Cut My Life Into Pieces
“Dear Nobody c/o Fuck All,
I need to write some of this shit down somewhere and a letter seems like the best way to do it. Who knows maybe it'll help me think things out.
There are plenty of names for what I do, y'know, but none of them describe how I feel when I do it. That surge of relief, that breathing space and trance of oblivion before the guilt and shame and pain set in. The term “self-harm” is too clinical and detached for me. It sounds like it was made up by doctors who never felt the need to butcher or burn their own skin just to feel alive or calm or normal and I don't think those creeps in white coats could ever understand my mind because even I don't understand it.
My urges come and go, some months they fade and sometimes they come flooding back so fast I have to punch the nearest wall wherever I am and whoever is watching just to get it out. All the other stuff, the gorier stuff, I do in secret. I don't want anyone to see that shit, not ever. It's none of their fucking business.
Back in high school when I was a bully's punching bag I cut or burned almost daily and often at stupid times like on a crowded school bus or in the middle of a house-party no one invited me to, or in the boys bathroom after another long walk through locker-lined corridors with bruises on my face and tears hiding in my throat. I wore long sleeves every day and eventually got enough tattoos to cover the most visible scars. Everybody stared through me like I wasn’t even there.
Life got better for almost everyone after High School though, including me, for a while. I didn't cut again for ages after joining MCR and when the band really took off life was pretty incredible. For the first time in my shortass life I felt at home in my own skin and while we drank and sang and travelled and got inked and moshed and fucked and laughed and played beautiful music several years went by without me picking up a razor for anything other than shaving. It was a wonderful feeling and as we got more famous and our singer Gerard – my best friend - recovered from addictions way more serious than mine ever were, we grew up together on the road and I watched the sun set over each new city with genuine happiness in my heart and blood. I lived for our music and I could cope with any little problems that came up because the other guys and my girl back home in New Jersey were always there to rely on. I could do anything. I felt fucking invincible.
Until last month.
Last month the only girl I ever loved got bored of waiting for me to finish touring and broke up with me over the fucking phone. I couldn't take that punch to the gut, even with my new sunny attitude. I stumbled and couldn't get up again and to be honest I didn't want to. It was easier to wallow. All the colours drained out of the sunsets and every morning I woke up more tired then when I'd gone to sleep. While the bus was moving I hid in my bunk for hours alone and listened to the angriest and saddest tracks on my ipod because the other stuff just didn’t make me feel anything anymore.
When I went outside – hiding my face from the fans - I saw bitterness and exhaustion and addiction and filth in every city we visited and I got so homesick it hurt. The world outside my mind felt hazy and distant like I was trapped behind glass walls and I couldn’t live in the moment anymore or feel anything positive at all. I still walked in the world but I was separate somehow, living outside of everyone else, and it was cold and dark there with just me and my thoughts. An angry, miserable blackhole began to grow in my chest and it's still growing and I can’t stop it.
My world has shifted and even music doesn't give me any comfort or joy these days and I think that hurts me inside more than anything else. Sleep is my new best friend because it means I can shut everything out for a while and be empty and unconscious.
Rage and pain and sadness floods my guts every day and I scream into pillows and punch the walls but it doesn’t help. Little things like getting out of bed to take a shower or buy food are too much of an effort so I do nothing all day until the evenings when I switch to chugging beers and red bull and perform like a trained monkey onstage for the screaming happy fans. I've been sleeping more and more but I'm still tired and all the dirt and emotions inside me explode in my aching stomach and make me snappy, angry and stressed because I don’t let them out. I am numb and calm on the outside but burning and shaking within, trapped like a lion in a cage. I am stealing my own breath away.
Gerard and the others have noticed a change in me and they don’t like it but I don't care. Their constant questions – “Are you okay, man?” “Why so down, Frankie?” – are annoying and make me feel worse because I don’t have any answers for them. I tell them I'm fine just to get them off my back and then I go and get so drunk they start avoiding me. Every night on the tour I run and jump around onstage with my guitar until my blood pumps battery acid but I still feel hollow and sad when it's over and I know pills and alcohol can't keep me going forever. My sleep fills with nightmares but it's still a welcome break from the shit outside my bedcovers – all the twisted, pointless, blurry shit of the world that makes me sick inside and drives me fucking crazy - and I want to burst into tears at least ten times a day but something dark and heavy sitting in my chest and in my brain won’t let me cry. Not ever. I can’t feel anything like I used to.
I miss Her all the time of course, but that's not why I'm so depressed. She was just the trigger. This defective part of my mind has lurked inside me since birth like an emotional death-sentence. It came out in high school and it's coming out now but this time I have no parents or boundaries around to hold me back from doing whatever I like to cope with the pain. My empty bones feel heavier by the day. I am a one-man weapon of self-destruction and I don't give a fuck.
Last week I finally broke down and shed blood when banging my fists and head against the wall didn't do the business. I snapped the plastic safe-guard on my razor apart until the little blades fell out and cut a long stinging wound through the tattoo of nautical stars on my left arm. It fucking hurt and I finally felt something real and sharp that wasn’t just inside my head or in my stomach for once, and I needed to feel it so badly. I needed the distraction and the release and the relief was overwhelming. But that one cut and quick shot of pain wasn't enough. It’s never enough. How can I escape myself? I can't.
The new scars are butchering my tattooed skin and the bloodstains are getting harder to hide even though pretty much all of my clothes are black. I’m in love with something that could kill me and I don't care. Self-harm is my self-medication to survive.
I'm gonna tear this letter up now, probably burn it or something. It hasn't really helped but whatever. Thanks for listening, Nobody.
"Hey, is that you, Frankie? You've been in there for ages, what are you even doing?"
