by Kleitia Vaso

Self-mutilation has always been one of the most puzzling phenomena for me. A few years ago, it was completely incomprehensible because, being mostly a creature of comfort who leans much more towards the hedonistic rather than ascetic end of the spectrum, I never understood why anyone would choose, at least knowingly, to cause pain to oneself.

The topic of self-inflicted pain does not correspond to a gloomy day; on the contrary, I was reminded of it on a magnificent sunny fall day, during a brief and routine conversation with a colleague at work. A few days before our chat, she had a very bad toothache which, as we all know, can transform anyone into a whiny, helpless baby. The commiseration with the lady brought back unpleasant memories of an extreme toothache which lasted several days, unfortunately. For the duration of those days, I could not think of anything but this unbearable pain which would not go away. During the process of telling this story, the miserable but part-of-us-all antihero of Dostoevsky’ Notes from the Underground, came to my mind and, although I couldn’t remember the exact phrasing (“Well, even in toothache there is enjoyment”), I distinctly recalled that the hyper self-aware man – a contemporary version is today’s blogger – saw this small yet unendurable pain as a permit for grown men, overwhelmed by an infinite number of daily stresses, to become children and focus all of their acumen and attention on this physical dis-ease.

The meandering train of thought above brings me to the day when, in a slightly ridiculous way as it often happens to me, I had a mini-epiphany about self-mutilation. Of course, I only understood the phenomenon as I, unaware, inflicted pain on myself. While on a car trip with a distant acquaintance, I noticed that I was growing increasingly impatient by my traveling partner’s incessant empty chatter. The distance was well over an hour and, by the end of it, I noticed that I was aggressively pinching my own leg, without noticing, for well over an hour and, as a result, I had basically hurt myself. The only other option, I guess, would have been to scream at the top of my lungs: “Stop! Please!” slam the door, and step out of that car forever.

by Kleitia Vaso