You all know most of the major details of my life from my last Landmark, and this LM will take a bit of a hybrid approach, part autobiography, part public service announcement, of sorts. Iíve been considering this LM for a couple months now, as tomorrow is March 1st, which happens to be Self Injury Awareness Day. Iím guessing most people donít know that, so hey, awareness time! Some of you may have seen me mention it before; I am, what I guess you would call, a recovering self-injurer. In considering this thread, I wanted to share more about myself, but, what I really wanted to do was honor the day and spread awareness. I feel like my own journey with this issue has been so tumultuous, and now that I might be on the other side of it, I have a sort of duty to share with others, to raise awareness, and maybe help shed some light on a problem so mired in darkness.
I should also add a disclaimer or four. The first is that I have no professional medical training of any kind, and the information in this thread is purely from my own research, experiences, and time in the online self injury community. The other is that there is what some may consider graphic detail in this post. This is about self injury, and if you think you may be sensitive to the details of self injury, or if you are a self injurer yourself who fears you may be triggered by reading this, then I warn you now to read no further. I also want you to know that while this is my story, and this is something Iíll repeat a couple times, itís not necessarily any kind of archetype for people who self injure. Reasons and methodology vary widely from person to person, and I try to paint a wider picture when I can. Finally, itís long! Ye be warned. (Edit to add: Okay, I didn't realize it was quite this long! I realize that might turn a lot of you away, and if you don't want to read my story, at least skip to the bottom and read some of the literature, please)
Iím sure you all know someone who engages in some sort of self destructive behavior, we do it all the time for a variety of reasons. But what is Self Injury (SI for short)? Itís what it sounds like, when someone intentionally injures themselves via cutting, burning, head banging, bone breaking, etc. Cutting is probably the most well known medium, and is the most reported form of SI. As youíll glean from this post, SI is a little understood and comparatively a little researched problem. Lately studies have increased, and it was studied somewhat in the 70ís and 80ís, but mostly as a connection to suicidal intent. I should add though that they are not automatically paired or separate. Itís hard to categorize SI in any one way because it varies wildly from person to person. For some, SI is how they relieve stress and could actually save them from suicide. For others, it could have nothing to do with suicide at all, and is merely a sign of other psychological issues. They injure because they like to feel control in their lives, or to punish themselves or because the sight of blood makes them feel alive, or to feel the peculiar rush (a real chemical reaction in the brain) that comes with the injury, among many other reasons. That chemical reaction could very seriously be described as a drug addiction. Cutters (Iíll probably use this phrase to describe self injurers from now one just because itís easier) receive a rush of endorphins in their brains while cutting that can become addictive. As the problem wears on, they need bigger and bigger doses to feel sated, and trying to stop can cause the same sort of withdrawal that any other major addiction can cause. Cutting is, more than anything else, a coping mechanism, which may sound strange, but itís a relief to many. To be more specific, it is what psychologists would refer to as a ďmaladaptive coping mechanism.Ē In other words, itís an unhealthy way to deal with your issues.
Okay, so we know what Cutters do, and we know what they get out of it, but why do they really start in the first place? What gives them the idea? The answer is that we donít know. In the limited studies that have been done, thereís a strong link between childhood abuse, especially sexual abuse, and people who SI as adolescents. Specifically in this case, many feel that cutting is an element of their lives where they can exercise control, or is a way to punish themselves but control that punishment in a way that they canít with the people abusing them. I should hasten to add that I wasnít abused as a child. I had an average amount of issues with my family, but I grew up in a loving home, and never felt threatened in any way. Thereís also a fear out there that SI may become something of a fad. Slight sidetrack, but I was actually surprised to see on Scrubs the other day a reference to cutting. Elliott, a female doctor on the show jokingly said that she was a cutter for a week in junior high because the shop teacher liked scars. It was a funny line, given the character, but that sort of trivializing could send a potentially dangerous message. Itís also been covered much more seriously in a ďproblem of the weekĒ sort of fashion on other shows like 7th Heaven. Maybe that fear could be considered justified, and certainly, for me anyway, it could have real consequences as youíll see later. But a study done in 1989 showed that 91% of those who cut had never had any contact of or knowledge of the problem before beginning the behavior. Itís actually a somewhat astounding number, that so many people all came up with the same destructive coping mechanism independent of each other with no prompting. For myself, Iíd never heard of it before I did it, and I honestly donít remember what first gave me the idea. Attached to the idea of it being a fad is the classification that itís only something ďemoĒ kids do; a self infliction based on self created problems. And while there might be some who have picked it up due to increased media attention, this ignores the vast majority who have suffered in silence for years before this ever became anything close to a cultural phenomenon.
