At 4:30am this morning, my wife jumped into my lap like a small dog. "Time to get out of bed and GO!" I knew she wasn't really excited to be getting me & a 2-month old infant out the door for 5:30am dialysis, but I always appreciate her coffee-infused exuberance in the morning, so I leaned in to kiss her on the cheek.
There was a small, thin scab behind her ear. Obviously an exacto knife or something similar was involved. She always cuts in places no one would ever notice. No one, except me.
My wife's been a cutter as long as I've known her, and that's about 12 years. It's not as severe as it used to be. When she was a teenager, it bordered on life-threatening, and she cut too deep several times and ended up in the hospital. Over the years, her self-injury has improved. She prays when she gets flashbacks. She calls friends when she is tempted to cut. She comes to me and I can sometimes bring her out of it. I still find scars. I don't know what else I can do to help her, and she doesn't know what else she can do to help herself.
So I wasn't surprised when I saw that cut. I didn't even say anything. We've had that conversation so many times already. She knows it hurts me, she knows it hurts herself but she feels like she has so much pain, anger and frustration inside her. Yes, there are so many ways she can let those emotions out, but cutting is so intuitive and comforting for her. It's what she knows.
Now I understand that desire and it scares the life out of me. I couldn't talk when I was being sexually assaulted. I felt my body breaking in two as he beat me in my most intimate areas. No sound came out of my mouth. My chest went up and down mechanically. Would I have passed out from the pain if I could scream? If I could scream, would that have given me any power? I kept all my pain inside up until last week, and I'm realizing how powerful words really are. I want to bleed out all the pain and emasculation that happened to me, but would it do anything? That's not an addiction I want to take on, and I know my wife and son need me to be the strong & secure one. But I know what it feels like to want to bleed, and I wish I didn't. Every time I look at her this morning, I see the cut and think to myself, "I did that. If I never told her maybe she wouldn't have felt the need to cut."
So today I told my wife some of those thoughts. Not necessarily that I was triggered by her cut, but I explained the intense desire I have to scream as loudly as my lungs will allow. I vented out some of my sadness and fear so that I can be strong on the inside. She said, "I'll scream with you, Pete." I was a little concerned about doing that in such a densely populated area. What if people think something is wrong and knock on the door? "As soon as we're able to, I'll take you someplace in the middle of nowhere and we'll both scream and scream." I hope it helps me find some sort of release. I can't allow myself to resort to something more sinister and self-destructive.
What are things you do to keep yourself from going down that path?
I haven't talked to her about the cutting, yet. I want her to be able to heal from this so badly, and I worry that disclosing to her about my abuse is now an impediment to her healing. I'm trying to tell myself I did the right thing but it's hard coming down after the "high" I felt after telling her.
“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”
- Saint John of the Cross