Share your inside stories about recovery, any life after moment is a revelation, a change, a new beginning. Be encouraged to share these stories with others. You never know who you may inspire. Life after honestly…isn’t a bowl of cherries. I often use the phrase taken from the movie, “Forrest Gump, Life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get.”

What is your life like after, honestly…
After childbirth
After marriage
After divorce
After career change
After loss of loved one
After illness
After drug or alcohol abuse
After all….

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I was 16 when I started carving hate words into my flesh. So glad I wised up. The inner hate I harvested caused physical wounds, the pain real and deep as the ocean. I reveled in the pain. I enjoyed it. The pain seemed to make the scabs of a torn soul disappear...


I put the on my long sleeve shirts to cover the wounds and a smile on my face, as if everything was ok. I hid my dark secrets. I hid from mirrors. The mirrors only reflected truth. I could see demons playing in my hair, when I peaked in the mirror to wash my face.


Outbreaks were sporadic. I was set off by certain memories, rejection, or if my feelings were hurt. Often times when I was angry I’d put holes in the wall by socking them or kicking at them. My tantrums turned into somewhat of a teen opera.


I was experiencing emotions I couldn’t explain. I hated my surroundings and my fa├žade at school was becoming a task to up hold. The troubles of youth trying to fit in, and the pressure of potential social demise could drive a person mad.


The words etched in my skin were always the same. “I HATE YOU,” In all caps, underlined twice for effect. It burned as I drove the hot safety pin across my flesh. Continually, I dragged the pointed carver into my skin frantically and deviously as blood oozed from my pores. My rage was soothed as the warm blood began to pour from my arms. Like a vampire to blood. It was a high I couldn’t explain. Watching the blood and the skin break made me feel as if the problems were solving themselves. I couldn’t remember the reason for my tantrum much after because my thoughts were clouded with the pain of my cutting experience.


The bandage was soaked with blood. I had to be sure to change it often. I was fearful of anyone finding out of my self-mutilation. People of color tend to think that this type of behavior is limited to other races. We may have different cultural traditions and there are in fact ways in which other cultures and races deal with stress and the like. However, we have since crossed race lines, that we would have never expected to share.


So for those readers confused as to where this is going, the cutter isn’t a white thing. It has no color. Self-mutilation is a cry for help. I didn’t know how to expressively speak to my loved ones about my feelings or insecurities because those types of things weren’t discussed openly in our family. The communication barrier had yet to be broken.


The cutting became a ritual. It was my coping mechanism. I began using my feet as the place for pain. I would pick at the toe nail digging deep under the nail, claiming to have an ingrown toe nail. I’d make sure to take Tylenol so that I could make it through my operation. Picking at the scab gave me peace reliving the pain and watching the pus to reveal that it had indeed become infected. It hurt like hell to walk. The pain was like a hurt me, hurt me feel good sensation.


Sometimes as I walked, I’d put pressure down on the toes I’d operated on to ensure that I could feel pain, or make the infection ooze so that I could later pick at the scab.


Disturbing I know, and it wasn’t until my late 20’s that this ritual was put to rest. Discussions with medical professionals didn’t help the sore subject of self-esteem and body image. I was harboring secrets of torment during my childhood, which later grew to haunt my abilities to form healthy adult relationships.


You see, how the development of the child psyche can affect the brain and its development. Our very developmental processes and environments in which we live and grow effect our learning and ability’s to cope with stress. Even, just the day to day struggles. I don’t need a psychology doctorate or medical book to convey this message to you because it is something I have learned through experience. Though my educational background is in psychology, I only took on the major of the mind to understand my own.


You know you can’t keep ignoring your feelings. Feelings of anger can foster into rage and develop into plans of premeditated crimes of passion.


I vowed to myself that I would never pick up a sharp object, with the intent to carve words into my skin. I vowed this same oath to myself. I took up writing again as my release. I drew for the first time in 3 years. My father had passed. My love for the arts died along with him. My art work was lost in storage that I didn’t bother to retrieve. I had lost all use of it.


Today, I find joy in many of my suppressed talents. I opened my heart to the world by letting out the demons I hid in my closet so that I could heal. You know when you make an issue public that is the first step to healing and letting go. It’s when you hold it in that you give room for continued practice of these unhealthy behaviors.


Many of us are afraid to reveal our inner most feared secrets because we are afraid that we will be judged. Well you will. People judge you whether it’s a headline or subtext. The cutter in me threatens to peak and rain havoc on my soul. I have to look at my children’s faces and I begin to pray immediately. It’s a sickness, an addiction. An addiction can take many shapes and forms. My name is Aija and I am a cutter, and I am addicted to pain, pain in which suppress’, the emotions of my mental state of mind.


My cure to this pain is journaling. In this journal is my diary. This is the way I can at least release my emotions and learn to let go, a healthy reaction to anger and fear. I am indeed born again. Taking this recovery thing one day at a time, one of many recovering faults I enlist.

Sick again, I couldn‘t believe it. I fell over in my chair defeated and ready to throw in the towel. I slumped and melted as if the bones in my body had disintegrated. I thought that the worse was over. I never imagined for one second that what doctors predicted would come true.

