Why can’t you just injure yourself the normal way?

One of my secret talents, that I have not yet shared with you, is that I find interesting ways to injure myself. No simple knee scrape will do. Only injuries that require detailed explanations fit the bill. Instead of just falling off my bike as a child and giving myself a fat lip, I had to put my teeth through my chin. It took some talent, mind you. The scar on the inside of my lip is mysteriously distant from the scar on the outside. It seems impossible that my teeth went in here and came out there. That's talent, my friends.

Scar on my nose? A playmate walked into me and her teeth went into my nose. She was the one that ended up crying.

Scull fracture? You betcha! Cement is not the desired landing surface when you launch from the second story. Slip...right through the railing.

The burn scar on my hand marks my obsession with using my bread machine and baking stone to make pizza.  Now it's right there on my hand as a reminder on my one-time devotion to all edible things white and starchy.

Two years ago, I was moving furniture and dragged a table over one of my toes, ripping off the toenail. The urgent care doctor tried to save it (still attached by the tiniest piece of skin) with a single stitch. If you haven't had several pain killer shots in your foot, you aren't living.

My most dramatic scar, a slash across the top of my left arm was the result of walking into an open thermostat box in my sorority house. You know the institutional kind with a lock on it? It was unlocked and open and as I walked into the room, the lip of the steel box made a clean slice through my arm. I could see little capillaries but no blood. So I figured that no stitches were necessary. I figured wrong. I had to give up my dream of wearing a strapless wedding dress and then I realized that I never dreamed of wearing a strapless wedding dress.

All the numerous bruises, one from a co-worker that hit a softball into my leg (I'm sure she's sorry), the weekly bumping-into-furniture-bruise, those are all for sissies. Toe stubbings with creative expletives mumbled in strained tones so the neighbors don't hear? Pretty much a weekly occurrence. If I don't get a case of vertigo or draw blood, the injury just don't count.

It's not really a high threshold for pain that is at the root of my talent. I probably fear injury more than most other people. That moment immediately after you realize you've injured yourself but before the real pain sets in, that's the worst part. You know it's coming and you know you are going to feel it. My talent is the extra effort I have to go to in order to injure myself under normally safe circumstances. This is why my mom warned me to "be careful" when she bought me a nice set of Henkels knives. Unfortch, unless the refrain of "becarefulbecarefulbecareful" is running through my mind while I am cutting, it won't matter. I'll just end up cutting myself and then remember that Mom had told me to be careful..oh well. (My mom is worrying about this and whether I lock the door at night....right now...and whether it's safe where I run...and whether I close the windows when it's hot at night...oh mom!).

So this morning, as I was vacuuming and as I accidentally stepped on an air vent cover with one foot, pulled the other foot back to steady myself and slashed my ankle on the edge of the grate, the blood was only symbolic of the effort I was going to have to make to work around my injury. And that my new running shoes are probably going to get bloody. And that I should probably hop to the bathroom so I don't get blood on the floor as I examine my elaborate collection of band aids in many shapes and sizes. I love band aids...they smell good.

Maybe I'm being dramatic but blood does that to people (it was a lot of blood for a little slash that didn't hurt all that much). Besides, it's like taking some of your hardest to explain stories and wearing them on your body. Some people get tattoos. I like the random of approach of letting life and my own lack of coordination dictate where my next scar will show up.

Comments (38)

  1. Wine-Oh says:

    And here I thought I was the only one with a variety of band aids of all sizes and forms. My favorite are the ones with the anti-biotics in them. Clears up cuts quick.

    As previously noted I too am a klutz and your injury stories are similar to mine. I fell off a wall at a playground when I was 5 and broke my arm. My brother hit me with a wooden bat in the head and I have a scar on my forehead. I fell off the monkey bars when I was 6 and broke my arm. Along the way I have scratches and scars from stupid things. I have a scar on my thumb from slicing an orange and having to get stiches. I have cut my foot a few times , using colorful language to match, stepping on a dog bone in pitch blackness when I have gotten up in the middle of the night. Then I have jammed toes on dressers and beds also in the dark.

    Glad to know I am not alone in this klutzy society.

