No, I Don't Cut Myself For Attention, I Cut To Mask My Inner Sadness

I was scared at first and when the pain came, I flinched ... but it felt right.

depressed woman UM-UMM / Shutterstock

When people think about cutters (people who slice, scratch, cut, and gash their flesh intentionally), they usually imagine a teenager wearing all black, listening to heavy metal or emo tunes as they slice themselves up, begging for attention.

Some people falsely think cutting is all a game — a call for attention. "Cutters won't really kill themselves," these people say. No, to the average person, cutting is just something stupid people do for attention.


The first time I cut, it wasn't an idea I got from an after-school special or heard about from a friend. I was sitting in my bedroom as yes, a teenager, and yes, I was listening to dark music. But no, I wasn't wearing black when I had the idea to cut.

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I was depressed and feeling sad about multiple things yet I wasn't quite ready to up and end my life, so I went and got a razor, and experimented with making different cuts on my arms. Sometimes I dragged it slowly, and other times, hard and fast.

I was scared at first and when the pain came, I flinched ... but it felt right.


How can hurting oneself feel right?

To most people, it sounds absolutely crazy but I felt I deserved it — "it" being the pain from the cuts. This wasn't just about me deserving pain; rather, about the release I felt from mentally and physically from harming myself. Cutting helped me "numb" myself. 

I cut on and off for a year or two in high school and then I "revisited" the old habit in my mid-twenties. I haven't picked up a razor in ages but I remember what it felt like doing it. I remember why I did it.

Cutting isn't about getting attention, although people who cut wouldn't mind a little love and affection, that's for sure. Most people who cut won't dare show you what they did last night.


It's not about baring scraped and slashed arms, thighs, stomachs, and more, just so we can say, "Look at how we're hurting." There's not a cutter in this whole world who thinks doing this is normal. 

We who cut (or used to cut) know it's not normal; we know that no one wants to know about our filthy slicing habits. Cutting is a private event that no one else is invited to; it's shame-inducing, not a source of pride.

Cutting isn't done because someone isn't brave enough to end their life; truth is, a cutter could end up committing suicide.

Cutting is about releasing pain, numbing oneself from sad and painful feelings, and privately bashing oneself in a very physical way.


All those things can add up to someone taking the plunge off the roof — or perhaps not.

Yes, cutters are more in tune with the fact that "Hey, this isn't healthy and we shouldn't do this," than someone about to swallow a bottle of pills, but don't say a cutter is too chicken to kill themselves. (Yes, I've heard people say that.)

Cutting does not discriminate.

You don't have to be fifteen years old to cut. I didn't cut for years and then started back up after a few traumatic incidents at age 24. I haven't cut in so long, I can't even count the years anymore.

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Cutting is about self-hatred.

It's about physically showing yourself (and not anyone else) how little you think you really are inside.

People aren't born hating themselves; instead, it's a feeling that grows from pain, and to some extent, a self-fulfilling prophecy born from depression. Your brain becomes depressed and you begin to believe it won't get better, that life won't get better.

Cutting is about pain management.

Are you empty inside because your parents left you or neglected you?

Were you sexually abused or raped?

Do you feel fat, ugly, terrible, or less than because that's what you were raised to believe or your peers made you believe?

Or, simply, your brain coping with a mental illness wants you to believe?


Cutting relieves some of that emotional pain ... or so we cutters think.

In the end, though, no matter how many little dings, scratches, and cuts I left on my arms, it didn't solve my problems. It didn't make the bad feelings go away forever — only for a few minutes, hours, or if I were lucky, days or weeks.

I'm fortunate. I didn't cut deeply enough to make permanent scars, mainly because the sane part of my brain was present enough amongst the insane part of my brain.

I stopped doing it years ago, but I can count on two fingers two times I felt tempted. One was after a miscarriage, and the other after my first Thanksgiving without my ex-husband.


This little voice came in my head and I squashed it.

I told myself, "This is ridiculous. I will never go back to that place again, and I will never ever cut myself. I'm not a bad person." Instead of doing something hurtful in both situations, I reached out to someone right away without hesitation.

Writing this article is uncomfortable for me and is stretching my limits, but I've learned that as a writer if I can help someone, I will. And what I will say to cutters is: get help. You need it, and it's OK to need help.

To the people who love a cutter: this isn't for attention; this is a serious problem. Help your loved one get help and try to empathize.


The cutting is symptomatic of what's going on underneath the surface. You need to assist the person you love is coming back to the surface again because right now he or she is drowning.

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If you think a friend or family member is hurting themselves or considering suicide, express your concern and seek professional help immediately.

Alex Alexander is a blogger for YourTango who has written extensively on relationships, sex, and lifestyle topics.