Tuesday, May 19, 2015
"Hey Baby! I’m on the way home for the afternoon. I’m going to go to dinner and a movie with Paul tonight."
My text seems innocent enough, but I know that it’s a lie. Not a white lie, but a blatant breach of trust that will soon be bathed in blood.
"Ok darling. That sounds like fun! How was your day?"
She’s so innocent, so trusting, so naive. She should know better than to trust me by now.
"It was pretty good..."
Another lie, this one more forgivable than the last, but a lie nonetheless. She doesn’t need to know the details about my day. She doesn’t need to know how it is that I’m really feeling. She doesn’t need to know that I’m seeing red and that I have a plan. She doesn’t need to know that she’s part of the problem rather than the solution. If she knew what was really going on inside of my head right now she would have every right to be concerned. Concerned because she cares about me and about my safety. Her concern is the last thing that I want tonight. She needs to rest easy, the truth will come out when I’m ready to share it with her. I am in control.
If she knew then she might ruin the plan. The razor blades are nestled safely in my backpack and I intend to put them to good use tonight. I can’t have a loving girlfriend getting in the way of things.
I send the same texts about my plans with Paul to the members of my family who might be curious where I am when I don’t come home later this evening. Dinner and a movie will buy me a few precious hours alone and that’s all I really need. And dinner and a movie with a friend gives me every excuse in the world not to respond to a text or a phone call. Can’t you see that I’m busy catching up with my dear friend Paul? I wouldn’t want to be rude.
The train ride to my car seems longer today than on most afternoons. The anticipation of the sweet satisfaction of tearing my flesh open is nearly overwhelming as I sit staring out the window watching the same buildings and houses fly by as I do every afternoon. They’re moving in slow motion today. I need to get to my car and get to a motel room before I lose my nerve. Have I lost my mind? Possibly. A hotel room? This is the nature of such things. I can’t simply be satisfied with the destruction I’ve already caused. I need more each time I feel the need to bleed, and each of these nights must be more elaborate than the last. Last time wasn’t planned, last time was out of control; a reaction to a tragic series of events caused by the two people I loved and trusted the most. One of those people is and was my loving girlfriend. How I came to be with her once again after what she did is completely beyond me. Tonight will be different. Tonight will be messy, but it will be contained. Tonight is not unexpected to me, just to the ones who care about me. They have no idea what’s coming.
I’m being watched at home. I am a high risk case with a history of self-harm and suicide attempts. I need to be watched. If you don’t keep your eye on me then nights like this one are bound to happen.
The texts with my girlfriend continue for the duration of the train ride. Lie after lie after lie. I make shit up because lies are so much more exciting than the truth about my day spent in in treatment in a partial hospitalization program for psychiatric disorders. I say goodbye to my girlfriend as I step off of the train. It’s nearly time now and my hands are shaking and sweaty with excitement. It’s been nearly a year since a blade has touched my skin but I haven’t forgotten just how it feels to be set free by the sharpened edge of a razor. It’s the most beautiful thing imaginable, to find a simple peace in those times when all the world seems to be resting on your shoulders. One quick flick of the wrist and everything you feel inside is free to flow out of your body and into the stillness of the night. Magic.
“I think you need to go back to the inpatient unit,” the program director had said to me earlier today.
The ‘inpatient unit’ is just a nice name for the psych ward located on the fourth floor of Herrick Hospital in downtown Berkeley, only a mile or so from the university. She has no idea just how badly I need to go back.
“Give it some thought,” she said to me. “Let me know what you think about the idea tomorrow. It might just be easier to break some of your compulsive habits if you were upstairs on the unit.”
I know that. I had already considered it myself. There is no way that I’m simply going to will myself to get better out here in the real world on my own. But how could I go back to the unit again without something to show how crazy I still am? I need something that speaks for me before I ever open my mouth and the scars on my wrists from last year simply won’t be enough to do the job. They’re so out of fashion by now it’s ridiculous. I need something new, something fresh and real to show that I am sick enough to be there with the rest of them. Hence the razor blades in my backpack.
