parenting

the first cut is the deepest

“The first cut is the deepest,

The second leaves the biggest scar.” – Jay Long

She was born when I was seventeen. She was soft, with a face just like a china doll. Her perfectly shaped blue eyes, and her perfect rosebud mouth. She had a bit of dark hair, running with perfect symmetry across her perfect, round forehead. Her tiny fingers wrapped around mine, and I couldn’t imagine that any human being could ever take my breath away like she did mine.

“Mommy, I lub you,” she said, taking my face in her hands. She was three. Or four. Her large blue eyes rimmed with a dark violet, long, dark lashes fluttering on my cheeks with butterfly kisses. Her dark blond hair fell in ringlets to the nape of her neck.

I failed her in so many ways. I failed to protect her when I needed to.

The first cut I saw on her legs filled me with horror. She was fifteen. I’d taken her to a psychologist years earlier, at thirteen. I was left standing outside of the psychologist’s office, while my daughter, struggling with things I desperately wanted to understand went inside. I wasn’t allowed to know what was happening.

They asked her if anyone was hurting her, if she felt safe at home. I don’t know what she said. I couldn’t hold her hand, or understand her pain.

It had been happening for a while. She’d stayed with her father for some time, and came back with a problem I could not comprehend. “Stop looking at me like that,” she said darkly. “Like what?” I choked. “Like I’m disgusting you or something.”

I can’t . . . even have a face.

Then came the call. She’d laid in my lap, telling me she loved me just moments before. Now she was sixteen. The voice on the other end of the phone, her best friend’s mother, telling me that my daughter had taken a handful of pills just hours earlier. She wanted to die. This, my perfect child, with her luminous eyes, rosebud mouth, gripping my finger with her whole hand, the life I gave at the expense of my own.

We ended up at the juvenile mental health facility several miles away, following a brief stay in the emergency room, where I had to witness the check-in process, which included a strip search. I was crushed to see my child’s body covered with shallow and deep scars from shoulder to ankle.

They told me that cutting was an addiction, not necessarily a suicidal act. It was about regulating the emotions, like anxiety. I had to stop hiding the knives. I had to stop hovering. When were they going to tell me something useful?

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