Tangled Web

Deceptions of a transgender guy

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My broken picture window

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…occasionally I wished I could walk through a picture window and have the sharp, broken shards slash me to ribbons, so I would finally look like I felt.”  ~ Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Trigger warning: Self-harm – an intensely personal point of view. Not for the emotionally vulnerable.

When I re-read my poems that span across almost 40 years, one of the leitmotifs is blood. Although my writing speaks eloquently about the emotional pain, I never wrote about the psychological need for, or the act and results of inflicting physical pain.

The time has come to speak about this very private “thing”, though, and to call it by its name: self-harm. I know I am not alone in how I use self-harm as a means to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration. But although I do not condone it at all as a means of coping, and advise people who are victims of this destructive behaviour to seek immediate help, I am however ambivalent in how I view my own acting upon the urge.

Yes, I find fleeting relief from emotional pain while it is temporarily replaced by the physical. But no, I do not experience guilt or shame. Then why have I kept it a secret? I guess the only answer to that is that it had been something intensely private, something inextricably entwined with my gender confusion. Becoming the real me, I had always seen as a dream, something that could never become a reality. I wrote this in 2011:

Fantasy

The only one I long to be:
a deep, undisclosed part of me –
a character who fascinates and intrigues
but from the darkness he seldom speaks –
lurking in the recesses of my mind,
where he dwells with other misfits of his kind.
Dare I show this repressed part?
(The one who rules my shattered heart)
What Prince of Darkness will I find,
if I should un-snare the ropes that bind?

Allowing my repressed trans side to be disclosed and empowering Kris to finally speak, is however not the end of my battles. There are other demons I need to slay on my life’s journey, many of them human. And I am not invincible. I need armour against their onslaught and currently part of my defense is inflicting my own wounds. Before I am wounded? Probably. Picture window

Foolish? Yes. Irrational? For sure. Not a solution? Of course not. There are other, better and healthier ways of coping.

But seeing the crimson of my own blood is a means of visualizing the invisible ribbons of hurt. Experiencing physical pain dulls the emotional for a while as I gaze upon the Prince of Darkness in my soul. It keeps me from lashing out at others. And I live to fight another day.

Judge me if you dare.

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Author: Kris

Hi! I'm Kris. I live in South Africa with my life partner of 27+ years, whom I call B or Madam in my posts. We have a Pug dog child, Remi, also known as Pooch, who has graced and enriched our lives for the past 12 years.

20 thoughts on “My broken picture window

  1. I can’t say anything condemning about self harm. I’ve done it myself, I’ve known many who’ve done it and still do, I’ve watched the people I’ve loved more than any bleed through clothes and wince to my touch in attempting to hide wounds. I’ve seen bodies that have more cuts than unbroken skin. All I know is that it would be preferable to not do it, but I know that’s how the self harmer would prefer to be as well.

    There is no point judging, anything that sounds like that is done in fear, a sense of hopelessness that our attempts to help loved ones still ends in pools of blood. We want to say that it will cause infections, that one day a cut will go too deep and the fates that come will be worse than death, but what does that achieve?

    With my loved ones I have to accept that part of them, though it is painful, though I would like to think there are much better avenues for dealing with pain, but I know there is nothing I can do except try to be supportive, to be there with anti-septic and bandages, to be near a phone to hear the tears or perhaps at times to make dreaded calls to healthcare professionals. To be there and to be loving, even though it makes my own soul bleed. It’s not their fault. It’s not your fault.

    I hate self-harm, yes I have the scars as well, I have the memories, I can date each one to an event, yet I know people whose scars are so overlapping, condensed and beyond number. I hate to know it, but sometimes I have to accept that a wound is better than a rope, better than a bottle of pills, better than a lot of terrible things. Yet sometimes I want to scream, ‘please respect your body, see the love I have for you and how much it hurts me to see you hurt so bad’. I know sometimes that makes it worse, because you know you shouldn’t, you know you should find another way, but…

    Still I wish I had the words to say, ‘it’s ok, I don’t understand but I accept you’, that this is not always a choice, never an easy option, but something that can take a long time to prevent and heal, something that may take forever, but mostly that love and support is there, that it can be worked on. Sometimes there will be slip ups, maybe there always will be. I understand that each scar is part of the mosaic of memories, I want to believe that each scar left to heal is part of a lesson learned that doesn’t need to be taught again.

    My only demand of them, and I will say it to you as well, is to be safe, to do it cleanly, to sanitize afterwards and bind the wounds, to have an emergency contact, to love and accept yourself for the faults that cause you to self-harm, to not judge yourself too harshly, to realise each time the triggers start to try and consider a little that there may be another option this time, and to never give up if it seems like there is no option. Any prevention, any de-escalation is a little success, and though you cannot see it like the red streams, the flow of blood in your heart is stronger than unbearable moments of pain, and you do have the strength to carry through.

    Thank you for being strong to share, I hope my diatribe doesn’t feel offensive, triggering or insensitive to you. I believe in you like I’ll believe in anyone who wishes for something better. The battles never end, but you still become stronger, more battle-hardened each time, always leaning something new. Please stay safe 🙂 Xx

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    • Thank you, Amy. No offence taken, concern and lessons learnt taken to heart. I don’t cut, but your advice is none the less appropriate and appreciated. Take care.

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  2. Drat Kris, I’m so sorry to read this. I used to self harm a lot when I was younger and have some pretty nasty scars to show for it. Not too proud of that. Like you, seeing the blood somehow calmed my upset emotions. I never actually felt physical pain though when self harming. I somehow managed to overcome it and I’m immensely grateful for that. I hope you’ll be able to overcome it too one day.

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  3. Thanks for sharing. You are a brave and beautiful soul. Love the Wurtzel quote. Prozac Nation was my bible for many years.

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    • Thank you, Middleagebutch. More of a cowardly lion, but I will return from Oz and roar like the King of the Beasts. Never read Prozac Nation – another title for my “to read” list. Take care. Hope the book sells well!

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  4. I second Hali’s point. Writing honestly about fantasy, self-harm, and vulnerability is the hardest thing to do.

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  5. I never really understood self-harm until I read “Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws” by Kate Bornstein. If it is the means of coping that gets you through, the important thing is that you get through. I look forward to you coming out on the other side.

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    • Thanks so much for the book reference – this outlaw will make a plan to get hold of it via inter-library loan. What’s the use of being a librarian if you cannot make use of the services, no? Thanks for the vote of confidence. 🙂

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  6. I’ve only been around for a little while, but I have to say, your Prince of Darkness is a fine fellow, and someone I’m honoured to call friend.

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  7. This was a lovely, painfully brave post. Thank you for sharing with us.

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  8. This is very brave of you to write about. I can relate…

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    • Thanks, buddy. As a special friend reminded me just now, “it’s the cracks in things that let the light in.” Let’s believe the light will clear up all our darkness. Take care!

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  9. No judgement here! I feel your pain crying out in this piece and can’t help but think that your Prince of Darkness will become your Prince of Light once he’s born into the world and you won’t need so much armor.

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  10. You are so very brave. I am honored to be journeying with you.

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