I speed walk to my car at a pace just short of a run. The urge to bleed is so strong that I can taste it in my mouth. I can feel it crushing me from the inside out. I need it so badly that I can barely breathe. I look down at my right wrist and forearm and examine the scars already there. They are small, most of them barely noticeable thanks to the stitches that the doctors put in last year on that oh so dreadful night. They don’t count. They don’t count because they were taped and sewn shut unlike the rest of the cuts that decorate my body. If each cut were a mouth, opened wide to scream out to the world all of the things I can’t bring myself to say, then these would be mouths forever closed, unable to speak their truths. Tonight my wounds will speak again and they must speak forever more. Tonight will be different than the last time. It’s all part of the plan.
I’d do it right here in the car, but the car is new and I can’t imagine bleeding all over the upholstery just yet. Give it a few more months and I might feel differently. I drive past the park where I hiked yesterday afternoon in an effort to clear my thoughts. One last chance to save myself from self destruction tonight. I could turn into that parking lot and go lose myself in the woods for a couple of hours until the urges pass, purge my system of all of the hatred that I feel by sweating it out. I could, but I keep driving.
I pass by a motel with “Vacancy” lit up on the sign out front on my way to Safeway. I’ll be right back, don’t rent my room. I didn’t want to raise suspicion by buying razor blades and bandages in the same transaction at the CVS on my way to the train earlier, so I still need to make one more stop before relief can finally be mine. My heart is pounding in my throat as I pay the cashier at Safeway for my butterfly bandages and sterile gauze wrap. If this isn’t self care then I don’t know what is. If I was really feeling self destructive, wouldn’t I skip the bandages all together and just allow myself to bleed to death? Maybe I’m not so crazy after all.
The hotel room costs me $90 for the night. Such a waste. I’ll only be here for a couple of hours before it’s time to run back home and pack my things for my stay in the psych ward. Room number six. Check out time 10 a.m. Oh don’t worry about little old me, I’ll be long gone by then.
I grab my backpack from the car and run to my room. My hands are shaking so badly now that I can barely get the key into the door. It’s a run down little place, but it has just what I need. Cool, dark, seclusion; away from the bother of the people who care about me and away from anyone who might have the good sense to try to save me from myself. I won’t be bothered here.
I grab the package of razor blades from my backpack and rip it open. I feel the calming familiarity of the cool hard metal between the thumb and forefinger of my left hand. I’m still trembling and I’ve stopped breathing but my time is finally here. But I pause. I wait for just a moment and take a deep breath as I extract my notebook and a pen from my backpack lying on the bed.
I put the pen to paper. This is it. I really have lost my fucking mind. A motel? Really? I’m going through with this. I'm excited. I hate it. I know I have a choice; I do, but I don't feel like I do. I feel compelled to do this, to be just as sick as the rest of them when I go back. Why? How do I come to this place again and again? I’m sick. I’m maladjusted and I never developed healthy coping mechanisms to deal with the pressure and stress of an everyday civilian life; of a normal life. I’m bipolar. I have anxiety. This is just what nervous people with horrendous mood swings do. Right? That’s an excuse, and I know it’s bullshit but I love to hide behind it. Hiding behind my sickness allows me to get away with murder. Or maybe suicide, as it were. The truth is that I’m here tonight because they told me that I am addicted. They told me that I am addicted to exercise. How the fuck is it a bad thing to be addicted to the healthiest thing in the world? And so what if I like to sweat and work hard and hurt myself in a way that doesn’t draw blood? Probably a better choice than the one I’m making right now. Maybe. But they don’t get it and they took it away from me. They stole my only way to deal with all the crazy that lives inside this little body of mine. Surely, they must have known I would explode in a bloody mess all over the god damned bedspread. Aren’t these people professionals? This is their fault, not mine. Enough. Enough writing. Fuck it, here goes...
I want to be able to look back on these desperate and insane moments and know exactly what it was that I was thinking. I want to remember this night forever because this is the very last time that I will live through a night like this. You can never be satisfied with just a taste. If it were possible then I would have been satisfied long ago. But each night like this one gets uglier and nastier and darker and more distorted and sick and someday there will be only one place left to go; eternal darkness. That day is fast approaching and I won’t let myself go there. I want to hurt. I want to bleed. I don’t want to die.
