Growing up in Miami, a fair-skinned strawberry blonde, I got many sunburns from days at the beach, pool, or lakes I spent most of my time at from spring until fall. Sunscreen wasn’t de rigeur in the 70s. Tans were in.

Most people who grew up in South Florida in the 70s and early 80s still remember the Coppertone billboard at what was colloquially known as Spaghetti Junction—that space where the Palmetto Expressway, US Route 441, State Road 9, Florida’s Turnpike, and I-95 all met. It was rumored that Jodie Foster was the model for the girl whose bikini bottom was being pulled down by a small black dog. The sign read “COPPERTONE Welcomes you to MIAMI.”

Some of my burns weren’t too bad, but many ended with me blistered or peeling. No matter my age, I couldn’t stop myself from picking at the edges of my skin. It became a game. The longer the strip I could pick, the better.

I started cutting myself when I was a teenager, but I didn’t do 
it much then. It only ramped up when I was in my late 20s and 
early 30s, that time in my life when I was trying on different 
psychiatric medications like so many new clothes in a 
department store’s dressing rooms. The hypomania and mixed 
states that were the result of certain antidepressants made 
cutting seem necessary.

I never cut much or very deeply. I wanted to, but I didn’t have 
the nerve for it. The blood wasn’t the problem. The pain was. 

Despite my inability to cut as much as I would have liked, the 
urge to cut lingered for years after. My right wrist, specifically, 
would draw my attention, and I’d want to place blade to skin, 
to see the tiny blood drops form above the place where I’d cut. 
The thoughts were obsessive. Unstoppable.

Thankfully, a new regimen of drugs, including one for anxiety, 
has stopped the urges for now. I don’t know what will happen 
when I’m forced to switch medications. Will the desire to cut 
return? Has it just been muffled for the time being?