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Oh no, you are not alone. Also, almost as good as the bandaids with antispetic inside is a regular bandaid with bag balm. I know it’s for cows (and if you don’t know what it is, it is what you think it is), but it’s some good stuff!

  3. Wine-Oh says:

    Bag Balm? LOL that must be a Seattle thing. Here in NYC we dont do bag balm. Ill stick to good ole fashion johnson and johnson bandaids thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Midwestern actually. I brought my tub of bag balm from Chicago. The land of many problematic udders. No comments from the peanut gallery.

    You are missing out Wine-Oh! They have it here in Seattle, I am sure they have it in NY too. You have to look for it. Square green tin with a cow and a flower on the top. You can use it for lip balm in a pinch too. Sounds gross, works great.

  5. Wine-Oh says:

    Sounds udderly gross.

  6. GabeQ says:

    Hola….. I am on the same boat. All my injuries are out of this word, I have 99 stitches in my body (forehead, chin, cheeks, feet, finger, etc) I fractured my pinky in 3 places in which I had 3 pins plus an stabilizer on the outside, I have dislocated my knee multiple times. I canโ€™t count how many minor cuts I have had.

    I have to thank all my injuries to motocross, surf, horses and my brother.

  7. Jimmy Cooper says:

    Oh my gosh, that was the funniest thing I read all day. Possibly so far this month. Thanks for making me giggle, Heather. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And yes, I too have been the victim of really painful, yet really weird injuries. I broke my wrist in 4th grade. But not just any break, oh no. I had to break both bones at a really weird angle that had me in a cast up to my shoulder, so I couldn’t move my arm at all for fear of separating the bones again. And all thanks to me slipping on a piece of paper while wearing my roller skates. Good times.

  8. unpradeep says:

    Aah finally the perfect customer-segment for my killer-idea of airbags-enabled-clothing emerges.

    Now, its time for me to get some budget and dev $s.

  9. Tomse says:

    Autsch. I stopped most of the bleeding injuries some years ago (I dont’t know how, they just stopped).

    What didn’t stop is my talent to bump all possible objects with all possible body parts: I tend to false estimate my dimensions. So i often make contact with door frames (shoulders), subway doors (head) or all kind of corners (toes).

    I can feel your pain ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Band-aids are for wimps!  heather, I share your accident prone nature.  Two years ago I was 10 pin bowling (for the first time).  After two strikes during the warmup I got my index finger stuck in the ball as I was releasing it.  I still have to twist it back into shape every now and again, but hey, it got me out of yard chores for the summer.

    Last year, I was at clown school (yes, there are schools for clowns).  The last night was a big show that we put on for local kids.  Before the show started I was in the stands when I heard a gunshot, only it was not from a gun.  It was my achilles tendon tearing and the muscle shooting up the back of my leg.  Fortunately the back stage crew had lots of duct tape.  I used the better part of a roll on my leg and foot and managed to finish the performance.  I came home to a cast and another sumer of not doing yardwork.  (I am seeing a suspicious trend here)

    Then there are the 3 times that I have been in car accidents with deer.  my misadventures with various sharp objects, including axes, picks, even forks….  

    Heather, remember, that which does not kill us makes us stronger.   Based on your story I figure you can bench press around 280.  I can only hope to live up to your example.

  11. RJD says:

    Mine will rival any:

    Scar on forehead: walking into a chandelier.  On a date.

    Scars on right elbow: fencing.  Broken foil went completely through my arm.  Every medical intern in the hospital was called down to see a sword injury.

    Broken fibula, dislocated ankle, torn ligaments.  Required titanium plate and screws (just like Barbaro), and left a nasty scar on my left ankle.  Slipped on ice walking the dog.

    Cracked skull: sledding as a kid.

    I also broke both wrists playing football.  In a parking lot.

    I’ve broken every toe, and almost every finger, at least once so far.  Plus, one more fractured arm (playing soccer), left tibia (axe–don’t ask), dislocated elbow (mountain bike wreck) and innumerable scars from everything from pomping homecoming floats to Big Wheel wrecks to sizzling fajita platters.

