That was the year I first remember hurting myself deliberately. I concentrated very hard, considering what I was about to do. I remember assuring myself, steeling myself, saying to myself, the next step, this next step, I’m going to do it, no matter how much it hurts.

I remember the feelings, old memories, fond, often-handled. The way skin felt as it tore, the taste of blood, the way one direction would tear off long strips, another direction only small chunks. I remember testing the waters, getting to a place where it really, really hurt to continue to do what it was that I was doing, and then pushing myself harder to steel myself against more and more intense pain, feeling proud as I took it in stride, as if that alone was what made me strong.

It doesn’t matter what particular method of self-injury I chose — habitually I chose those that were easy to hide — I’ve been doing it longer than I can accurately remember. I used my teeth inside my mouth, tore thick strips of skin off the soles of my feet, pierced my fingertips with needles, taking care not to pierce so deeply as to draw blood, and then grabbing the needle and pulling it out of my skin by force — making sure to create a tear from puncture point to needle exit, a layer of skin I could then tear off with my teeth, satisfying.

In the beginning, I rarely drew blood — except by accident, scratching a little too hard, pulling skin off until it tore membranes underneath, drawing blood. These were painful injuries and difficult to explain. Why does it appear as if I’ve torn off a good chunk of skin on the palm of my hand? Uh, … because I did. What happened? Oh, an accident. Insert lie, concocted on the spot, spun to hide my strangeness.

I could sense this, the sense I was different in this way, that other people didn’t do this. I noticed it in the way my brother never picked at scabs that grew, the look on my mother’s face when presented with some of my injuries (a slight bit confused, raised eyebrow, she knows my explanation doesn’t add up, but it doesn’t matter, because she’s too terrified to ask me what really happened, so if I give her something plausible enough to ignore, she’ll give me an ice cube / band aid / bottle of peroxide so I can go get on with my life.)

I would later learn about ‘cutters’ — how they hid their scars from everyone, how they deliberately caused themselves pain and make themselves bleed and then hid it from everyone because it was wrong. At this point, I had been tearing chunks out of the inside of my mouth for years — scar tissue, altered sensation, permanent changes be damned. I would start with a little nibble and eventually I would find myself faint, slightly nauseated, spitting clots into a cup, staining sheets, marveling at how much blood there seemed to be to my child’s-mind, this blood I had sucked out my self-inflicted wounds.

I was not a ‘cutter’, I assured myself. I did not ‘cut’. there are no ‘biters’. I did not have the mind to think broadly in scope yet, nor did I know that inclusive phrase which would come to be coined for this — self-injury — I minimized my behaviour. Well, that time I smashed my head against (hard object) for the purpose of attempting to do myself some real injury was isolated (and so were all the other times that were exactly the same.) The way I bit myself so hard that it caused nerve damage — I couldn’t feel three fingers for close to six months, because of the crushing power of my own jaw on the nerves running through my wrist — there were no ‘biters’, I said, and since I bite instead of cutting, I am not this ‘cutter’ thing that my brother makes fun of and nobody understands.

I remember the bad wounds, as they healed. Ah! I would cry out. So much pain! Worse pain than causing these injuries! Surely this wasn’t fair? But God does not play fair, and neither do the creations of one called God. My injuries would heal and hurt four times as badly on the healing as on the inflicting — but that wouldn’t stop me, as soon as they were healed, as soon as I could feel that smoothness of healed skin, the nibble would start, and the tearing, and the blood.

I am self-conscious about them … nobody must know, after all … and so any occasions experienced in everyday life where I might be ‘discovered’ were fraught with anxiety. I remember fighting myself to not — not — do something that would get myself noticed, but like all of my addictions, it would sneak up behind me, and I would catch myself, mind finally not racing with thoughts, and a sudden awareness would creep in upon me — that taste, the taste of blood, the feel of skin between my teeth. I hesitate so so much to call it self-injury because while it was an injury and I was doing it to myself, it seemed so … trivial, at the time. The best coping mechanism I had.

