Darrell Hammond, Hero

When Chris Hayes tweeted that Darrell Hammond’s interview with Terry Gross was “almost too much to bear,” I honestly thought he might be exaggerating. But he’s right. Hammond’s incredibly brave and forthright about what it’s like to live as a survivor of what sounds like insanely traumatic abuse and to work at a very high level while struggling with the mental illness caused by that abuse. And his description of his cutting is precise and painful — and should put to lie the idea that something that’s all too often dismissed as overdramatic acting out by teenage girls is either minor or confined to women:

HAMMOND: I don’t know if I can describe it any better than that. I mean, I was disoriented and frightened, and I was feeling every single thing that happened to me — you know, when I was in the kitchen once with my mother. And I’m not a doctor, so I can’t describe what flashbacks are as well as, perhaps, they can, but it is like you’re living it again.

So if you make a small cut, it creates a new and more manageable crisis than the one that currently has you lying on the…

GROSS: Let me stop there. You’re talking about cutting yourself …


GROSS: ..with a razor.

HAMMOND: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: So I interrupted you. You’re saying it does what?

HAMMOND: Well, it creates a smaller, more manageable crisis than the one that has you gripping the carpet.

GROSS: So like, the physical pain distracts you from the mental agony?

HAMMOND: I think so. I think that might be a fair assessment of it, yeah.

GROSS: So you take out a razor and start cutting your…

HAMMOND: I don’t start. It’s just a little (makes noise) — just enough to, you know, draw red and create a crisis that’s manageable, you know.

GROSS: So are you concerned at that moment, what if I bleed onstage?

HAMMOND: No, I mean…

GROSS: In the practical realm.

HAMMOND: No, at that point, I’ve been doing that since I was 19 years old. So I’m pretty good at managing it.

GROSS: So that you don’t really show blood?

HAMMOND: Not through my clothes. I mean, it’s easily bandaged.