A bisexual student was a bullied, depressed teen who turned to cutting as a release for her emotional pain. A friendship helped her kick the habit
Brianne Nash puts pen to paper when she’s having a rough day. Writing poetry is her release. But a couple years ago, her pen was a blade and the paper was her skin.
Nash used cutting as an escape from her world torn by her parents’ separation, her depression and the discrimination she faced in high school for her bisexuality. The St. Thomas University psychology student became addicted to cutting, which ended with over 200 scars etched on her legs.
“People say that it’s a release because that’s what it is,” she said. “You forget about your emotional pains and you just have the physical and at that point the physical is easier to deal with than what’s going on in your mind.”
A study done in 2011 at The University of Texas found that gay, lesbian, bisexual and unsure students reported higher levels of self-harm than heterosexual students. Several similar studies have been done on the subject and have found the same results. The study found that 44.8 per cent of bisexual students self-harmed at some point in their life, while only 14.8 per cent of heterosexual students took a blade to their skin.
Nash says cutting is prevalent in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community in Fredericton.
“They’re holding so much inside and you want it out somehow. There’s so much fear for some people about coming out and they’re just holding who they are inside. That’s hard to deal with, so cutting is a way to deal with it.”
Nash and her girlfriend were afraid to come out in high school.
Nash’s girlfriend was living with her and her mother at the time. When her mother found out they were dating, she no longer felt comfortable with them living together in her house.
“She was living with us because her dad was a pervert,” said Nash. “I didn’t want her to have to live [with] him again, so I moved out too. We ended up living with my dad in Grand Lake.”
Nash and her girlfriend had to deal with bullying at Fredericton High School because of their sexual orientation.
“There was a group of girls that started tormenting us when they found out,” said Nash. “They would yell ‘dykes’ at us in the hallways. There was a girl who would lean over me and gag over my head in class when it was quiet.”
So Nash started skipping school.
“It ruined everything,” she said. “We ended up going to the cop in the school about it.”
Her depression worsened and she turned to cutting to deal with it.
“It’s like you’re two different people when you’re depressed,” she said. “After I cut I’d look at what I’d done and think, ‘I can’t believe I just did that.’”
She says she doesn’t blame her bullies or anyone else for her cutting.
“It was really just me, my own insecurities and hating myself. I just didn’t know how else to deal with it.”
Things slowly got better for Nash. She and her girlfriend sought out a lesbian couple at FHS. They became close friends and found strength in numbers against their bullies.
“We became a little family,” said Nash. “We were just kind of like, ‘we don’t care what you think. We’re this way, deal with it,’ to anyone who tried to say anything to us.”
One of the girls in their group was Lydia Barnett. Eventually, Barnett and Nash’s relationships fell apart. That was when Barnett and Nash became best friends.
“We helped each other through the worst of times,” Nash said.
A couple years into their friendship, Barnett, also a St. Thomas student, started cutting when a relationship she was in started spiralling out of control. She turned to Nash for support because she knew she would understand what she was going through.
“Last year, Lydia had to go the psych ward and I was the one who got in the cop car with her and came with her to the hospital.”
Barnett says she is lucky to have had her family and Nash that night.
“I just kept cutting and cutting and the cuts just kept getting deeper and deeper. I was really lucky that my parents found me and called Bri [Nash], it could have turned out really bad.”
It’s been over a year now since Barnett and Nash have cut. They sit in the corner of a coffee shop, smiling as they talk about how much they’ve helped each other.
“We’d talk each other out of it,” Nash said. “We’d remind each other that in the long run it really doesn’t work and how we could get through it. I’d pick her up and we’d go for drives and talk. Talking helps because it drains you.”
“Especially when it’s to someone who knows how you feel,” added Barnett. “When you know they’ve gone through it, you trust them and feel like you can relate to them,”
Nash smiled and nodded at Barnett as she spoke. “Then you feel like you’re understood, you got it out and now you can relax. So we were really good for each other that way.”
Nash went to counselling and found other ways of expressing her emotions.
“Writing was one of the things that helped me.”
She would write poetry whenever she felt the urge to cut. “Sometimes it did tire me out to write then I’d just go to sleep rather than cut. So writing saved me from that.”
Nash and Barnett say they aren’t ashamed of their scars, but they say that LGBT teens who are struggling with bullying should keep their friends close and avoid cutting at all costs.
“When you fall weak, your friends are the ones who will help pick you back up,” said Nash as she looked at Barnett with a smile, “Like Lydia [Barnett] was there for me and I am for her, you need to keep your friends close when you’re going through tough times.”