Changkyun set the blade on his desk, staring right at his handiwork and burning in his brain just how many times he had cut this time. One, two, three, four, five, six... Six times. Not his worst work, he had done much worse before and that was a fact. His record was 57 cuts in one episode because it had taken that long for the pain to register and for it to burn the ends of his fingers and the pale skin of his abdomen. He hadn’t been able to sleep on his stomach for a week or two without tearing open the wounds and getting blood on his sleep shirt and sheets, raging red blotches, indistinguishable patterns soaking the pale cotton. He’d had to throw them away the first time it happened, not wanting the reminder.
Thankfully, there wasn’t that much blood this time around. There had been the initial few droplets that flowed out when the razor made the first slice, rushing to prevent infection and further harm, but it had slowed down significantly now. He hadn’t cut quite that deep, he still had the cognitive sense to keep from hurting himself too much if at all. They would become nice scabs by the next day and they would join the collection scattered across the pale expanse of his concave stomach. He used his finger to run along the old and aged cuts, tracing the scarred white that formed there, raised lines of past hurt and unforgiving skin. The texture was nice, but the sight was not. It was horrifying and scary even though he had willingly done that to himself, he knew what he had been doing, seemingly the best option to fix his recurrent dilemma of downtrodden emotions. Now, it was unsightly and hurtful, a reminder of his inability to control himself in times of difficulties.
Changkyun walked up to a mirror to get a good view of his body. Stick thin and starved, but he would not use those words himself. There was nothing thin about him in his eyes, body morphing into this undesirable shape. Fat, not right. Ugly. There was nothing attractive about his body, there never had been. As soon as puberty set in at a young age, his body ignored his pleas to stay uniform and his efforts to remain the same. They threw his concerns to the wind, leaving him with negative self-talk about how unlovable he was. Self-care became a stranger with no notice of return.
Lost in the catacombs of self-deprecation and hate, mazing through the dips of his brain, the blood-smeared under his fingertips as he felt along the new marks now; it was all too familiar. His long term self-harm memories. He was memorizing their shape and categorizing what these few cuts meant. Changkyun had messed up at work today, enough to upset someone he had been helping and enough for them to yell at him and explain to him how truly useless he was. And they weren’t wrong. He really was useless.
Changkyun supposed his emotions got the best of him most of the time. His inability to maintain or stabilize emotions played a monumental role in his daily life, constantly switching between what he was supposed to feel and what his brain wanted him to feel. His bipolar disorder had gone years undiagnosed, leaving his mental maturity and mental health weak and starved of that knowledge and how to cope. Changes in medication never helped as his doctor attempted to help him through bouts of depression and anxiety-induced epidemics, never really discovering what the issue was. It had taken one hell of a breakdown in order for his mother to step in and put her foot down. There was something wrong and they needed to figure out what it was. Changkyun had been hesitant because no one wants to be told they’re crazy. Being diagnosed made it real and made it concrete. He knew there was something wrong with him and being told by someone that he was was validating, but just as damning.
It was in a file now under his name for every doctor to see for the rest of his life. Constant visits to a psychiatrist and therapist to make sure his disorder wasn’t taking over his life and wasn’t bringing it closer to its inevitable end. Pills and bottles sat on his dresser to help maintain it all, but they only worked if he kept diligent in taking them. It was hard sometimes to remember when his will to survive was barely existent and motivation close to nothing. Why take pills to control what was going to be his fated end? It was only prolonging the unavoidable.
He wasn’t supposed to think that way, his therapist had told him many times not to. He shouldn’t, but he definitely could. His mind often led him down the nastiest pathways and here he was now, self-harming and lamenting the fact that he wasn’t able to sleep on his stomach for the next few days. It was his own fault, so he had no room to complain. He had no right to when he made the conscious decision to mame his own body which received a myriad of reactions from himself. What kind of person did that to themselves? Cut up the only body they were ever going to have and suffer the consequences only to tolerate it further for the next few weeks. Changkyun was only going to fall back into that old habit, finding that there was no better release of any emotion quite like slicing his own skin open to let out the pain of living. It made him feel oddly comfortable and relaxed, thinking he had control over his misfortunes for once. He could control his own pain, not wanting others to cause that for him.
Changkyun's therapist had prompted the suggestion of informing someone close to him before he took his next action of self-harm. The objective was to cease that desire to hurt himself and to instead express frustrations through verbal communication, a much healthier way of dealing with the hell-storm that resided in Changkyun's brain. Changkyun rarely ever brought it up with someone out of sheer guilt of dumping that load of information on them, afraid of what they'll think of him. The words crazy and unstable filled his head, afraid of losing someone close to him because he was so incapable of being a neuro-normative being. Confiding in someone made Changkyun feel like an idiot, admitting to his own sins of self-harm, confirming his idiocy. How could he tell his best friend that he was dumb enough to resort to scarring his body to feel temporary release? Admitting it out loud was relieving but brought on a whole new bought of issues that Changkyun was going to mentally deal with.
