(Trigger warning: self-harm)

If I were a doctor, a surgeon, and a patient came in with a gunshot wound, I think I would know what to do. Where to focus my concern. If a patient came in with shrapnel, tiny bits of metal embedded throughout her body, my path might not be so clear. Which piece was embedded the deepest? Which piece was causing the most damage? Which was safest to remove, and which would have to be left in place to minimize further risk?

And then there’s torture.

Waterboarding was big in the news not too long ago. Simulated drowning. Or something like that. It sounded horrific. A rush of water, the feel of impending death. Easy to understand the fear. Maybe a little harder to understand that other water torture. The ancient one with the steady, continuous, relentless drip. Drip by drip. Falling on your forehead. Drip by drip. Forever.

These are the thoughts I have as I sit alone, in a dim room, at 2am. On a school night. These are the images that float through my mind while everyone else sleeps.

I could do something. Get up. Move. Watch TV. Read a book. Go to sleep. But the thoughts are compelling. The thoughts feel important. And my body feels like lead. Disconnected from my direction.

There are other thoughts as well. Shadow thoughts. Shadow images. Hiding just out of reach but influencing those thoughts of damaged flesh and water-drenched torture. I can’t see them, so my mind turns over the thoughts I can see. The drips of water, the running blood.

I want to move, but I can’t.

My arms do not respond. My legs do not respond.

I feel nothing in my body. There are only the thoughts. Thoughts and a vague sense of short, shallow breath. Breath that speeds. Breath that rasps.

Time passes and there is a paring knife in my hand.

I can’t see the shrapnel under my skin, but I know it is there. The breath is fast. The room is dizzy. The pain is not physical. The pain is deeper. The pain overwhelms. The shadow images crowd in, pressing, crushing, even when I cannot see past their darkness.

The tip of the knife pricks my thigh. High up. Just below the hem of my shorts. It prods, searching, but there is no sensation. There is nothing beneath my skin. No feeling as the blood rises to the surface. But there are small marks now. Bright red.

The lack of pain, of any physical sensation, is unsettling. Unreal. My eyelids blink against confusion as the pieces begin to fit together.

I am holding a knife.

My leg is bleeding.

I drop the knife and I sink to the floor.

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