Garbage singer Shirley Manson wrote about how her struggle with depression as a young adult led to self-harm for the New York Times. The essay begins with Manson describing her late teens, when she was in an emotionally abusive relationship. Already racked with low self-esteem, Manson began cutting herself with a pen knife she’d attached to her boots initially as a fashion statement. The first time she did it was after a fight with her boyfriend.
“I suddenly felt I was part of something much bigger than this stupid situation I had found myself in,” she wrote. “To my mind, my life had just immediately become more grand and expansive. I was saved. … I had an enemy. I had a knife. And the future was ours.”
Manson kept it up, and the self-harm got worse with time. “Once you choose to indulge in it, you get better, more efficient, at it,” she wrote. “I started to hurt myself more regularly. The cuts got deeper. I hid the scars under my stockings and never breathed a word about it to anyone.”
She stopped once she started seeing a “loving, respectful person who also happened to be an incredible communicator.” But she felt the temptation to cut again years later when Garbage issued its second album, 1998’s Version 2.0, and she was feeling immense media scrutiny about her looks and actions, something she called “impostor syndrome.” “The mental anguish I was inflicting on myself was extreme and drove me half out of my mind,” she wrote. “In hysterical, extreme moments, I thought if I could just get my hands upon a tiny little knife it would bring some relief and I would be able to handle the stress.”
Manson ultimately was able to resist the temptation, she wrote, because she did not want to engage in self-harm again. “Today I try to remain vigilant against these old thought patterns,” she wrote. Now, to keep herself from indulging her dark side, she pushes herself to be kind to herself and others, to be creative and to pursue happiness. “I believe it is not what we look like that is important, but who we are,” she wrote, referencing how she felt in 1998. “It is how we choose to move through this bewildering world of ours that truly matters.” She also pointed to a Stanley Kunitz poem, “The Layers,” that she looks to for strength.
People who are struggling with self-harm could call the S.A.F.E. Alternatives info line at 1-800-DONTCUT, according to the Times, or visit SelfInjury.com.
The op-ed coincides with a reissue of Garbage 2.0 that includes 10 B Sides on a bonus disc. In a statement, Manson called the album “the quintessential Garbage record.” Drummer-producer Butch Vig called it “possibly our best album.”