Wednesday, October 21, 2009


So a couple of weeks ago I wrote a story for the local alternative here in Fort Worth about a wonderful place called the Art Station. It's the only place in all of North Texas that offers art therapy--which is a fantastic therapy for kids/grownups who do not do well with traditional verbal therapy.
And one of the issues that came up in the story were people called "cutters", people who harm themselves as a way of pain transference. I know all about them as I have maybe 100 cigarette burns on my left forearm. I always tell people I'm making my own tattoo of a snake with them, but the reality is that I generally held a lit cigarette to my arm for at least 30 seconds as a way of forgetting the pain of losing my wife/destroying my family. The intense pain of the burn took all of my concentration and allowed me to forget the real pain for a little while. I'm using past tense because it's been a while since I've done it.
So I've got an arm that people look at and ask: What happened to your arm?
I make a joke or two about my making my own tattoo but I'm not fooling anyone but myself.
But it wasn't until I talked to the people at the Art Station that I discovered there was a whole subculture called "cutters" by therapists.
And today, Marco, my son who moved into his Mom's small house behind hers two weeks ago, came over. He said he was having problems with his fiance, Carly. They both want to go on my January trip to the jungle--at family rates, which means I'll pay all but the airfare, and I'll probably lend them that--but then she's decided she wants to stay in South America for six months or a year doing volunteer work after the trip.
I assured Marco that I would steer her to good people doing legitimate work, not just some Western group imposing its will on Peruvians, and he said that wasn't the issue. He'd go with her. He'd stay with her. He'd protect her. But they still had issues.
I asked him what they were and he took off his shirt. On his left arm/chest/shoulder there were perhaps 50 razor cuts. "She's mad about these," he said. "But that's just my way of dealing with my pain."
I laughed and showed him my left forearm. "We're both cutters, buddy. We would rather have real pain than emotional pain, because we're either lost with emotional pain or terrified of it. But real pain, you slicing and dicing and me burning holes, hell, that's easy for us. That's just a question of sucking it up and dealing with it for a few minutes. We're chickens, Marco. We're afraid of dealing with the real thing."
Marco's not buying that. He just thinks he's making cool skin marks, just like my cigarette burn snake tattoo.
I'm not buying that.
We'll talk in the next couple of days. Cutting ain't pretty. And only serves to obfuscate the real issue.
I know.
I'm a cutter.
Time to face it, Marco, however hard that is.


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