INDIVIDUAL MENTAL DISORDER OR UNSPOKEN SOCIAL TABOO?
He is 38 years old, handsome and successful. His career of a highly skilled Criminal Justice Training Specialist has brought him among the top professionals of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. We will call him Stephen from Richmond. The loyal husband of Emma and the wonderful father of Adam is a son of rich parents and grandson of prominent grandparents. However, behind the portrait of this amazing native of Virginia and devoted American with long list of social activities, there is one secret. Stephen suffers from self-cannibalism, in other words, he could eat himself up to death.
There are not so many evidences of self-cannibalism but there are people who could recognize some elements of this disorder in their daily lives. It usually starts with self-mutilation but that does not mean that self-cannibalism or auto vampirism will always follow. According to medical literature: „Self-cannibalism is a specific form of self-mutilation that means practice of eating own flesh and drinking own blood. Self-mutilation is a general term for a variety of forms of intentional self-harm without the wish to die. “Some doctors will confirm that each person has faced up with own type of self-cannibalism. We should just think of all of those people who bite their fingernails or chew their dead cells from the tongue. That is not addressed as a self-cannibalism and it is socially acceptable or at least, it is not condemned.
Nevertheless, Stephen’s story illustrates the pain of loneliness, the embarrassment of being strange, and the tragedy of being exposed as a monster. He knows very well what does it mean being addicted on biting own meat and to feeling own blood on the lips. Every day after work, when Emma and Adam are away, Stephen sneaks into the bathroom and hurt his legs and hands, those parts that are not visible. Then, he provokes Rottweiler Max and let the dog’s teeth find a comfort in his traumatized skin. Since he is not intimate with his wife, she does not see the reality behind the wounds on her husband’s skin. For Emma is enough to see that Stephen keep bringing the money for her needs and everything else is not so interesting. The sad emptiness between them makes the Stephen’s problem deeper and bigger.
The issue of self-cannibalism is thus directly related to the psychological background. There are experts who claim that self-cannibalism or autophagia, as it is also known, could be applied on people who already have the border personality’s complex. What does it mean? It could be that patients with schizophrenia or bipolar depression are more vulnerable to be targeted by the initial symptoms of self-mutilation. The Impulse-Control Disorders is one combination of sadistic and masochistic drives that makes someone simply go crazy and striving to hurt him/herself. This could be compared with drug addiction but in this case, it is addiction for self-hurting. After the act is committed, the person finds relief, mixed with quilt, pain and embarrassment. They cannot resist feeling the pain, to have their own skin and blood in mouth in spite of fact they are aware that outside their box, they would be considered as beasts.
There is a voluntary and forced self-cannibalism. The first comes from the dark corners of the human beings affected with this syndrome of eating themselves. They are the slaves of their own lunacy that cannot be cured easily. The second is linked to the torture and sadistic abuse of victims by serial or mass killers. The typical example is the famous Thomas Harris’ novel, “Hannibal.” Dr. Lector did not hesitate to punish drugged pedophile, Mason Verger, eating his own face. This kind of involuntary self-cannibalism is not only the fictional project but also a historical evidence. Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed, famous serial killer has also forced her servants to eat their own skin, so she could have fun. During the Spanish colonial period, the colonizers pushed indigenous people to eat their own testicles in the 1500s. Not to mention the weird practice in Sudan and the Sudanese youth that was extorted to eat their own ears in 1998. Bernd Jurgen Brande was a German man who accepted to be eaten by his lover, Armin Meiwes, in 2001. The couple has eaten the Bernd’s penis together and then Armin killed, ate Bernd and shocked the whole Germany and the whole world as the most ridicules modern cannibal:” Meiwes became the first person in Germany to be charged with murder for sexual satisfaction, or ‘love cannibalism’” . They were both the part of the sickness since Bernd had a wish to be eaten alive and that thing had turned him sexually. At the end of the day, his partner said for media that Bernd’s flesh tasted like a pork meat, but a bit stronger. He was jailed for 8 years and in the meantime, he became vegetarian.
We should also mention odd people that have eccentric disorders and like to be remember as such. One of them is Chilean-born artist Marco Evaristti, who organized a dinner for best friends and served them the meatball dish made from his liposuction rest.
The human madness is never-ending. Some of the famous murderers have also experienced the self-cannibalism touch. Andre Thomas was only 25 years old when he ate his own eye in 2009.
The people with Lesch-Nyhan syndrome or with the urgent need to bite themselves or even eat are those that have serious mental problems. Some of them are not defined yet but the drama of their disorders is something that will shape future social dimensions and the perspective of real taboos.
How we will make difference between bizarre behavior and factual mental sickness? Each bizarre behavior is an introduction into the serial soul problems. If it is not treated on time and somehow cured, it is getting worse. This disorder is not only applicable on humans, but on animals too. Some rats and snakes developed this disfigured behavior and implemented on their standard.
Stephen has faced up with the pleasure of eating his own skin when he was 15. His busy parents have never had time to dig into the problem and to start eventually the recovery of their son. Now, he is enough old to know he cannot be cured. It is not only scar on his skin; it is a scar on his heart. He was forgotten and he is still forgotten, as many of them who secretly eat themselves, mentally and physically. Their demons are always alive.