In Defense of Self-Harm

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The ultimate end cannot be to feel pain because it barely hurts — something less than a paper cut. Perhaps it’s fascination (how curious! Even the sharpest blade has teeth; it not so much slices as rips. And look: a thread of crimson beads strung like pearls — proof that all blood, shed regardless of the reason, is radiant as stained glass. And this fresh line against the old scars. Here is a new angle: acute where line F intersects line A, obtuse where it intersects line B, runs parallel to lines C, D, and E. y-intercept: 1” above my left pelvic bone. And afterward, how comforting is a blanket of Band-Aids, a second skin taped securely over the wounds of the first.).

Is it a plea for attention? Of course. I would be lying if I said that, each time I reach for a top shelf, I do not wish that the hem my shirt would lift just enough and that someone would be attentive enough to notice, someone who understands. (It’s absurd to expect so much, I know.) And what is this essay but an attempt to make you understand?

But a larger reason is distraction: my mind enters my skin and hides somewhere behind my stomach. I’m recalibrated. For a moment, I comprehend everything through the rip of a razor through skin. Or if not everything, enough.


Rachel Belth is a creative nonfiction writer and poet. She gets to write for a living as an instructional designer, which means she pieces together Power Points, e-learning modules, and other corporate training materials for a variety of companies. She holds a B.A. in Technical and Professional Communication from Cedarville University. Her work has appeared in Prick of the Spindle*82 Review, and Embodied Effigies, among other places. She writes from a south-facing window in Columbus, Ohio.

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