    My best friend’s dad is a doctor (so is my best friend now, too).  That came in really handy growing up.  When my best friend was in medical school, he used to tell me he learned more anatomy from things I broke as a kid than from his textbooks.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh…haha….kind of.

    GabeQ-at least you can blame your injuries on risky sports. The rest of us, not so much. The pinky sounds painful.

    Jimmy Cooper- everyone needs a good rolerskating/skareboarding injury. I attached a dog leach to the back of a friends bike, jumped on my skateboard with my dog in my hands and told her to go! When the skateboard snagged on a rock and I hit the ground, I forgot to let go and just dragged along the cement. I was about 9 then and when I was about 11, I did something similar on rollerskates except the second time I face planted and got a fat lip. Who says Microsoft hires smart people? ; )

    Tomse-me too. People ask me "where did you get that bruise?" and I rarely remember. I usually jusrt reply "furniture".

    Jamie-my mom shares your feelings about band-aids. That’s why we didn’t use them when I was a kid (and probably why I love them so now). You know they testes th efinger holes in bowling balls for common germs andbacteria…oh nevermind. And I’d just recommend staying away for ice picks and um, deer. ; ) Yikes!

    RJD-if there was a contest, you would win based on sheer volume!

    Klutzes of the world unite! Actually, we should probably just huddle together gently so nobody gets hurt.

  13. Tim says:

    Heather, looks like you’ve uncovered a world of pain. RE: Henkels knives. My father was always of the "a dull knife will injure you more than a sharp knife" way of thinking. I guess a dull knife slips more off food and leaves jagged cuts in your finger, hand, or foot (depending).

    "Now it’s right there on my hand as a reminder on my one-time devotion to all edible things white and starchy" is one of the funniest things I’ve seen all week.

    Hey, you just cheered me up!

  14. HeatherLeigh says:

    Tim-I think a dull knife increases your chances of an injury, but a sharp knife causes a more serious injury. Either way, not good. But good sharp knives sure are pretty…in a Iron Chef kind of way, not an Angelina Jolie kind of way.

    Glad I cheered you up. I thought this blog post was going to draw the trolls out to tell me how dull I am for talking about something as mundane as my many injuries.

    And I did go through that phase where I would eat anything white that said "low fat" in the label. Snackwells cookies, bakes potato chips, pretzels. I really only miss the pretzels but mostly because I love mustard. Also, Trader Joe’s makes great "almost whole wheat" pizza dough. Yummy!

  15. Andy says:

    I broke my own nose. Does that count?

    I was making a bow when I did it. Part of making a bow involves letting the wood dry out over several months or years after you cut it.

    I was going to put the wood in my shop but I didn’t want it to warp so I left the log intact but I cut two scores down the top of the log in a V with a skill saw to help it dry faster.

    I left the ends uncut and since the V cut touched at the bottom. Once the log was dry all I would have to do was cut the ends and it would free the piece I wanted to make a bow out of ( the center of the V ).

    So about five months later I decided to go make the bow since the wood was dry. I placed a wedge in one end and leaned over it and smacked it with a framing hammer to free the one end.

    What I didn’t realize was the log had so much internal reflex in it that when I broke the end free it curled up with enormous force and smacked me in the bridge of the nose.

    It knocked me completely on my butt and broke my nose so badly their was cartilege sticking out through the skin.

    That was hands down the weirdest way I have ever injured myself.

  16. HeatherLeigh says:

    Andy- Ew! Why am I not surprised that you were making a bow? ; )

  17. Paul says:

    I think the purpose of scars is so that you get to tell cool stories about how they happened.  Heather, you do sound a bit klutzy, but I must admit, my stories have more to do with stupidity than with being a spaz.

    Like the time I was coming down a steep hill at full speed on my bicycle at the age of 6, and realized about 4 feet from the road and an oncoming car that I couldn’t stop.  I slammed on the brakes and twisted the handlebars as hard as I could, throwing myself to the ground and into a pile of broken glass.  I have many more "life" lines in my hands than most people, and a few facial scars that have almost disappeared finally.

    Or, the time when there was a paper jam in the daisy wheel printer (remember those?), and I neglected to turn off the power before freeing the jam.  When the daisy wheel came free, it shot across the width of the machine and rammed my finger into the casing so fast I didn’t see it.  