Before I could hit the ground, I was rescued by a nurse assistant on duty and asked to change into a gown. I refused of course. I didn’t trust the medical facility and challenged the test results, they so eagerly read as if it were good news. I rolled my eyes with the last bit of energy I had before my complete breakdown. 

“What would be the point of completing my current tasks?” I implied. The nurse was more than confused. You could see her fingers itching over to the panic button. Still, she smiled and said that she wasn’t at liberty to speak on the matter. I found that quite cowardice. She was so anxious to read the news of my lab results. It was as if she got off on telling patients they had days to live. If I could reach the scalpel on the supply table I would have cut her throat. The sound of her guzzling blood over powered her speech in my mind.

I contemplated about the walk home. I had driven but; I thought it would be fitting to take a stroll. It had seemed like such a long haul to overcome my first bout with illness. I just didn’t think I could make it through a second time. I stayed for the poking and prodding, the excessive lab work that could only reveal one thing. I was set-up.  What was the point of chemo therapy? I was no stranger to walks with death, but what was the point of fighting the inevitable? It had come back with a vengeance, knocking down my walls of confidence and security. 


I looked up at the strange woman and refused any help. She was forcing me into a gown along with one of her team. She couldn’t handle me on her own. Her presence sickened me. I couldn’t wait to get a moment alone with her. I believe they altered the test results, by the many vigilantes against survival and perseverance. They were apart the of devils advocates I’m sure. I could smell them from a mile away.

I was caught off guard. I was so angry I stood in the middle of the hospital garden and screamed for God and his son to show face. I drifted into biblical times. The grass became sand, my feet were bare, and the sun was hot. My hands were swelling and callusing as the sun burned them. I held them high towards the sky waiting for God to tell me what was going on.


Screaming at the top of my lungs drew much attention. They saw me standing in a hospital gown raising my hands to the sky, speaking in some odd language. I saw no one just the sun beaming down upon me as I glared in the bright lights that soon blinded me.


It was going to be a very long walk home. I was so taken back by the news. I forget where I lived. I left my car in the parking lot and started on my journey home. I didn’t have a care in the world. I walked along side cars on the highway. The breeze flowing in from my open back gown gave me, just enough of a cooling to beat the exhausting heat. I was one with the earth and beginning to accept my fate.


In reality I believe at this point the nursing staff retrieved me from the outside courtyard just in front of the hospitals entrance, and bused me back to my room. I say shades of gray. I couldn’t understand nor could I explain the happenings occurring in my mind. All I could see was darkness. It was sure to be a long walk home. A long walk back to civilization, I couldn’t think.


The nurse was just behind the curtain pushing in the machines. She was back to take my vitals. I couldn’t believe they were trying to admit me based on a technicality. I was sick in the head. My physical frame was as well as it was going to get. If I were going to take the walk down these long halls to isolation then it was no point in even admitting me. I wasn’t going to stand for it, not again. I did my time. I paid my dues. I‘d learned my lesson.


I’d survived the long walk home once before. I couldn’t see the need for my revisiting the long endless roads of humility. Fading into sleep as the nurse punctures my flesh, I remember only the smell of the cool air and the clouds in the sky. They were in the shape of fluffy kernels of popcorn. A treat I rarely ate unless at the movies, but one I all of sudden craved. It was going to be a long walk home, and I had yet to be granted the right and privilege to do so.

You ever suffer from an illness or discomfort of some sort and this remarkable commercial comes on that says, “Tired of feeling depressed, tired of just sitting around your home working the same dead-end job?” Or how about, “The cure is here. No more aches and pains…” You get up from your slump and scoot to the edge of your seat with all the excitement you can muster, and as you exhale you hear a man mumbling gibberish incoherently about the side-effects to the drugs or activity.

The sulking continues, who wants to risk the possibility of death due to side effects of the drug, rather than the symptoms? Life is much the same. When we are born we grow.

Then we come of age, and our rebellious natures choose paths both good and bad. However as we humans plan for our goals to become a reality, rarely do we consider the fine print. The fine-prints I speak of are the many snags, trials, and tribulations that come along with this life journey. We want to be successful, we want to feel loved, and we naturally well into our adult lives would like the approval of both our peers and parents.

Sadly, life happens, things don’t always come in order, and the fine-print on labels are often overlooked. So what’s the stitch? What do we do with the life after moments that leave our mouths wide open with shock and dismay? Do we perhaps just throw in the towel and say better luck next time? Or do we stand and take our lives back, noting the mishap, and beginning anew. I don’t down the fine-print. I embrace it. It causes me to pay attention to my goals, my dreams, my peers, and even my family.

The fine-print is a simple cautionary warning. Think of it as a wet floor sign right before you enter into a public restroom. You wouldn’t just scurry in full speed, unless you happened to disregard the sign. Take a pilot for instance, there is a long list of to do’s before you are cleared to take off. You read, you study, you train, and then you soar.

This is what my life after honestly means. It is about all those leaps of faith we take, and those experience we encounter along the way. We are not always informed of the possible set-backs we may or may not endure. But this is the sole purpose of this memoir I share my quirky short stories about my illness, my recovery, loss of sensibility and my fight to achieve what many said I couldn’t. After all 10 years ago doctors called my time of death 11/22/02 at 2:30am. What can I say there was a change in plans, God’s plan. I am living proof. There is a life after. “Clear we have a pulse…”