassment. I would actively avoid any sort of experience that might involve needles or blood, and that caused all manner of issues when it came to vaccinations - especially ones that were to happen at school. They used to lay out the crash mats from PE for wetties like me who couldn't bear even the sight of a needle. Despite this phobic reaction, after the incense stick experience, I must've retained that feeling of relief somewhere in the back of my mind until the day I tried to smash a pint glass against a wall. If you haven't already, you can find a whole post about this on my blog, 'Inside the actor's' studio'.
So, why did I stop? Somewhere during the mess of time that was university, my favourite method of self-harm was transformed from a way to relieve my pain, into a way of inflicting pain on me. One of the hallmarks of borderline personality disorder is a tendency to be in abusive relationships, and I certainly lived up to that expectation. I'm sure that whilst you read this, whether this is the first post you've read or one of a few, you'll have felt a sense of chaos and a distinct lack of chronology. That experience you're having right now is nothing more than a reflection of the chaos of my life over twenty years of lurching from one disaster to the next. University was three years long. Just three years. Yet I managed to amass an impressive amount of chaos in that time.
It was during my second year that I answered the ad that would kick off events even I couldn't have imagined could happen in a soap opera, let alone in my painfully real life.
It's hard to know where to start explaining this, so I'll just give it to you straight - I met a 'man' with what I can only describe as 'the gift of the gab'. He wormed his way into my life and into my home, my friendships, my career, my whole world. He conned me, and many others around me. He stole an enormous amount of money that had been left to me by dead relatives. He physically (and sexually) abused me, sometimes in public, yet nobody ever intervened. He was very clever about it all - that was the most terrifying part. If I tried to get out, he would smash things. He forced me to cut myself, saying he was a real life vampire - and yes, of course I'm aware of how crazy that sounds - but I wasn't given a choice because if I refused, my room and I would be smashed to bits. He hacked into my emails and sent abusive messages to my entire contact list alledging that I was some kind of sexual deviant. He pretended to be someone else to lure me into communication. He broke into my car. He threw a brick through my bedroom window. He showed up on the doorstep of my student house, and convinced my housemate to let him in by fabricating a story of his mum being run over, before proceeding to cut his wrists and wipe blood on the walls. If I tell you that this particular incident came after I returned from my mother's funeral, I hope you can imagine the pain that caused me - and was intended to cause.
On four occasions, he gained access to my student house and swallowed enough paracetamol to constitute an overdose. I duly delivered him to A&E, expecting that he'd be taken off my hands and sectioned. Instead, I was forced to stay and deal with bowls of vomit and urine, alone, because despite what he'd done to me I cannot leave another human being to die. He received no medical treatment, they did not administer any antidote, and no psychiatrist was called. I wanted to get on my knees and beg them to section him so I didn't have to suffer the abuse anymore. I've given you the potted version of this story because it's too awful even for this blog. Suffice it to say that I lost the last weeks of my mothers life to this utter coward and it still affects me every single day. I still don't know why nobody helped me - perhaps they were all completely fooled too, but one would have expected at the very least for someone to see him hit me in a bar and do something to stop it.
I don't know how I got through that time and even now it feels like I imagined it all. I remember going to the police after he posted a suicide note through my door, but after giving a statement that took a full 6 hours to write, it was decided that if he wouldn't accept an 'invitation to interview' then the CPS wouldn't take it any further. It was my word against his, and back then email evidence wasn't deemed relevant if it was over 30 days old. I find it really hard to admit what he did to me, and only recently have I allowed the words to come out of my mouth, during my most recent psychiatrist appointment, when I knew if I didn't get it out my son would suffer for it.
You can read between the lines, right? You know what I'm getting at. I can't bring myself to type it. I remain convinced that he wasn't 'clinically insane', he was 'criminally insane'. There was far too much forward planning and engineering for it to just be a case of being mentally ill.
I wasn't able to grieve for my mother because of what he did. Yet I feel guilty for not trying harder to get him locked up. Others have gone on to suffer because of that, and I can't forgive myself for that. And that was why I stopped cutting myself. I couldn't allow him to hold that over me ever again. In 2006 a dear friend tattooed over the scars on my arms and finally I didn't have to deal with the stares of strangers, or the abuse dished out to me by strangers with no shame.