    At first I thought I’d been lucky and escaped injury, but then I saw an absolutely clean cut which had peeled away all the muscle and left bone looking at me from the inside.  It didn’t hurt that much (surprisingly) so I wrapped it with bandaid gauze to try to pull the flesh together and staunch the bleeding.  I didn’t really want to go to the hospital for stitches during my first week on the job, so I decided that if I could mask it and work through it, all would be fine.  Except that it had also cut through the nerves, and I had no feeling in that finger for almost 6 months (and had to be especially careful not to reinjure it as a result).  Fortunately, the feeling eventually returned, and all that remains is a long whitish line on the inside of my finger.

    Or the time when I was working in a pool hall, and one of the regulars came in drunk and was loudly abusing other patrons.  Because he was a regular who I knew well, I thought I could handle the ejection diplomatically and by myself, but the words were no sooner out of my mouth than the butt end of his cue was coming full circle and full speed at my chin.  Again, I didn’t even realize I’d been cut until other patrons rushed to my defense and told me that my shirt was completely red, and wondered whether I wanted them to hold the perp for me and call the police.  I didn’t know you could fit 21 stitches in your chin.

    And, there was time I was running down Mont Royal (as in Montreal), and realized that my momentum was going to carry me over the edge of a 20 foot drop to the road in about 15 feet, and the only way to stop was to dive for the ground.  My wrists took the full impact, and it was only after I got up to brush myself off and congratulate myself on a life well-saved that I realized my left wrist had been impaled by a broken tree stump, and bits of dirt, stones, wet leaves, and lumber were embedded vertically about 2 inches up my wrist.  

    There was a big deep hole, so this time I actually thought I better go to emergency for repairs, but it turned out that it was the Saturday of a big football game between Queens and McGill (two big Canadian teams, and English vs French) and the emergency room had about 200 drunken students awaiting cures for various forms of alcohol poisoning and related incidents.  So, I went back to my hotel (because they had a doctor on call), and I got in to see him 3 hours later, only to be told that my injuries were too serious, and I needed to go to a proper hospital that could excavate the wound, clean it properly and sow it up.

    After a cursory cleaning which mostly involved pouring a bottle of iodine on my hole, he wrapped up my hand and directed us to a less busy hospital emergency room where I was pleased to see only 3 people ahead of me.  Of course, what we didn’t count on was that it was Yom Kippur, and many elderly Jewish folk had stopped taking their heart meds for the holiday, and I had to wait through 4 heart attacks.  So, after falling at about 3:45 in the afternoon, I finally got in to get serviced at about 2 am the next day, and let me tell you, 12 needles to deaden the pain in your wrist is pretty much worse than the original damage.  And, the only thing worse than that was being able to hear and feel (although without pain) the scraping and popping as stones and various bits of junk were removed from my arm.  Fortunately, I had missed dinner, or I certainly would have woofed my cookies.

    I could go on, but why?  Virtually every incident has me doing something dumb at the beginning or end of it.  And then there’s all the near misses.

    What really strikes me as odd is how Heather can have survived so many calamities, and not believe in luck.

  18. Wine-Oh says:

    That air bag clothing sounds nice. Better yet, dont leave the house.

  19. HeatherLeigh says:

    Paul, uh…gross. Can I interest you in some airbag clothing? How can I believe in luck? Is it lucky that I survived as well as I did or would it have been lucky if none of it happened in the first place.

    The table was there, it was my choice whether to drag it over my foot.

    At the root of my issue, as you may have guessed, is that my mind is on something other than the situation at hand when all this stuff happens, so I am not thinking about being careful. That is seriously why my mom tells me to be careful…she knows my mind goes somewhere else sometimes.

  20. Paul says:

    Good question.  Is the glass half full or half empty?

