Awesome Amy Adams & HBO’s Upcoming Adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Novel, Sharp Objects, Will Shine Light on Realities of Cutting and Other Self-Harm
“I am a cutter…a snipper, a slicer, a carver, a jabber…I have a purpose. My skin, you see, screams. It’s covered with words — cook, cupcake, kitty, curls…” — From Sharp Objects novel
Okay, count me stunned and humbled. And, now hopefully able to pass on what I’ve learned to others who don’t know much about self-harm.
I didn’t know anything about novelist Gillian Flynn’s debut novel “Sharp Objects.” Wow, did that change quickly when I interviewed not only Flynn, who also wrote “Gone Girl,” but also Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson and Eliza Scanell who play three generations of familial women. My cover story on Adams for Movie Entertainment Magazine doesn’t come out till July, when the show premieres on HBO/HBO Canada (July 08), so I can’t really talk about it.
But when I first saw the trailer for HBO’s limited series adaptation of this gothic murder mystery, I saw Adams do some things that didn’t initially click with me. Adams plays reporter Camille Preaker who’s assigned to return home to small town Missouri to report on the murder of two young girls. In the trailer, Camille pricks herself with a sharp needle — okay, what’s that about? Later, she strokes her arm with worded scars on her skin — okay, WTF?
“…it was crucial to see these letters on me…(and) feel them…my first word, slashed on an anxious summer day at age thirteen: wicked.” — From novel
Things slowly began coalescing in my memory banks — self-harm, the series poster has an old style Wilkinson-style razor blade. Then I found the passage in Flynn’s book.
I discovered self-harm isn’t discriminating, isn’t confined to young girls, and includes young men and also adults, across all ethnicities.
“I remember feeling that word, heavy and slightly sticky across my pubic bone. My mother’s steak knife. Cutting like a child along red imaginary lines…Wicked. Relief.” — From novel
And, self-harm can isn’t restricted to cutting, so says a brave adult male who told me his shocking survivor’s tale. First, he related a jaw-dropping stat that the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK is suicide, and “engagement in self-harming behaviours” is a predictor. He bravely recalls:
“As a teen, I was bullied and stressed over things, so I burned myself with a lighter and applied it to my skin until I felt a crispness. When the pain was too much I stopped. But I wanted to have that sense of ‘control’ because I didn’t feel it over anything. First, the idea was you control it. Second, no one can hurt you more than you hurt yourself. But it gives you a false sense of control. It’s more that you buy into an illusion, but that illusion can be enough to get you through that day. I didn’t speak at the time, but years later when I felt more comfortable, I did seek out help.”
“The last word I ever carved into myself, sixteen years after I started: vanish.” — From novel
A mother and friend of mine reached out about her daughter, saying, “I love her so much and when I found out my heart was crushed that she had that much pain. I tried to get her help but she initially wasn’t able to talk, the words wouldn’t come out.”
Daughter “Taylor Victoria” now insightfully tells her story:
“I was 13, living with my dad and little sister in a motorhome, when I first harmed myself. I was feeling emotions I didn’t understand. I was sad and embarrassed because someone at school commented about my ears and the person I had a crush on was laughing with them. I couldn’t handle the helplessness, so anger arose but I held that in. Only, that made it worse and led me to cut my wrist with scissors. That is the first time I ever intentionally hurt myself and it made me feel good. There is science behind why it feels good, but at the time it made me feel like I had control over my emotions for once. All my focus went to what I was doing to myself. It made me forget my bad days at school or anything else going on. It’s like I had a moment where no one could see me and I could do it without being judged. It was a moment of just me doing something I could do. In a recent TV episode of ‘Family Guy,’ the parents are fighting and the kids start to pull out their hair and say, ‘I can’t control that, but I can control my hair,’ which is how I felt.”
“All I know is that cutting made me feel safe.” — From novel
The school teasing stopped when Taylor moved at 15. But by then the cutting had turned into a habit — now using razor blades — and her father getting ill didn’t help her:
“I’m 19 now and still have troubles with self-harm whenever emotions get too ‘big’ — I usually just hit myself. But, everyone hits a rough patch and that’s okay. It’s really tough to give advice because we’re all so different. Harming yourself only causes another problem. For me, it became a horrible habit and a secret I had to keep. It’s also embarrassing when someone points out your scars: ‘Did you even try or did you just give into it?’ The only person who can keep you safe and happy is yourself and if what you’re looking for is some sort of happiness or control, then you need to work for it. But never ever beat yourself up for whatever choice you make. YOU have a lot more power than you think. Never be afraid to ask for help. As a baby, you are looked at with so much value. But as you get older you start to assume that value is gone, but it doesn’t go anywhere. You’re just as special as you were the day you were born. There is only one of you. And your choices or another’s opinion doesn’t determine your worth.”
Wow, as the saying goes — “out of the mouths of babes!” Thank you, Gillian and Amy, and young “Taylor Victoria” and others for your courage and honesty.