Changkyun grabbed a tissue that sat on his desk and dabbed at his cuts, hissing at the sting of fibrous tissue on his exposed flesh. He had to aid in the clotting process or he was going to continue bleeding and he would ruin his shirt. Blood was not fun to clean up and Changkyun did his best to avoid that at all costs. He would need to dispose of the razor or he would be tempted to use it again and he had already done so well today by stopping himself before it got worse. This would be something to tell his therapist the next time he saw her. She would have a mixed show of disappointment and pride in her patient's improvement. She was also so receptive to his tellings, but Changkyun could always see that underlying flash of disappointment that he had self-harmed in the first place. She was concealing it under her professional covert but Changkyun could see it. She'd worked so hard with him on coping skills and yet he always managed to relapse and ruin his progress. He needed to start over at square one when he hurt himself as he did.
With the tissue pressed to his stomach, to the right of his bellybutton, Changkyun walked down the hall to the only bathroom in his shared apartment. Locking the door behind himself, he stalked to the toilet and lifted the lift. He dropped the razor in, watching as the blood still clinging to the smooth metal swirled into nothing in the water. For a second, Changkyun debated whether or not he should throw up his lunch while he was at it, feeling like he'd eaten too much and should dispel that as well. It would be easy to after all now that he was hurt. He just had to press right on his cuts and stick a finger down his throat. It would be so easy.
"Stop. No," speaking out loud helped sometimes, felt like it was someone else talking to him. His physical voice sometimes acted as his voice of reason and it occasionally helped when it came to controlling himself.
Changkyun flushed the toilet and watched the razor disappear with the water, wanting so easily to disappear just like that. He closed the lid and left, aiming to spend the rest of his night in his bed and wallow in his own self-pity, mentally kicking himself for being so stupid. He wasn't supposed to be so mean to himself yet he was because that was the hand he was dealt.
He felt so lonely. Changkyun had friends he could speak to, granted they were busy at the moment, there were a few he could entrust with his mental difficulties with and they would listen and let Changkyun ramble. But there was no one that would understand quite like Jooheon would. His best friend and roommate, the one person he trusted enough to live with and tell everything. He had so much respect for Jooheon, so much love and admiration, and yet that made it harder to talk to him about this. Changkyun had conditioned himself to believe that he was a burden to others and that he shouldn't be so quick to share his issues with others because they could have their own. No one liked to listen to something so gruesome, especially when they hadn't experienced it for themselves. Thus, lonely was a good word to describe Changkyun.
Curled on his side on his bed, Changkyun ran a hand over his scars and the new cuts, picking at the dried blood that resided there. He was aware that his actions weren't going to help the healing process but giving his hands something to do was distracting himself from trying any other form of self-harm he subjected himself to. Now that his razor was gone, he had to improvise but reminding himself that he had already hurt himself enough that day prevented him from further action.
He didn't remember falling asleep, but it was typical. The combination of mental strain and cutting was draining and it was expected for him to crash at some point. He'd never once stayed awake long enough after self-harming to really think about what he'd done. That was always for after waking up and when he was feeling better physically. Only this time instead of waking up and feeling better, he felt worse and in a worse state. Unfortunately, with one quick motion and no thought, Changkyun used the nails on his left hand to dig into his skin, scraping at the newly formed scabs that were a promising heal. He didn't always have the best impulse control and from the mania that was controlling his life, he found himself hurting again with more consequence of pain.
Changkyun couldn't cry, couldn't bring himself to do it. If anything, he deserved it for lack of control. It was his own fault. He grabbed another tissue sitting on his bedside table and dabbed at his stomach, stopping any blood from rising to the surface. He sighed, biting his lip in frustration as he felt the throbbing match his heartbeat, one that sang a sad song.
Changkyun felt tears pool in his eyes, finally letting those emotions take over, the shock of pain and frustration of lack of self-control all too prevalent. He felt like he deserved it this time, it was his own damn fault. He grabbed another tissue sitting on his bedside table and dabbed at his stomach, stopping any blood from rising to the surface. He sighed, biting his lip in frustration as he felt the throbbing match his heartbeat, one that sang a sad song. His eyes stung with tears, heaving felt on the verge all day and only now letting himself succumb to his emotions in a normal, more healthy way.
The entrance of someone in his room was not enough for Changkyun to hide and conceal his crying, it was almost too hasty to process. His body was spent and moving felt taxing, all energy being spent on his cries. He knew it was Jooheon and if he was already crying then so be it, Jooheon had seen him cry and had helped him through that many times before. Now would be one more addition to his collection of interception.
Changkyun felt arms wrap around him and he didn't fight them off, welcoming their presence and wanting more of it against his hurting body. Changkyun leaned into the hug full force, his arms wrapping around Jooheon as he buried his face into his shoulder, a sob ripping his lips apart to stifle itself in the cotton of Jooheon's t-shirt. He smelled good, his cologne still prominent even after a long day of work and being out of the house. He didn't speak a word as he let Changkyun cry.
