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    Cutting, Healing and Hope

    Excerpted from
    Comes the Darkness, Comes the Light: A Memoir of Cutting, Healing, and Hope
    By Vanessa Leigh Vega, M.S.

    Of all the things I could have written about, this issue was by far the most personal and private. I have chosen to share my experiences with the hope that it will help you, the reader, to realize something greater about yourself.

    What you hold in your hands is a culmination of more than fifteen years of therapy by many individuals at several locations. Some of this treatment was voluntary; some of it was not. Regardless, for the first time in my life, I was tasked with taking responsibility for my own behavior. To assist me in this process, I took antidepressants at various times of my life that offered me a small reprieve from feelings I found too overwhelming to deal with effectively. And in the end, I learned that therapy was about me and my desire for a healthier life. Period. It was not about my family, my husband (whom I divorced after twelve years of marriage), or impressing others. The false image I had created for the world crumbled as soon as I walked in the door. And as painful as that was, I am alive because of it.

    When I entered therapy, seriously, of my own volition, and with a desire to get to the heart of the reasons for my self-injury, it was because I was cutting four times a day. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to break my own arms and femurs, although I had succeeded in breaking fingers and toes, and most recently, in rupturing the protective casing around my ulna and radius bones in my right arm. Repeated blunt trauma to my right wrist and forearm left me with temporary numbness in my fingers.

    At the height of my disorder, in an effort to justify the endorphins I was getting from cutting, I subjected myself to medical experiments at the local medical school. I rationalized that if I wasn't doing the cutting, and it benefited society, then it wasn't really self-injury. I was donating plasma twice a week at the local blood bank and whole blood ever)' two months. (In instances when I knew my weight wasn't going to be enough to qualify, I would purposefully line my pockets to tip the scale). Sometimes I would "drop by" the blood bank just to get my iron checked. A finger stick. A muscle biopsy. Anything to feel like I had control over the pain in my life. Anything to keep the pain from the past from catching up to me. Anything to keep from feeling like I was a phantom-a shadowy figure easily overlooked and discarded, forgotten.

    My therapy was intensive and multilayered because I was also struggling with an eating disorder. To complicate things even further, repeated use of stimulants had damaged my body's ability to eliminate waste on its own. Deciding on a whim to stop the use of these stimulants turned out to be a near-fatal mistake. However, with medical intervention and medication, within six months I had retrained my body to function properly. I also discovered in therapy that if I focused on one disorder and managed to get it under control, the other would flare up.

    I have never been able to fully maintain two disorders at the same time. Over the past fifteen years, cutting dominated my behavior and thought processes and anorexia was secondary. At times when my anorexia was the most severe and all consuming, cutting was in the background. It is like my body and mind can only focus on one thing at a time: feelings or weight. If I am obsessed with my weight, then it seems like I am able to shut off many of the feelings that contribute to self-injury. But if my eating disorder is under control, I start to fear getting fat, become even more insecure, and before I know it, I will go from cutting only once a month or so to cutting multiple times a week. This book is about my struggles to understand the causes for the manifestation of both disorders within me.

    This is my story. I have tried to be as accurate as memory allows, although I have changed some of the names and personal details of the people included to protect their privacy. In some places, I have skipped over parts of my therapy because at the time it did not resonate with me. In the editing of this book, it was brought to my attention that I had failed to include a critical piece of information with regard to the group therapy format. From what I have written, one might get the impression that once the group was formed, we were thrust into our issues without there being an emotional safety net established. My omission of this step stems from the fact that I have no recollection of those earliest processes. In my mental state, I was not wholly convinced that I belonged in the group and therefore did not take any vested interest in its creation or duration. I clearly remember the first meeting and the intimidation I felt. But the subsequent meetings are a blur. Several weeks went by and as my condition continued to worsen, I began to realize that group was indeed something I needed. By then the rules had been created and the dynamics of the group were set. Although I don't remember the safety exercises created by the therapist, some part of my being must have felt secure enough to revisit the events of my past and to share openly my feelings about them. Now, I share them a second time to help you.

    In the end, this is a story of forgiveness; redemption; and, ultimately, survival. I hope it validates what you feel or may be going through. I hope it encourages you to reach out and get help from someone who is able to look past the scars and tears and set you on a course to healing.

    For now and for always, you are never alone. Know that in a world of billions, there is someone who can relate to and understand your pain.

    With hope for healing,

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