Guest blog by Matt Cortez

In a place no one can see, maybe in the dark of night, someone is slamming himself or herself in the head with a blunt object. Or, someone is cutting his or her arms not to commit suicide, but to inflict pain.

This is called “self-injury,” a behavior I’m quite familiar with. I have been beating myself in the head since 2006.

Most if not all people who engage in this type of behavior suffer from some form of mental illness. Friends and family often can’t or don’t want to understand what it’s like to be mentally ill, and many have abandoned me because of it.

These acts evoke images many people don’t want to see. But these people do walk among you. Is someone you see every day at the office or a parent dropping off a child at your kid’s school secretly suffering?

My partner knows I injure myself, and he has not left me. Unfortunately, he can’t do anything to prevent it.

If my partner sees a head wound of any kind, he will be very stern and abrupt, as he should be. “Why?” he’ll ask.

The only answer I can give him is that I am severely depressed. The goal is to inflict so much pain that it exhausts me.

Even in the process, I tell myself, “Two hundred times is not enough. I need another hundred.” And then I’m there: both in pain and peace. It’s a baffling juxtaposition. But I can sleep after I do it.

I’ve concluded there is no panacea for what I have — an illness with traits that torture me mentally and physically. Mental illness is this huge mosaic of illnesses inside an illness.

It’s a cancer we are neither trying hard enough to cure nor making bold advances to address.

Using cars as an analogy, we are not all “Pintos,” but we’re different vehicles sitting in a used car lot. Our lives are highways with different exits.

My car, you might ask? Metaphorically, sometimes my car is on the side of the road with a flat tire. It’s raining. It’s dark.

I’m frustrated, crying and alone. I have a blunt object in my hand that I drop to the ground.

Matt lives in Pennsylvania and suffers from bipolar disorder with self-injury tendencies.

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