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"It was a focused pain": Why one woman used to harm herself

When Bree Carey was 14-years-old, she was angry, sad, anxious and had a deep fear of going to school. She was prone to panic attacks that made her feel like she was dying. She soon began cutting herself, not to end her life but to take her mind away from the intense feelings she went though on a day-to-day basis.  

“It was a stinging, burning sensation that just made it so I couldn’t focus on anything else. It was such a focused pain that I couldn’t pay attention to anything else going on in my world. Somehow that horribly unpleasant feeling was relieving to me.”

For four months, Carey would cut herself multiple times a day. She says the physical pain became an addiction and a way to avoid dealing with the emotions building up inside her.


“I didn’t care about my family or my friends anymore. All I cared about was when I could hurt myself next. I risked arrest by bringing blades into my school because I couldn’t handle the fact that I couldn’t go six hours in a day without hurting myself.” 


Carey eventually told her family and got treatment but it wasn’t the doctors and nurses who eventually made her stop. It was a realization that she came to on her own during a particularly traumatic relapse into attempted self-harm.  

Before she could do any damage to herself, Bree’s boyfriend managed to contact her by phone as she tried to break apart scissors she found in her basement.

“I need to cut,” she repeated over and over. 

“No, you don’t need to cut,” her boyfriend told her, “You want to cut.”

At that moment she realized that she was bringing all the pain on herself and “swimming towards the bottom.”

Bree Carey is doing better now. She hasn’t hurt herself in almost four years. And while she acknowledges she is still in recovery, she wants to send a message to young people going through the same thing: “It will get better. As hard as things seem right now, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Carey started an organization called A Cutter’s Guardian Angel to help teens who are self injuring in order to spread her message that recovery is “not only possible… it is inevitable.”