  21. tod hilton says:

    OMG, y’all are just plain weird!  ๐Ÿ˜‰

  22. HeatherLeigh says:

    Paul-right. And also, is the sponge stinky?

    tod- hey, we are just jealous of those with coordination. I’ve also decided that in the interest of personal branding, I am packaging my clumsiness as an "endearing quality". Therefore, when I trip on the carpet (just the regular carpet), I tell the person I am with to ‘watch out for that". Also, furniture in my house has been known to "reach out and grab your leg". I’m the only person I know that sometimes has to stop in the midst of going up or down stairs because I’ve lost track of where my feet are relative to the steps. Please tell me there is someone else that has experienced this (no need to relate it back to the head injury…doesn’t matter to me where it comes from). You’ll know it if it’s happened to you. Mid way through a step, you have a "whoah!" moment before your foot lands and you have to concentrate on the subsequent steps. Anyone? Or is it just me?

  23. Wine-Oh says:

    I think the step thing is the same gene that kicks in when your napping and sometimes you dream that you tripped in your sleep, and jerk your legs. Probably comes from the exact area of the brain where coordination originates.

  24. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hmm possibly related. I don’t trip in my dreams but I do fall off cliffs a’la road runner cartoons and jolt awake mid-fall. Luckily, no anvils manufactured by the Acme company are involved.

  25. I have a tendancy to trip going up stairs.  The best time was when I was going up my stairs carrying a full load of folded laundry.  Somehow I tripped (I have never been able to figure out how I do it) and fell forward.  In trying to grab the railing to steady myself I let go of the laundry, flipped over onto my back and proceeded to fall down the stairs I had just climbed.  The one and only time that I have fallen both up and down stairs at the same time.  

  26. HeatherLeigh says:

    Once, I tripped up the stairs with a plate of spaghetti. I managed to hit both the wall and the floor!

  27. Wine-Oh says:

    Do you use a sippy cup when you drink?

  28. Sarah says:

    I have the exact same balance issues and I never know where I get the bruises. A few nights ago, in fact, I managed to slice my hand open. On what? I don’t know. Where? No idea. I simply looked down and realized my palm was covered in blood. It wasn’t a deep cut, but still.

    I don’t know what the exact combination of ingredients is to this state of being, but I’ve always attributed it to the fact that I live in my head and don’t always pay attention to the, uh, corporeal world. I think most brainy people must inhabit similar worlds in that way. All my *smart* friends are klutzy. So I say, hooray for the klutz! And, uh, watch those stairs, yo.

  29. David.Wang says:

    Oh my… what a fun to read entry.

    I have to say that my life is so boring and colorless in comparison to this. I only *wish* that I had a fraction of the number of experiences related here.

    – falling off my bike while riding no-handed over gravel – seems so obvious now but yeah, I was a 9-year-old and riding bikes no-handed was all nifty.

    – catching a front-edge while snowboarding, bruising my ribs and knocking the wind out of me – what a frightening experience to be covered in snow, having a huge headache and chest pain, gasping for air, unable to make a sound, and lying still because you are disoriented and can’t move.

    – waking up with a sprain on the side of my neck. I could not raise my head nor move at all because it’d massively hurt. Happened to me once on each side of my neck and took me out of work for days to recover. Never figured out why it happened and why it stopped.

    But… I have way more adventures in my dreams. Falling off a cliff? no problem; I somehow figure out how to fly without wings nor propulsion pack. Laser beams being fired? Voila, personal force fields. Bullets flying all around? No problem, turn on the invincibility mode. Getting sucked into a black hole? I either somehow escape or get sucked in and marvel at the Singularity. The list goes on and on. Sigh, none of it is realistic… nor real life… but it sure is fun. ๐Ÿ™‚


  30. StevenD says:

    I believe I hold the record for injuries incurred without sustaining a broken limb…multiple surgical staples to the scalp after falling upside down from the swing set (don’t ask)…nice scar on my lower lip after connecting face w/oak tree while snow tubing…multiple stitches & bonus tetanus shot from attempting to remove  thumb from right hand with a hatchet…yes, I’m a lefty….aren’t all techies?

    Just to name a few…

  31. Chris D says:

    I think I found your perfect match! He is prone to the most bizarre of accidents too… If movers still hoisted safes and pianos up into tall buildings using pulley systems, I am sure he would have been hit by one of those already. It is too bad he (my little brother) is already married: I would have loved to see the two of you walking down the wedding aisle with shiny white and black football helmets, matching knee and elbow pads, and a million dollars worth of accident insurance policies.

