Those tears are not the only physical manifestation of her torment. The mass of pink and white scars that cover her fore-arms betray her inner pain and I know that there are many more scars, in places unseen. Wounds and injuries which she has inflicted upon herself. Carving her pain into her flesh, her blood flowing from her veins, falling like the tears that now fall from her eyes. That blood now staining the once blank, white canvas of the bandage that covers her wrist. No one can know what is going on inside that head of hers however hard they try. Her mind is a labyrinth. They stumble blindly, unable to follow the path of her thoughts; always reaching dead ends. She gives nothing away. She will not tell a soul. She does not trust them; has learnt not to trust anyone. She has been hurt and betrayed too many times.
“Why did you self-harm last night?”
His voice is soft but his question is direct; to the point. Blunt. He has seen the dressing on her arm. He knows what it means. He knows she has a strong tendency to self-harm. He is looking at her intently. His gaze attempting to penetrate the invisible fog that surrounds her, cutting her off from him; from the rest of the world. He waits for some form of response from her; some sign to indicate that she has heard him. She appears to not even be listening to him. Her eyes are glazed and she is completely unmoving. She still hasn’t uttered a single word in answer. But he knows that she is in there; hiding. From herself as much as from him. He leans back in his chair and continues to wait, patiently, for her to work out whatever is going on inside her head. Waiting for her to try to put it all into words. Giving her time to process what he has asked her.
I sit staring out of the window, barely paying any attention to the people walking past or to anything happening in the world outside. I am not part of that world that rushes past the window. That world filled with people getting on with their own lives. I am an outsider; I don’t belong. Sometimes I feel as though I don’t even belong in this body. I’m just trapped inside it looking out through someone else’s eyes; imprisoned in someone else’s skin. Everything feels strange and distant. Even sound struggles to reach me and when it does, I cannot make sense of any of it. It’s all muffled. I am deep underwater where no one can reach me. I try to move but everything feels so disconnected. I feel like I can’t really control it; this body. I look down at my hands, my arms. Stretching them out in front of me. Wiggling my fingers and rotating my wrists, just to make sure they are actually mine. There is a bandage around my left wrist. I remember watching as a hand was raised, the silver of a razor blade flashing between thumb and fingers as that blade slashed across the pale flesh of a forearm. Repeatedly. I watched as blood pearled and gathered in the wounds before over-flowing and sliding down that arm, and then dripping onto the white porcelain of the bathroom sink. My hand, my arm, my blood. But I don’t remember feeling any pain. Everything is numb.
Even my mind feels numb. Thoughts buzz around the inside of my head, beating against my skull, and I feel that dull ache that usually indicates the beginnings of a migraine. Everything feels too close, too bright, too loud. But it’s all blurry around the edges. As though I’m trying to read a book up close and I can’t make out the words. It’s making my eyes hurt. I can’t breathe; there’s no air in here and I can hear this odd choking, hiccupping sound as though someone is being strangled or drowned. My face feels hot. I lift my hand to my cheek and my fingers come away wet.
It hurts to see her like this. A strange kind of pain; a haunting shadow that pervades my mind and reverberates through me, to the deepest parts of me. My heart aches and it feels as though my soul is splitting – cracking, splintering, shattering. She is weeping loudly now and the sound of her sobs echoes all around me. It is the only sound I hear, blocking out everything else. She lifts a trembling hand to her face and I am once again drawn to the sight of her wrists and the multitude of scars there; the physical evidence of her inner agony. Her deepest, darkest secrets displayed for all to see. I almost can’t stand to watch her destroying herself in this way. I feel trapped. As though I am being forced to watch her life spiralling out of control. Something is compelling me to witness this; her complete an utter self-destruction. I just want to shout and scream at her; make it stop. Just make the hurting stop. But I can’t stop it. I can’t protect her. I can’t do anything.
I can’t even move. I am stuck in this place; this exact same position. Something is holding me back. The air itself has become something tangible. It is thick and heavy. I am walking against the tide and it beats at me. I am drowning; gasping for air. I don’t want to watch this tale of devastation playing out before my eyes. But I can’t help it. I can’t turn away from the sight of her; her thin and fragile body scarred and broken. It is as though her tears of anguish sing out to me. Her pain and her brokenness anchor me; tether me to her. And I can feel the pain of her heart breaking in two.
“Where did you go to?”
The clear, quiet voice breaks through. I lift my head and turn to look at the well-dressed man sitting across from me. He is looking directly at me, the question still in his eyes. It hangs in the air between us. He knows that I heard him, that I just need time to process his question. I sneak a look at the clock above the door on the wall opposite. The session is almost over and I realise that I’ve barely said a word since ‘hello’. I turn back to the therapist. He is still looking at me, expectantly. His gaze pins me to the chair. I know he’s not going to let me get away with not answering him. Avoidance doesn’t work with him. And no sarcastic comments about not having moved; deflection isn’t going to work either. I can hear the ticking of the clock, getting louder and louder. And slower, as time crawls on stretching outwards for an eternity. There is no escape. I think about his question. Considering his meaning. My heart speeds up, as does my breathing. I take a deep breath to try to calm down a little. Time is now standing still,
“I go to this place sometimes. Far away. Where nothing can touch me. I can’t feel any pain; can’t feel anything. And it’s as though I’m watching myself, my life, through someone else’s eyes…”