Unrequited love, a "peculiar, joyless relationship," depression, and a feeling of not fitting in like other girls is what drove Shirley Manson "mad with rage" when she was in her late teens—and what led to her longtime "secret." The Garbage frontwoman reveals that secret in a poignant essay in the New York Times: a history of self-harm through cutting, which she started doing while in an emotionally abusive relationship before she was famous. She recalls her first time taking a knife to her skin, an impulsive reaction "in a moment of utter exasperation" to an argument she and her beau had just had. "It didn't hurt. I did it again. And then I did it again," she writes.
The overwhelming sense of relief that cutting provided Manson continued throughout that relationship—"I felt untouchable and powerful. I was a woman in charge"—and she started doing it with more frequency and got better at hiding the scars. She stopped cutting when she ended things with that guy and started a healthier relationship with someone else, but years later, when she was touring with Garbage, she started to feel intense pressure and anxiety again, and her desire to cut returned. "In hysterical, extreme moments, I thought if I could just get my hands upon a tiny little knife it would bring some relief," she writes. She dealt with those emotions a little differently this time around. See how she handled it here. (Manson wrote a scathing open letter to Kanye West three years ago.)