“I was surprised by how much pressure it took to make the incision, and that made me feel safe. Because I had always thought of the body as so fragile”
Saturday, February 20th, 2016: I hadn’t been feeling well that day, but I figured the party would cheer me up. I threw on a suit jacket – a rare occasion at Middlebury College – drank a beer, and got ready to go.
A brisk 10-minute walk brought me to a friend’s house to pregame. Things didn’t feel too awkward, even when two ex-hookups showed up. I thought I had a fever, or maybe it was just the harsh wind on the walk over. My nose was bleeding, but that’s all right, it happens all the time.
A sign proclaiming “100 Days to Graduation!” greeted us at the door. Everyone was crowded near the food and alcohol, and I became separated from my group. Kids I hadn’t seen in years came up to me with niceties while trying to remember my name. I didn’t bother asking them theirs.
I soon lost interest in the sweaty, awkward dance floor with a student DJ playing hits from the 90s. Seeing familiar faces flashed me back to the basement parties, drunken and spinning with sexual angst and self-doubt. I pushed the memories away and grabbed some more mac and cheese.
When I got home, I collapsed onto my bed face down. After staying motionless for about 20 minutes, I got up and ignored the blood rush to my head and black particles collecting in front of my vision. It’s called orthostatic hypotension, and it’s fine.
Changing into a white t-shirt and comfortable shorts, I browsed Facebook for a little while before my attention was drawn to the scissors on my desk. I picked them up and just looked at them for a while. I felt the texture of the blades, caressed them, even.
To my credit, I stopped myself a few times first. I put the scissors away, in the back corner of my desk drawer, and tried to forget about them. But things have a way of calling to you when you’re trying to ignore them. It felt good – seriously good – to just pick them up and run them over my forearms. Like a good massage. It made the hair on the nape of my neck stand up on end.
Maybe the alcohol acted as an anesthetic because it didn’t hurt. Actually, it felt great. It felt like being in control of something for once. Honestly, it was masturbatory. Each cut in my forearm felt like a small victory.
Later, I remember reading a post on the “r/selfharm” subreddit:
“Don’t start cutting yourself, it gets out of control, it becomes an addiction, you’ll never stop.”
It was too late, but I got help, and I mostly avoided cutting myself again. The scars, by now, have faded.
Over a year later, I’m finally ready to talk about it.
I was fortunate enough to take advantage of free counseling services offered by the college, although those services were, regrettably, understaffed. I know not everyone has access to these types of resources, which can make you feel like you’re dealing with this on your own.
If you are dealing with similar issues, I urge you to get help – it made a huge difference for me. If you are in a crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). If you need options for long-term support, you can find comprehensive databases on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Mental Health America.
Thank you to those reading my story and to Infectious Mag for helping make Mental Health Awareness a focus this month. My personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org – please reach out if you want to talk, whether it’s about mental health, self-harm, the music industry, or anything else.
Eric Benoit creates music of self-destruction, but it’s not to make you depressed. His debut album, ‘College’, is releasing on June 16th, 2017 worldwide. An elegy for a suicidal friend and a story of mental illness, the album focuses on his junior and senior years attending Middlebury College. Infectious Mag readers can pick up a pre-release copy for free, which includes a song about the events described above, on Bandcamp.
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