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The entirety of this 5173 word article can be found in issue #3 of Morbid Curiosity, available from Automatism Press.

Self-Mutilation: Destructive or Therapeutic?
By Jasmine Sailing

(SNIP through intro and the gradual change from being suicidal to being willing to live.)

I know there's no longer any possibility that I'll intentionally kill myself, barring an eventual necessity for euthanasia. I'm not always thrilled with life, but I don't intend to waste mine and will therefore shred anything which attempts to remove me from it in an untimely manner. Self- destructive tendencies tend to lurk subconsciously, though, and I need to keep a firm grip on mine. I must always be aware of what I'm doing, and why, lest I find myself slipping back into that particular maelstrom of self-cannibalism again.

Though in the past I often sliced myself up in the hopes of dying, it was sometimes the cutting itself which convinced me not to go through with the suicide. The pain would provoke an endorphin rush, the rush would restabilize my mind. I would pause, think, and realize it would be best for me to simply calm down and go clean the cuts. Once that's happened, it's not at all difficult to develop a tendency for cutting yourself as a preventive measure against self- destruction. You realize that a few simple slashes can chill you out, kick you in the butt, and give you that will to live.

I rarely cut myself anymore, and when it does happen it is for reasons of self-preservation rather than self-destruction. Two years ago ('96) I had one danger sign incident: I cut myself because I felt ashamed. I wanted to punish myself. This reaction is definitely a bit negative, and results from elements of my past which I could probably write another few hundred essays about. Hurting myself for the sake of shame was also somewhat positive, though, given that it released the feeling without drastic measures ("So, cutting yourself isn't drastic?" uh huhs the sheltered reader. "Hey, it's better than dehabilitating or killing yourself!" says I).

I cut myself once last year, for thoroughly productive reasons. An extremely long day had left me overwhelmed with the way the most predominant feeling in modern society seems to be the hatred of anything and everything. Whether it's personal hatred, stereotypical prejudice, or terror-inspired angst, it's all there and brewing. I was crying hysterically and couldn't calm down. I knew I needed to stop the escalation fast so I grabbed a razor blade, wandered downstairs, quickly carved HATE in my left thigh, then smoked a bowl and began writing. Naturally I received the obligatory ration of shit from people who thought carving a word in my leg meant I was going to kill myself. Nope, I had no intention whatsoever of doing any such thing. I was snapping and realized I needed to ground myself immediately, to externalize my feelings, so I carved what I considered to be the name of the world and therefore purged my pain about its nature. Of course what I'd really done was give myself a short, sharp, shock with an endorphin rush attached. I was very careful with my cutting, I felt immensely more stable after doing it, and the scars faded rapidly.

Hard Knocks Precautions for Self-Destructive Survivors

I'd originally considered this essay as something of an "extreme" end to my heroin article in Morbid Curiosity #2. Whilst detailing various herbal and holistic methods for repairing your biochemistry in that article, I had also stressed emphatically that different people require entirely different levels of stimuli for enabling themselves to survive gruelling moments (be they caused by withdrawals or generic hysterical breakdowns). For many people it would suffice if they simply provoked an endorphin rush by eating a spicy hot pepper, and then attained their necessary focus through detailing intricate patterns with a pen on paper. If that works for you, wonderful. Keep it up. I'm not here to talk people into scarring themselves, I'm here to define my own use of therapeutic pain and to provide some of what I consider to be useful safety tips for people who are already scarring themselves. That having been stressed...

The true dirt end of self-mutilation is that the majority of the world will assume that anyone who does it should be committed. Even the phraseology insinuates that you are doing something as drastic as lopping your own appendages off. For these reasons of uninformed paranoia it is generally in one's best interest to only carve themselves in easy-to-hide places. Fortunately a few smaller portions of the world (such as more enlightened and realistic rape trauma groups which don't expect people to be miraculously healed one day after being traumatized) recognize it as a therapeutic form of healing.

Therapeutic self-mutilation requires focus, causes a purge, and releases euphoric/mood- regulating endorphins. A healing self-mutilator should never resort to random slashing. This isn't healthy, it's dangerous, it feeds into a frenzy that can't be controlled. It's unlikely to kill you, yet it will cause heavy scarring and possibly additional damage (including transitory effects, such as anemia). The random slashing indicates unfocused desperation, which is also likely to provoke more of a frantic (defensive) adrenaline surge than a helpful endorphin rush. Back when I performed the wild-eyed and drooling dance with blood pouring down each of my limbs, I generally had become carried away by adrenaline and just continued slashing until I was finally drained enough to settle down and develop a little euphoric cohesion. I'd humbly opine that it's best to simply avoid that deranged state in the middle.