Changkyun slowed down eventually, eyes swollen and stinging from being overworked. He could feel Jooheon building up to a question and Changkyun expected it to come, so he gave an answer without being asked, "I hurt myself," his voice was shaky and he sniffled into Jooheon's neck, holding his friend closer to his chest to prevent him from leaving or pulling away, something he doubted Jooheon would do.
"In what way?" Jooheon asked, hand rubbing up and down Changkyun's back in a soothing manner, smoothing out his muscles that were shaking with exertion. Every stroke calmed Changkyun further.
"Physically," that's all Changkyun could say. He couldn't say how or where because he couldn't bring himself to say it, but he would guess that Jooheon would already know. Changkyun had told him before what his methods were, "Right after I got home from work," he cleared his throat, "And just now before you walked in."
It was quiet for a second, Jooheon feeling his heart break because his friend was hurting both mentally and physically and he felt powerless when it came to aiding his pain, "How are you now? Do you still want to hurt yourself?"
It took a second of thinking before Changkyun shook his head. Now that Jooheon was home and now that he was with him, he didn't feel like he wanted to. It was harder to do or think about doing it when his best friend was close by, "I'm in pain, but it's nothing too bad. It's not emergency room kind of bad, just a band aid kind of bad," he would put bandaids on his cuts later, but for now they were bare.
"Okay," Jooheon stated, relieved, "Do you regret it?" he asked next, still smoothing his hand over Changkyun's back in a soothing manner.
"Yes," Changkyun nodded, especially so now that Jooheon knows what he'd done to himself, "I feel like an idiot, I know I'm not supposed to do that and yet I still did it," it felt idiotic to say. He had all these coping mechanisms and tools at his disposal, and yet he goes the easiest route and feeds into his temptations and bad habits.
"I know you know," Jooheon cooed, hugging Changkyun a little closer to his chest, "But knowing doesn't make it easier, or the problem go away. It's difficult to change when you've been doing something for as long as you have," Jooheon reminded. It's been years since Changkyun started self-harming and while he was much better about it now, he had his occasional moments.
"But I've been over this so many times before, why am I still struggling?" Changkyun asked, pulling away from Jooheon's chest to wipe at his eyes and straighten himself up, still hiding his face from view.
"Cause life is hard and you deal with life a little differently than everyone else. You go for some pretty drastic solutions, and they do work, but they're not always the best for you," Jooheon reminded, reaching out to wipe away a tear that was clinging to Changkyun's jawline, "And I know you know what to do in situations like this, but old habits are hard to break and sometimes the easiest fix, such as self harm, is the hardest to live with."
"I hate myself," Changkyun added, rubbing harshly at his eyes with one fist, the other hand going under his hoodie to feel along the scars there. They were sticky but not wet; there was no current bleeding to attend to. Jooheon watched his hand intently, worry marring his features.
"Please don't. I don't hate you," Jooheon amended with a smile, hand going to cup Changkyun's face, "You mean so much to me. You're amazing and you're so strong that it's baffling."
"Please," Changkyun stated disbelievingly with an exaggerated eye roll. In moments like this, it was hard to remember his own self-worth. And saying someone is strong is a go-to phrase for someone who doesn't know what to say, in Changkyun's opinion.
"I mean it. I've never gone through what you go through and here you are showing me up. When you do something like this and you calm down, you go on like nothing happened. You continue with life like it's normal and it's honestly inspiring and you're actually the strongest person I know," Jooheon huffed, a small smile painting his lips, one that Changkyun felt resonate in his heart, "You can do so much and when it comes to others, you're a miracle worker. No one can make everyone smile like you do," Jooheon sounded so sure of himself, Changkyun almost had to believe it, "You make everyone feel better, so this time let me."
"I'm trying," Changkyun pouted, going back into Jooheon's arms, hugging the older close, "It's hard."
"I know, but I'm always here for you, that I can promise," he squeezed, Changkyun feeling closer to him if at all possible, "And I'll spend the rest of my life telling you that if I have to."
Changkyun laughed, under his breath and with a genuine smile. Jooheon was ridiculous and he was proud to call him his best friend, "I might need you to do that for me if I keep this cycle up," this cycle of self-hatred and self-harm.
"That won't be hard to do," Jooheon grinned happily, "I love you, I hope you know that."
"I do," Changkyun nodded, "And I love you, too. I'm sorry, for being this way," it was habit to apologize for everything he did. He never forgot to apologize for anything he did out of pure guilt for being an inconvenience. Yet another mental scar he had when it came to other people.
"No need to apologize. You can make it up to me by coming out and having dinner with me. I got us pizza," he chirped happily, Jooheon all sunshine and rainbows, the person who could make Changkyun smile the fastest.
"That sounds good," Changkyun piped, moving to get off the bed, following Jooheon as he left his bedroom. The problem wasn't fixed, he would always struggle with mental health, but he had a friend like Jooheon there for him every step of the way. He wouldn't judge, he would listen, and he would smile. That's the kind of friend Changkyun needed in life, and he had him.