I have gotten better about it over the years, and under the quivering threat of Master’s wrath. He so does not enjoy his slut desecrating her temple. Everyone must show a minimum of respect to my body — even me.

A friend the other day mentioned the concept of play piercing in a BDSM context (in an offhand way — she finds it sexy.) I have a few piercings, permanent ones, and had actually just finished stretching one shortly before the topic was brought up in discussion. Despite having had my piercer joke when I had my nose pierced that “yeah we’re a pretty reputable place, piercing isn’t about gay leather men getting BDSM kicks anymore!” I had never totally connected that sensation of being pierced with eroticism, but once I did, the eroticism of the idea washed over me.

From a scientific point it makes perfect sense — cause pain, body releases natural painkillers, you get a free high. I remember watching an episode of Kink, specifically watching a woman be play-pieced in the buttocks with what appeared to be one-inch, 23 ga. hypodermic needles. Thoughts crossing my mind remained detached and primarily in the role of observer: “That would hurt. She’s bleeding. Well, at least the needles are all sterile — if you’re gonna do this kind of thing, good to see they’re doing it right.” This was years ago.

It was not until this evening, when I associated the small level of eroticism I get from stretching piercings (while meditating on my habit of tugging on the machineheads in my earlobes when I’m cogitating) with the physical act of being pierced, and thusly, with the sensation of being pierced. I was discussing with T the two new piercings I want to get in my ear, which I have already gushed to Master’s boredom about, when it hit me. I’m on the couch, patiently nipping at my lip, careful not to draw blood, and I’m talking about purposeful injury for individual gratification — piercing, and therefore, play piercing, was for the first time, placed on that same shelf of mine, next to my self-soothing tactics described above. Replace relief and mental quiet for eroticism and passion and I felt as if my world came sharply into focus.

For me, a girl who grew up terrified, a girl who knew familiarly the taste of blood-clot before age 10, the reasons I find myself going back to my (minimized) SI type behaviour is the same as appears in the textbooks: something to feel, when I’d rather not feel self-loathing or fear, a way to feel alive, an attempt to clean up ‘loose ends’ (I made many a nailbed bleed profusely with my attempts at “manicure.”) I thought about the relief, of perhaps not feeling that compulsion to tear-rip… I felt a different kind of relief, and in that relief came sweet, sexual feelings, the kind that don’t slip in when there’s stress around. Without causing myself pain, only dreaming about piercing == erotic for 15 seconds, and I had relaxed most profoundly.

I thought on this epiphany, wondering at it. I dismissed it actually happening in reality, since I once remember (much younger) promising Master I would not ask him to draw blood, and that is a promise I stick to. There are limits to how comfortable he is damaging his toy for her pleasure. I understand.

I feel as if a door has been opened. This is no fetish gong which Master must-ring or our Relationship Is Doomed, rather, an internal understanding that didn’t exist before, an understanding that while I have this idea of using Master’s influence on me to help correct incorrect assumptions and to re-program default settings, there’s a possibility that simply through the act of living out my cravings for pain through Master, this SI thing  I’ve had for 15 years might be fixable too.

If I can relax simply by thinking about such eroticism, would integrating this type of thinking (play = soothing because play = pain and pain = soothing) into my sex life help me curb the desire to cause myself pain as a way of deserving-him? Is it deserving-him or is it punishing-myself or is it flaw-hunting with a hypercritical eye? There are many complex reasons why I find these things soothing, and I don’t totally understand them yet. I do know one thing, however, and that’s that if there’s a way for me to somehow eliminate this desire to be-so-perfect, this high-strung constant-worry buzz that weighs on my mind constantly, I’m ready to try it. This one involving sex and the use of something I love anyway is a bonus. Ah, I pray so hard this is possible! Better living, better personhood, better relationships … through kink.