I put down my pen and take up the blade in my hand once more. One deep breath and then it’s showtime. One, two, three, four, five, faster than you can count. Five new ways to remember who I am and where I have been for the rest of my life. Five new questions from strangers. “What happened to your arm?” They’ll ask. Oh, don’t worry about those. Of course they’re not self inflicted. What do you think I am, crazy? But it’s not enough and the blade finds my arm three more times as waves of sweet euphoria wash over me as though I were dropped into a warm ocean of crystal clear water. The joy is thick and beautiful and the relief is instant. There is no question in my mind that this is exactly where I need to be in this moment. This moment is perfection.
There are a handful of seconds of sheer bliss after a wound has been opened, before it can fill with blood, and before the weight of the decision you have just made crosses your mind for the first time; and I stand for these few seconds of exquisite, overwhelming pleasure, and take a shallow breath, the sweetness of which I have never known before in my life. In this moment, standing inches closer to death, I feel more alive than I believed it was possible to feel and I let the euphoria crash over me and carry away everything that I have ever worried or cared about, leaving me free and clean and untainted by anxiety and distress. In this moment, I am pure.
But the moment is over before it even begins and each new cut fills quickly with deep red as I make my way to the bathroom to fully examine the damage of the last few fateful seconds. A slow smile creeps across my face as I look down at the thing which I have done and a desperate need to experience the rush of that perfect fleeting moment one more time drives the blade into my arm once more. Longer and deeper now, with more passion and meaning than before, three new gashes are opened in the space of as many seconds. Hysterical laughter overtakes me as the blood drips down my arm, off of my fingertips and into the sink, each crimson drop defiling the purity of the white porcelain as it splatters brilliance across the virgin surface. Euphoria wells up within me again, and I have to steady myself as I become dizzy with the pride and satisfaction in my handiwork. Right now, the world is everything that I could ever hope it would be.
I just stand in the bathroom, gazing into the mirror and watching the blood spill from my open wounds. It’s as if I can feel emotions leaving my body as blood escapes the confines of my skin. The anger, the hatred, and the fear trickle out of me and flow onto the cheap linoleum floor. I’m thinking of nothing but how amazing it feels to finally be free again. And these will be mine. I will not go to the hospital tonight. Eight hours after you cut yourself, the wound can no longer be stitched shut and no one will know about tonight until long after it’s too late for these cuts to be sewn up. They will speak volumes about my life in the moments when I remain completely silent and they will speak a language of compassion when my soul knows only hate. These wounds are not for anyone else. They belong to me.
But the euphoria subsides and my sense of freedom gives way to fear as the bleeding continues moment after moment. Forty-five minutes, an entire roll of toilet paper, and the whole box of butterfly bandages but still the blood doesn’t stop flowing. Have I gone too far this time? Will I last until tomorrow without medical attention? Bleeding is part of the plan, it’s always part of the plan, but the bleeding is supposed to stop after a few minutes and a little bit of pressure on the wounds. Bleeding out isn’t part of the plan.
I’ve had enough now. I’ve seen enough blood and the fun is over for the night. I’m ready to clean up and go home, ready to close this chapter of my life forever and move on to better and brighter days. The trash can is filled to the brim with blood soaked toilet paper and a spare tee shirt I was carrying around in my backpack is doing nothing to stop the blood flow although I’ve tied it as tightly as I can around my forearm. There is blood everywhere. Red splattered on the mirror, the sink, the countertop, red speckles on the toilet, and dark spots down the front of my shirt and shorts. Jesus.
I’m out of time. I have to go home, bleeding or not. I remove the tee shirt from my arm and throw it in the trash. I wrap myself up in gauze and put on a sweat shirt to cover up the situation. If I can’t see it, it can’t hurt me. But it has hurt me. No, I’ve hurt myself. I’ve hurt myself all over again. I promised myself the last time that it would never happen again just like I promised myself earlier this afternoon that tonight would be the last night like this one. My promises mean nothing.
I already want to take it all back, but there is no going back once you’ve gone this far. The last few precious moments of my life will last forever, written as a sad story across my skin for the world to see. Perhaps there is beauty in the sadness. Perhaps I can find strength one day in the weakness of these moments. But not tonight. Tonight belongs to the tattered broken soul of the creature standing before me in the mirror. Tonight belongs to the fear that drives the motions of the blade.