Slice of Life
I’ve never understood cutting because I’ve never done it. I understand self-hatred but mine was never bad enough to cause me to score lines and profanities into my skin.
The story of how the memoir got published interests me more than the story inside the book. This man, David Fitzpatrick, wrote to Wally from a psychiatric hospital. They struck up a pen pal friendship for the next twenty years that culminated in Wally’s helping him convince HarperCollins to spend the dough to duplicate his story a couple hundred thousand times.
I still don’t really understand cutting after his talk. I can comprehend that self-mutilation is a remarkably efficient assault; the victim and the aggressor are always the same person. But beyond that, I can’t really be moved by these stories; they’re too far removed from my reality for me to form a feeling or opinion on them.
Plus, to be honest, I always thought that the cutting was the Theatre Arts Department in Cry for Help Academy; the idea that a cutter needs to see blood, needs to have these scars, in order to validate their pain is too dramatic for me. Seriously, everything else in your life isn’t enough that you’ve got to add a biohazard cleanup? I mean, I think I’m much more efficient and ethical in my pain when I just scream at people and don’t drip anything on the floor.
When Fitzpatrick finished his talk, prison nurses exercised an abundance of caution by coming to the library and announcing that anyone triggered into potential self-harm by our guest speaker should come with them for some preventive counseling.
“You are not a cutter,” I said to one as she passed me.
“Yes I am!” She was defensive, not about cutting, but about not cutting. She wasn’t going to be left out.
A really young inmate, thin as a pipe cleaner, sat in the chairs near the windows, behind typewriters’ formerly shiny keyboards now dulled with dust.
“Guess you’re not a cutter?” I asked her. She shook her head.
“I wish,” she peeped.
Does this chick understand what I’ve just asked her? Maybe she’s not too Sharp. She wants a personality disorder that she may have already dodged? Does she think that ridging your arms to the point they look like dryer hoses is a good thing?
“You wish? Wow. Well, maybe if you tell them you pick your scabs they’ll soften their standards and let you in,” I advised her. She didn’t get the joke.
Psychologists say that as many as 85% of women are into cutting. The remaining 15% of women must be every woman I’ve ever met prior to prison since I have never known one – or at least had one admit it to me. I think the 85% estimate is a little high, especially if it relies on self-report of self-injury. I’ll bet 75% of that 85% just said yes when asked if they cut just to belong to a group, as screwed-up as that group may be.
The message of you’re just like everyone else…is supposed to make people feel better, less lonely. Fitzpatrick said one therapist probed his isolation by asking “[W]hat do you fear that lies inside that is so damn different and awful?” to make him cut and mutilate himself when everybody hurts.
But telling sick, desperate people that they’re not alone can be dangerous; they can interpret it as reason to succumb to peer pressure. Knowing your humanity and weakness are not unique isn’t supposed to be a cattle call, an invitation to the Batshit Bandwagon.
Clearly I’m not like everyone else. I don’t cut. I don’t want to lie about slicing my skin. I don’t like mental health services because I don’t like the attention. I’m good with my singularity. As long as I’m in prison with people I don’t really respect.
I’ve said so many times that the prison mental health epidemiology and statistics are inaccurate – women claim to hear voices because they think it’ll give them an advantage in court. They complain of mania in exchange for the sedation brought on by anti-psychotic meds. They claim they commit sin against their skin just to go along with everyone else.
Just doing a “check-in” or taking a clinical history of mental illness has the power of suggestion and women desperate for approval and inclusion say they have every symptom or behavior even if they don’t. Especially if they don’t.
I always bitch that women don’t get enough mental health treatment in prison but is it possible they get too much? I never realized how hard it must be to offer services to a collection of women whose self-esteem is so low that they can’t bring themselves actually to self-mutilate, only to say that they do…just so they can sit in a shrink’s office.
THREE IDEAS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE FROM FEBRUARY 1 – 7, 2016
Alicia Keys sent a video Valentine to Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan asking him to schedule floor time for federal criminal justice bills to be debated and voted upon. Ryan agreed and no one, no one, no one can change the way she feels about him. Except maybe me when I explain to her how Congressional criminal justice bills are inadequate. But she should already know if she’s recording public service announcements .
The first doctor in the United States convicted of murder for overprescribing drugs was sentenced in a California courtroom to 30 years in prison.
David Sweat, one of the two escapees from Clinton Correctional Institution in Dannemora, was sentenced to seven to fourteen years for three crimes related to his escape. Sweat was also ordered to pay approximately $79,000 for the damage done to the prison when he and Richard Matt sawed through walls and pipes to skedaddle. How likely is it that Sweat can come up with 80K from solitary confinement?