Focus is the most crucial element in this form of self-therapy. I realize how difficult it sounds to focus while you are flipping out, but it can be done. Always cut slowly. Think of a creative, yet tedious, way to project your pain into the cutting. I've accomplished this through carving anything from symbolic pictures to a word that summed it all up for me. Artistically focusing your pain slows you down, makes you pay attention to detail, and forces you to concentrate on cutting rather than on your desperation. It allows a slow process of endorphin release, as opposed to the manic release of adrenaline. And it gives you a sense of having put the pain out into the open upon completion. Not being an artist isn't an issue. I'm certainly not a visual artist (barring performance), but that never prevented me from creating images and words which symbolized what I was feeling. You'll become an artist as you focus.

(SNIP through numerous anal-retentive safety tips for self-mutilators.)

Epilogue: Holding Each Others' Razors

Admittedly, I've taken my own slash and burn habits to levels which would definitely be more than most people feel they want or need (and that's not such a bad thing). As I've previously stated, it's become extremely rare for me to hurt myself in any way. Likewise, while it was often excruciatingly painful in the past, my sex life has become peaceful. Yet already I'm certain the rumours circulate of how thoroughly I've allowed myself to be tortured at the Death Equinox convergence (in both '97 and '98) and, even if they weren't circulating, there would be enough photos and .avis of my bloody arm or pierced back floating around to demonstrate it anyway. I suppose these performance habits of mine make me appear rather "hardcore", not to mention "touched in the head", but I also expect it's all a bit misleading. I was "hardcore" when I wanted to die -- now I play it safe and vainly.

(SNIP through account of DE '97 torture reading.)

During both years of Death Equinox, at approximately eight p.m. on Friday night, the stress of being a Chair Tyrant and managing to be in several places at once for far too long, with so little rest, whilst simultaneously convincing myself that I was ruining everything and would have a lynch mob after me shortly, inevitably whacked me in the snout and set me into bouts of hysterical crying. You would expect me to be yet more exhausted and insecure on Saturday. Indeed! After the '97 reading I felt so intensely invigorated, so well-reassembled mentally, so hyper, that it was easy to survive the remainder of Death Equinox. I even felt motivated toward letting ten needles be poked through my back, for the play piercing demonstration, a few hours later. I hadn't felt so incredibly charged in years! And so it was that I became inclined to believe I would need another such reading in '98, simply to enable my survival.

The magical element, which I had become fixated upon after it manifested itself in '97, decided to intensify in '98. It began on Thursday night when I was ceremoniously declared the official Death Equinox sacrifice, and my ass was so severely paddled that it was thoroughly bruised for a week after the event. At my reading, two nights later, I had stripped down the cast a touch. There were only four people for "torturing" me, plus my podium (who turned my pages, gave me drinks, and wiped my chin), and there was only the use of fire and blood for symbolic imagery. Melting candle wax (from paraffin novenas -- beeswax has a higher melting point and is likely to cause heavy scarring) was splashed on me, hot needles burnt me, flaming cotton balls were run across my body, and razors sliced me. Though less was being done, I was far more strained than I had been the first time (we can credit this to the continuous application of multiple hot needles). So I giggled more, and I broke out into a heavy sweat from struggling to maintain my focus throughout it, and I ultimately felt that I had successfully endured, or transcended, an actual challenge.

I was strapped into a St. Andrew's Cross, with my back toward the audience. In the end my back, arms, legs, and sides appeared as one endless mess of bloody cuts and burn marks. Candles burned, two out of three of the people working on me were regular practitioners of (left-hand) ritual. Even the story I was reading included elements of magic, being about the magician Panhuibanou's attempts (through the perspective of Queen Teye) to cause Ramses II's death. Pacing demons, disintegrating souls, elements of my past. I was adamant, throughout the planning stages, about wishing to portray an image of the disintegration of the self -- but with an aftermath of my own rebirth. Once again the entire process left me extremely enlivened, and I even volunteered for my second annual temporary piercing (more needles than the initial time) later in the evening. I'm aware that the resulting gory pictures of me have disturbed some people, as they've made their rounds on the net. I still expect it's all a bit misleading, though.

From my manic slash and burn days, I retain numerous scars which will likely only fade as my flesh rots. However, my scars from the readings never do take long to disappear. Let us refer back to that extreme difference between manic slashing and precise cutting: if you are focused, you tend to cut significantly lighter than you do whilst slamming a razor down into your skin with the added strength of hysterical adrenaline. Hence, the results of carefully inflicted pain tend to heal considerably faster than those of manically-inflicted pain.

(SNIP through much ado about carnal alchemy and the outro.)

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