It is an understatement to say that I was a troubled teen. I was dramatic, volatile and vulnerable.

I made bad decisions that could have had worse results. I would meet much older boys and men that I had barely chatted with online. Alone. It was like To Catch a Predator, only Chris Hansen never came around the corner. We joke about my bad behavior now, but I was reckless and am incredibly lucky to be alive.

I wanted companionship and connection, but as I’m sure you can guess the guys I met online were looking for something different. Sometimes a vague interaction resembling a relationship would form, but it wouldn’t be long before I was back at my computer in an AOL chat-room offering myself to strangers for free.

I got the idea to brand myself from school. We were reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne in AP English and having secured my position as an outcast, I found myself identifying with Hester.

I was fifteen and in a relationship with a nineteen year old boy, but I never fully stopped talking to other boys online. I ended up cheating on him. When I got home I couldn’t face the reflection in the mirror. The shame and anger only escalated. I thought of myself as the lowest of the low. I needed to do something to show myself a lesson.

I sat cross legged facing myself in a full length mirror. I held the razor blade I broke off from a shaver to my left shoulder and pressed. I don’t really remember the pain, but writing this I can almost feel the adrenaline. I made two lines and watched the droplets of blood trickle down my arm. Then I did the same thing on my right shoulder. “There,” I thought, “now everyone can see how worthless I am.”

To this day I avoid wearing anything sleeveless. In the years that followed whenever my marks were exposed and anyone asked about them I broke into tears.  I was a cutter and these were neither my first nor my last cuts, but while the others have faded to ghostly lines these marks are as fresh as they were over a decade ago. Try as I often do, I can’t bury something so visible.

We’ve learned to live together these scars and I, but I think they will always make me feel uneasy. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to speak aloud about them, but I think by writing this I’ve lifted some of the weight that carrying their secret story has put on me.

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