"Gee? I thought you were...I mean I'm...nothing."
“Are you jerking off?”
"Then get out, I need to take a piss."
"Yeah, okay, hang on a sec."
Sighing heavily, Frank turns on the taps in the tiny washroom sink and watches the red water drain away down the grimy plughole. Chewing on his lip as Gerard bangs impatiently on the locked door behind him, he washes his hands and presses a small wad of paper towels against his bleeding forearm. Flinching with pain, he gingerly pulls the sleeve of his hoodie down over the sting and the mess he's made and curls his tattooed fingers around the cuff to make sure it doesn't ride up again and expose his sins to the world. Turning off the taps with his other hand, he scoops up his lighter and razorblade - stained sticky red – from the empty soap dish and pockets them both before wiping the dish clean again with another towel. Glancing frantically around for any other signs of what he was doing in here that need to be hidden, he jumps when he hears another knock on the door.
"Frank, come on!"
Sniffing hard, Frank glances at himself in the mirror over the sink and gloomily notes that he looks like shit. Sighing again, he dry-swallows a couple of aspirin from the bottle in his pocket and unlocks the door.
Gerard is standing in the cramped corridor outside wearing an old t-shirt and black sweat pants. His black hair is messy from sleep and his cheeks are lined with pink pillow creases. "Finally," he mutters grumpily when Frank emerges, "There are other people on this bus besides you, you know."
"Sorry," Frank mumbles, sliding past his friend into the corridor that runs the length of the My Chemical Romance tour bus, "Toilet's all yours. I'll get out of your way."
"Wait Frankie, hang on," Gerard adds, his voice softening with concern, "Are you okay? You look sort of out of it."
"I'm fine," Frank lies, forcing a smile. A trickle of warm wetness is still running down his arm under his sleeve. Fuck. "Really I'm fine," he says again, turning away.
"Hey," Reaching out, Gerard grabs Frank's arm to stop him leaving and Frank gasps, terrified that Gerard is going to feel the damp of his blood through the black fabric. Snatching his arm away he hides it protectively behind his back and glares at his friend, his heart pounding.
Gerard looks startled and a little confused. "Sorry, Frank. I didn't mean to-"
"Just leave me alone!" Frank snaps, "I'm okay, Gee, really. Go piss."
Storming off down the bus, Frank shoves open the door and jumps out into an empty parking lot, kicking at the rain-slicked asphalt. It's a little before noon and the band's road-side home is parked at a service station a few miles into South Dakota. The rest of the band and the small group of friends and crew who ride with them are out making use of the station's fast-food joints and shops so there is no one else around to bother him right now which is just as well. He'd figured Gerard was in the station too, getting coffee or something, and he could have the bus - and the washroom - to himself for a while.
So much for that.
Shutting the door behind him, Frank folds his arms over his skinny chest, ignoring the wet sting soaking through his sleeve, and looks up at the gray sky. Thunder rumbles darkly in the distance and the cold air reeks of motor oil and fat fryers. Shaking his dyed black hair out of his eyes, he glances back at the large blue bus, his heart still racing but Gerard hasn't followed him. He's safe for now.
Trying to calm down, Frank yanks his hood up and walks quickly into the service station, ignoring everyone he sees and heading straight for the men's restroom. Locking himself in a cubicle, he sits down on the toilet lid and drags up his sleeve, smearing blood up to his elbow and takes a slow quivering breath. That was a close call. Scowling at the mess, he reaches out to rip some toilet paper from the cracked plastic holder on the wall and realizes his hands are shaking. "Fuck." Clenching his trembling fingers into fists he tries to breathe more deeply, sweating under his hoodie even though it's cold everywhere today. Gerard is one of his best friends. Hiding this from him was never going to be easy.
Swallowing hard, Frank takes some toilet paper and starts to mop up his arm until a sudden surge of nausea grips his stomach and the dingy cubicle sways to one side as he lurches sideways, sinking dizzily to his knees on the icy tiles. With stress and headaches pounding behind his eyes, he wrenches open the toilet lid and starts puking stomach acid and redbull into the porcelain bowl. He can't remember the last time he ate solid food.
When his quivering guts are just dry-heaving because there's nothing left to throw up, Frank sinks back against the toilet wall and cradles his head in his hands, panting shuddering breaths as the world slowly stops spinning. Beyond the privacy of his cubicle, another door screeches open and closed and the sudden gush of tap water signals the presence of another human being. Sliding slowly up the wall to his feet, Frank wraps toilet paper around his shredded arm and tugs his sleeve back into place, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand before flushing the toilet clean and stepping outside.
Bob is standing at the restroom sinks watching Frank exit his cubicle in the mirror with curious blue eyes.
"Hey Frank. You okay dude?"
"I'm fine," Frank mumbles for what seems like the hundredth time today, "I just got a little sick. I dunno, maybe something I ate."
Forcing his trembling legs to carry him across the room like they're supposed to, Frank slowly washes his hands at the sink and grabs a handful of paper towels, very aware that Bob hasn't left yet and is just standing there watching him with the same puzzled expression.
"Something I can help you with?” he asks rudely, drying his hands.
“I dunno, do you want me to get you some Pepto Bismol or something from the store?" the drummer asks hesitantly.
"No, it's alright," Frank sighs, shuffling towards the door, “Thanks though.”
All he can think about now is the concert tonight and how he's going to have to wear out his overused happy mask again and find enough energy to perform The Black Parade. Right now all he wants to do is crawl into his bunk and go back to sleep, no questions asked, but Bob follows him out of the restrooms and suggests they go and buy coffee and donuts for everyone. This is going to be a long day.