Heather's Reviews > Cut

Cut by Patricia McCormick
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Oct 11, 2011

it was amazing
Read in May, 2011 — I own a copy

The 10thAnniversary edition of Cut includes a brand-new afterword from author Patricia McCormick, an author Q&A, and added resources.

I've reviewed Cut before but I reread it with a fresh mind after having read so many novels that deal with tough issues like mental health, suicide and depression. Cut, is particularly painful in both senses of the word. Something about cutting makes me feel weak and a little faint. I look at my wrists and the thin pale skin there and the blue veins there and know how easy it would be to hurt myself there. But that's not cutting. Cutting is something totally different. Cutting is self injury and is something the injurer is ashamed of and embarrassed about. They wear long sleeves to cover up what they've done, to hide their scars. So why do they do it? For each person it's different. But without help, it will get progressively more self destructive and could be life threatening. Cutting is a way to relieve the emotional pain the person feels inside, a way to release it when they have no other way to get relief.

In the book, Callie is a runner, but something has made Callie stop talking and start injuring herself. So her parents have sent her to Sea Pines for therapy and constant supervision. She has a little brother that almost died while she was watching him, he has severe asthma, but she performed CPR and saved his life. But her parents need to care for him and can't watch her, too. When she gets to Sea Pines, she's greeted by the residents who have renamed the place Sick Minds. Every girl there is there for a different problem and are in different stages of recovery. But Callie's state is particularly difficult because she gave up talking. She's stopped for so long, her vocal chords have seized up on her so that if she wanted to talk she doesn't think she can.

Most of the book is told from Callie speaking through her thoughts. She's hyper aware of everything. She sits in group therapy and talks, but only in her mind. She sits in therapy and talks, but again only in her mind. Then one day another cutter joins the group and unlike Callie, she wears sleeveless shirts and seems to wear her scars proudly, carving actual words into her arms. Callie is unnerved by her. It shakes her up when the girl seems to include her in a group of two. Callie isn't sure she wants to belong to a group with this girl. She's not sure she wants to belong to this group at all. She isn't sure she wants to stop. How will she deal if she does?

The catalyst for Callie trying to help herself, talking to her therapist finally is when her mother tells her over the phone that Sea Pines may send her home, that she has Oppositional Defiant Behavioral Disorder and that it's costing a fortune Blah Blah Blah. Or at least that's what Callie hears. She cuts herself that night and for the first time scares herself and tries to stop the bleeding. She goes to the nurses' station for help even though she'll get in trouble. And the next morning she shows up at her therapist's office before she even arrives for work. And she talks. She secures her spot at Sea Pines and slowly works through what made her start cutting. The reasons are surprising and the guilt and shame she carries is not only about the cutting but about something that occurred that she blames herself for when the fault lies with someone else. When she's taught to see it another way, she's able to begin to heal. But the temptation to cut throughout her stay at Sea Pines is ever present and she is very creative in finding things to use to cut herself with. We are left with a sense of hope at the end of the novel for Callie's recovery.

I can imagine the need Callie felt to cut herself, the desperation she felt to release her emotions. Hurting herself to do that seems so extreme yet I understand being so out of control and desperate for control. I've made no secret of my own mental health issues and those of my children and how fine a line we walk between balance and imbalance. Imbalance is unpredictable and can be the highest high or the lowest low.
Instant relief would be nice, but the relief would be too temporary for what we suffer from.

A great thing about this new version of Cut is that there are new resources and Q and A's with the author. After she wrote about Sea Pines, she visited a place like it and found that she had written it pretty true. It's interesting reading.

As a person living with mental health issues it's refreshing to see any book that doesn't vilify the victim. To see what the victim is suffering, how much she wants to get better, but can't help it, doesn't really know how. It's very much like many of us that live with mental health issues. To see myself not portrayed as a burden or crazy person is encouraging. Though my issues have nothing to do with self injuring, I'm thankful that Patty McCormick wrote this from the victim's point of view. It helps to make mental health not be such a social stigma. Callie is like any girl in high school. She could be your daughter, best friend, girlfriend or sister a neighbor or even a coworker.
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