I Need an Alibi

Friday, February 22, 2008

Question

I used to cut myself. Unfortunately, I didn't take very good care of my self-inflicted injuries, so I have some scars. I cut myself in places that are normally covered by clothing, but I obviously sometimes want to take all my clothes off! I don't know what to say when a lover asks me why I have marks on my body. I am afraid of being perceived as crazy, having him reject me, etc. It's been more than ten years since I was tempted to cut myself. I went through very good treatment in a recovery center. I still facilitate an on-line group for those who suffer from self-injuring desires. Sometimes I have an opportunity for a sexual experience, and I want it, but I don't allow myself to enjoy it because I don't want to "come out" as a former cutter.

Answer

Nobody can make you talk about something that you don't want to discuss. If a potential lover or one-night stand asks, "What happened to you?" just say, "Oh, Christ, I don't want to talk about that now!" and kiss or unzip him, depending on how far you've come toward slamming the puck into the net, so to speak. If he asks again, snap, "That's none of your business, okay?" and follow up with, "I really want to do this! Please don't stop!"

I doubt you'll get rejected very often. Oddly enough, it's the guy who is most likely to be relationship material who might gently hold you off and insist on having a conversation about your scars. But let me repeat, you don't have to tell your story to anyone who doesn't make you feel safe. If you sense a lack of compassion or kindness, accept the fact that the night isn't going to go the way you'd like, and send him home or call yourself a cab, depending on whether you're playing at home or away. (Okay, I'll stop with the sports metaphors.)

You might be able to reduce the appearance of your scars with Vitamin E oil, silicone bandages, or plastic surgery. Some cosmetics are made specifically for concealing scars, but makeup has a tendency to vanish during good energetic sex.

I assume that if you ever have a serious relationship, you'd want your partner to know about your history, if only so he could support you and help prevent a relapse. Conflicts about sex and romance are leading causes of slips, whether your problem is sharp objects or alcohol. Both dull the pain of feeling despair about the future and disgust with oneself. Unfortunately, many of us are abandoned to deal with abusive situations that we can only survive, not escape. You deserve to have someone hear your story of courage and healing.

Cutting isn't something that only women do. You'd be surprised by the number of men who injure themselves to relieve stress and emotional pain. It's easier for men to conceal some of this behavior by engaging in contact sports or other rough behavior. Whether a potential partner (or friend) has also experienced cutting or not, he or she can still be empathetic and a good ally. So practice telling your story. Do it in writing first. The day will come when you'll find your voice, and you'll be happy you didn't remain isolated and silent.