  32. tod hilton says:

    Heather- lol, no worries. You seem to pull it off just fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. Brian Toland says:

    You must be my long lost sister because this pretty much my life also.

    What about those times when you look down and you’re bleeding and it’s clear you have been for a while but you don’t know exactly why or where’s it’s coming from?

    Or when you’re going to bed and you notice a big bruise / cut / scrape that you didn’t know you had?

  34. HeatherLeigh says:

    All the time

  35. billdean104 says:

    honestly, i cant claim as much as half of you, but i have hurt myself in numerous ways. i too have scars that i have no idea where they came from. i honestly want to buy one of the air bag shrts.

    i remember being five falling off monkey bars and breaking my elbow in three places, having needles shoved in, put in a cast, having the cast sawed off, and then watching the pins pulled from my arm.

    i have never liked bandaids or stiches. i just used tape. and when my brother hit me in the head with a garden hoe, the doctor decided some glue would help…just medical glue.

    i remember having a pair of hedge clippers ( like giant scissors) and swinging them in my back yard, only to get them stuck in my knee, bleeding.

    i was climbing a tree and i fell off and skinned my chest all the way down.

    somehow there are some incidents that make you say " how didnt that do anything" i have millions. like when i fell on one of the metal braces for the baby gates, so he didnt fall down the stairs, and still nothing. i remember jumping down 22 steps a week befor i broke my arm, and falling face first, only to get up and see if i could do it again.

    i have many unexplained scars. i have one on my pinkie finger that i still dont know why i have it. i have a bump on my head from when i was 7 and i had a tick in my head, i got the tick out, but it never left. if i could blame anything its genetics.

    i have huge feet, and a thick body(not fat, muscular), which makes doors beds and yes, stairs, a big problem.

    my father has so many scars. one came from when he was at a dock, and he punched a man that was bothering him, he didnt realize that the man’s tooth would be stuck in his knuckle, he walked around with a tooth in his hand for a day. than he went to a gas station, grabbed some pliers, and got it out. if you ever meet a man named bill dean, look for the numerous hand scars and the effects of thirty years of clamming.

    steel toe boots are more comfortable on me than sneakers or slippers. i am always wearing something thick (padding). and i am prone to injury. if you hve a better story than me, please go ahead and tell it. i am sure that i am only half as injured as most people.

    planter’s warts are also annoying, so remember to have a handy dandy razor blade like me.

    and last of all, yes i do have the dreams that i fall off of a cliff because of something stupid i did, and i wake up having a spasm and flinging myself off my bed…ya know i wish i didnt always have a razor.

  36. Hannah says:

    Wow, i feel your pain.  In the past 3 years i’ve been to the ER 8 times.  i fell out of bed and broke my jaw and couldn’t eat solid foods for 6 weeks. while i still had that injury, i bruised my heel bone and was in a boot cast for 4 months. i broke my wrist skiing, i broke my ankle running, i got a concussion falling down the stairs, and the list goes on and on.  what keeps me going is me reminding myself that these are all minor injuries, at least i can still walk, right?

  37. Jennifer says:

    Thank god!!! I am not alone.  

    At 21 I fractured 2 ribs slipping in the shower.  I fall up stairs constantly.  Dislocated my elbow when I fell…while leaning back in a chair.  Fractured 4 bones in my back and had to have my spine fused…didnt walk for almost a year….I was in 4th grade and had been trying to show off some gymnastics move using a wooden spool and a mattress, instead of a trampoline and a gym pad.  I landed on my head.  

    I bump into furniture constantly. I have learnd to always use the hand rail on the stairs.  

    I tore my ACL..not playing sports…falling on a concrete floor at work.  Ruptured my ear drum just last week by opening my car door into the side of my head.

    I think I passed it on to my daughter.  Last night she was jumping on the bed and slammed her face on the headboard….her top teeth went through her upper chin.  yeah….I am pretty sure she got the gene.  

  38. HeatherLeigh says:

    Oh, I fall going up stairs too. I’m all about the nasty hand-rail with all kinds of germs on it.

    I will pray for your daughter ๐Ÿ™‚

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