01 September 2010

Day 158: Speak

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. ISBN: 9780141310886.

One of the ways Melinda copes with her difficult social and emotional situation is by self-harming.  I don't think many people know this, but I practiced self-harm through a large portion of my teenage years.  I was probably about 14 when it started, and I didn't stop until I was about 17 or 18.  I still self-harm on particularly stressful occasions, but not as regularly as I used to.  In fact, I can't recall the last time I did it, but the urge is still there.

I don't know why other people do it, but I'll tell you why I did.  I was invisible.  I was invisible to everyone except for the person I wanted most to be invisible to.  My brother was physically abusive to me and I was constantly terrified that it would turn into sexual abuse.  His behavior was erratic and he would get angry for what seemed like no reason.  He was on drugs and his friends were verbally abusive to me and sometimes inappropriate around me and my friends.

Mostly I think I was internalizing the abuse.  It was a way of having some control over the pain and the fear I knew I would be facing again, but didn't know when to expect.  I never cut very deeply, they were surface wounds and always on my forearm, but I felt that I deserved it and that it's what people wanted for me because no one was stopping what else was going on.  On particularly bad days I would scream at my mother after being hit or tormented by my brother and then lock myself in my room and bang my head against the wall until I felt like vomiting from the headache and the crying.  It had the added benefit of upsetting my mother as much as it upset me.  I was trying to speak, but no one was listening, so I stopped talking.

It was an extreme relief when my mother installed outside locks on our bedroom doors.  There had been times where I had to sit against the door because my brother would pop the other lock with a screw driver so he could come in and hit me.  There are days when I really don't know how I survived those years, because I desperately, desperately wanted to die, but just didn't know how to go through with it.

This is a pretty good review, if somewhat on the short and scanty side.  This has been discussed before by guest blogger Dan Walker.  Read his post here.


  1. I was a cutter in high school but I stopped after I met my now husband. I didn't have a horrible home situation, I wasn't calling attention to the cutting at all, and I really had no reason to start in the first place and though I only have one scar from it I never cut deeply. I was told that I suffer from depression but after the pills they made me take made it even worse to be in my head, I stopped taking it.

    Because of my problems as a teen I've been hesitant to read this author though she always seems to write about the major end of the problems. Wintergirls for example sounds like the main character is a step away from the hospital.

  2. I think it's likely I might have ended up as a cutter even if I hadn't had the hostile home situation, but it was definitely a contributing factor. Even though Anderson is an excellent author, I don't think it's necessary for everyone to read her. Some of us only need to relive our problems once.

    Thanks for sharing your past, I'm glad to hear you met someone who helped you move through it. I hope this post didn't trigger too many painful memories, but I like to think it might be helpful for other self-harmers to come to grips with the behavior and figure out what they need to do to recover.


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