What does it feel like to hurt yourself … on purpose? What is it like when the switch clicks in your brain and the hand raises, then lowers, the blade over your own skin?
Does it feel right? Does it feel crazy (like it should)? Does it feel… better? The moment just before contact, when the anticipation of release is tantalizingly palpable—and you could stop, but don’t—what compels the hand to continue? What does it feel like when cold, hard, sharp, smooth metal makes contact with warm, pulsing, soft, fragile flesh?
I was a quick-cutter. I would slice, slice, slice in short, rapid strokes, getting deeper with each cut. Each cut brought me incrementally closer to calm, to control. I almost always knew when to stop—I didn’t want to need stitches (because that would mean exposure), and most times I didn’t want to bleed to death. I wanted release. Release from uncontrollable, insurmountable emotional turmoil. Transforming my storm of inner pain and anguish into visible, tangible, physical sensation mitigated it (somewhat). For me, part of the ritual was the release: somehow seeing my blood ooze then spill from my cuts produced a serenity unreachable through any other sane means—but also the methodical cleaning and dressing of my wounds afterwards (and of the blade) also left me feeling stoically in control (unlike whatever explosive madness led up to the cutting). Once bandaged, the ache under the wrappings was a welcome reminder that my body was, in fact, still my own—if I could feel it, it was real. If I could feel pain, I was real, and I preferred the physical pain to the emotional pain, and most certainly as an alternative to numbness.
It felt different when it didn’t work. When the storm wanted to take me with it. The slicing steps toward serenity only deepening the desire for darkness. No amount of bloodshed by my own hand would be enough.
The turning point is/was subtle. It started the same, but did not progress the same. The calm never came. Cut, cut, cut… but no solace. Just renewed vigor and hunger for more and more bloodletting. Then it hit me, like sunlight in my eyes: blinding and painful, but still beautiful. If I keep going, maybe I’d end this horrific, consuming pain once and for all. And then, well, maybe then I’d get to meet my baby. The one I killed by abortion. Sweet, sweet Baby J. He’d be waiting for me. I could finally meet my baby—hold him, apologize, love him. Maybe.
So I kept going. I started filling the tub. I had read somewhere that the blood flowed more freely underwater. Warm, not hot, water. My tears eerily subsided as I lowered my arms under the water, and kept slicing. It was taking too long. I got mad, distracted. Kept bleeding, but not enough. Looked for pills. Found some. Took them. Still waiting. Still bleeding. Still waiting. NO DEATH.
Then I turned on the oven.
Here’s the point where I laugh now. Now, twenty-three years later. Because I didn’t know what a pilot light was when I was 17. It was a gas oven, yes, but I turned it on, opened the door, knelt on the cold linoleum floor of that cheap basement apartment in Northeast Philly and stuck my head in there hoping, wishing, yes—even praying that I would die. I singed my bangs and my eyebrows, but alas, I did not die.
When the paramedics came I refused to open the door. Somewhere during all of this I must have called my boyfriend at work. He must have been the one to call 911. They eventually got into the apartment, I don’t remember how, and they laughed at me. They laughed at my cuts, they laughed at the empty bottle of pills, they laughed at the very warm tiny kitchen with the oven door open. They laughed at my smoky eyebrows. “Guess you didn’t really want to die, huh?”
They didn’t even put me in their ambulance. I don’t remember how I got to the hospital, and I have very little memory of being in the ER, but I vividly remember running out of it. And running and running. But I couldn’t run backwards in time. I couldn’t run back to the clinic and save my baby. I couldn’t replay January 6, 1989 and have it end with my baby still growing inside me—safe, warm, content.
My life, my world, my being, is measured by that day. Not the day I tried to take my own life, but the day I did take the life of my first child. There is Before My Abortion, and After My Abortion.
I have often thought, what if… but then I stop myself.
LifeNews Note: This is Part One of a series on post-abortion recovery. Jewels Green is a post-abortive mother of three who worked in an abortion clinic before becoming pro-life. Watch for the next installment in this series of post-abortion pain and recovery, “Abortion Hurts, Part 2: The Psychiatric Hospital” coming soon. Green writes for the Live Action blog and this column is reprinted with permission.