(For: self harm, abuse)
This is one of the hardest pieces of art for me to share because I have so much shame surrounding my childhood. There are parts of me that are furious that I wasn't helped, that the grown-ups didn't do their job, but there are also parts who blame me, who think I was just a weird kid, that I did bad things, that everything was my fault. Self harm during childhood is a reality that I have had a very hard time accepting. Perhaps it is extremely rare or perhaps simply taboo, but I feel so alone in my struggle to accept what I did to myself as a child. Do a search for child self harm and all you'll find are sites about teenagers, citing that self harm can start as early as twelve or thirteen. Twelve or thirteen? I estimate the onset of my self harm at about five to six years old. Am I really alone in this? Am I horribly abnormal?
Once I was finally able to speak up and tell my boyfriend about the self harm I had inflicted upon myself as a child, I was able to truly realize what had been done to me, how much the adults in my life had failed. Regardless of whether or not it's a "normal" response to trauma, I am beginning to accept that it was not my fault.
I have now been able to talk about the self harm, although it still bothers me and the sad part is so deeply shamed that I couldn't put the really bad stuff in the drawing, because she was too scared of what people would think of her.
As a child, self harm was a way of life for me. Nearly all of my memories before the age of twelve are of self harming. I created a world for myself where I could be in control, where I was in charge of my own body and the pain that was inflicted was of my own choosing.
This drawing is about more than just self harm, it's an overall impression of how I see my childhood from my earliest memories until age nine. The knives are not because I cut myself. In some ways I've always been ashamed of my more creative forms of self harm. Cutting seems mostly socially acceptable, the things I did to myself...I'm not sure that anyone could ever truly understand. But anyway, the knives are because I had an enormous phobia of sharp objects. I explore this more in my drawing about not being able to sleep.
The thought bubbles with the "Bad Man" in them, represent how I fantasized during self harm. I still do not know who this bad man was or if it was even one person. It may very well have been an amalgam of all the negativity I had experienced in the world. Someday I might know, but right now I don't have the memories to explain who he is.
As a very young child I used to play-act torture scenarios, so I used to hang upside down on the stairs or cling to the top of the slide and not let go for long periods of time. Much of the torture had to do with inducing extreme levels of fatigue - holding my arms up or straight out at my sides until they were sore, pretending to be tied up until my limbs were horribly uncomfortable.
I used to hit myself with belts and rulers until my skin was raw and streaked with red. I obsessively masturbated by rubbing my genitals against poles, slides, or basically anything I could wrap my legs around and I pretended that someone was making me do it. That they were watching and making me have the good feeling to control me, because it was a strong sensation that they could force me to experience.
The ways I found to harm myself were largely undetectable and nearly infinite. I dumped scorching water on myself and followed it with ice water. I put soap in my private parts to make them burn - I no longer remember where I came up with this idea.
As difficult as it is to say and read about these things, I need to let it out to let myself be free of it. To show the parts who are ashamed that it wasn't our fault. That I was doing the best that I could to survive. Self harm did not change who I was or who I am. It doesn't make me bad or disgusting or wrong or ruined. I was just a little child. It wasn't my fault.