Little is known about who self injures, though itís suspected itís mostly a problem among Caucasians, almost equally across the gender field, though with a slight favor to girls. It is also primarily a problem for the young, as in, those under the age of 25. The second highest reported number of incidents comes from the elderly. The problem with getting information for this is that by and large, you really only come across information on it when people are treated for other problems, which is also why youíll so commonly see a link between eating disorders and cutting, as sufferers of an ED seek or receive treatment more often. Boys are the most unlikely to seek treatment for this or any other problem, leaving knowledge of their actual numbers part fact and part guesswork. Part of why nailing down information on SI is so problematic is that sufferers are so elusive. Though they often start in their early teens, they can hide the problem for years without seeking treatment. And even if they do seek treatment for injuries, medical professionals commonly misdiagnose the problem, or treat the cutter in such a way that will almost guarantee he/she will never seek treatment again. Thereís also no one size fits all solution to the problem. Thereíre extremely few in patient program in the United States dedicated to treating a person with SI, like the Self Abuse Finally Ends (SAFE) program at Linden Oaks Hospital in Illinois. Other than that? Medical professionals in the study of self injury usually try and solve the depression or other underlying problem, and then try and teach more healthy coping mechanisms and slowly helping the patient wean themselves off the practice. Thereís little to no research that suggests medication can in any way fix the problem. Iíll add the caveat that medications may work to solve an underlying problem, if that problem can be solved through medication. That might give the cutter a better chance at dealing with the problem, but a pill to solve SI doesnít exist. Anecdotal evidence contradicts itself, with some patients claiming medication helps and others saying it has no effect. In other words? It can mostly be a personal struggle, where professionals can offer guidance, but even they describe it largely as a fight of will power. Iíd add personally that friends and family can be a powerful tool in the fight. At the end of this post Iíll link some sources to study summaries if you would like what little information there is directly, but thatís a short but decent summation of the problem at large.
Itís hard to tell my story coherently. I first became a cutter 11 years ago. I was 12, and in 7th grade. Iím 23 now, and itís been so long since it first began that Iíve forgotten the early details. In many ways Iíve tried to put many of these memories behind me, to put this whole ordeal in my life behind me and to attempt to move on. But moving on isnít so easy. Iíve long kept a journal, usually a pen and paper one (I have a Livejournal, but except for one or two short spurts when I was younger, I never really kept it up regularly), so I have an inconsistent but somewhat lengthy source for my history with this struggle. Itís through these journal entries I hope to relate to you the bulk of my story, and how I felt along the way. Youíll have to forgive some of the language and the broody teenagey feel to it, I was a teenager for most of this after all. Through the sometimes repetitive, angst ridden entries I think a picture begins to emerge, and I hope youíll bear with me through it.
I do remember my original reason for cutting. My brother had always teased me about being weak compared to him. He was the jock. He played soccer, baseball and basketball, and he was good at all of them. I was the geek, who read, studied, and played in the band. Needless to say that wasnít so hot for my self esteem. My parents had raised us both playing sports from a very young age, and I always rebelled against it. Personally I wish theyíd made me take piano and foreign language lessons, but thatís neither here nor there. So I figured Iíd prove I was tough. Iíd cut myself. Itís irrational in the extreme, and even now I have to wonder what the hell exactly was happening in my brain that made the leap from toughness to cutting of all things. It wasnít serious to start with, it wasnít something I ever planned on continuing. It started off as little scratches across my arm that never even drew blood, but it became so much more. But it stopped being about my brother after awhile, it stopped being about whether or not I was tough. Ironically, I think it only proves how tough I wasnít that I ended up falling prey to addiction, but forgive my minor moment of self indulgent self deprecation, chalk it up to my 23 year old self being a little angry at my 12 year old self.
I had a lot of continuous issues throughout high school. My brother and I were polar opposites who didnít get along in almost any form. I donít want to stray too much by going into it, but we were practically from different worlds. Heíd frequently steal from me, be it money or items, and arguing with him wasnít an option, he always won, the older jock brother didnít really have any problem fending off the younger geek brother. And he never missed a chance to put me down. Personally I donít think it was your classic ďlow self esteem diss others to make yourself feel goodĒ thing. I think he had a huge ego and was a bit ashamed of his younger brother not being like him, and in a misguided attempt to try and get me to be more like him, heíd constantly poke fun at me, hoping Iíd become more like him in an effort to avoid the teasing. It didnít help matters that my dad felt the same way. My dad is a sports freak like my brother, and would constantly lavish my brother with attention, and whatever sort of sports equipment he needed, yet money was never there for something as simple as a box of reeds for my saxophone. I think the only people who kept me afloat when I was younger were my mom and grandmother, both of whom supplied love and support unconditionally with no limits. So, to sum up, I had big problems with my dad and brother that lasted through most of my teen years, and resulted in pretty bad self esteem issues, and I would say was a serious contributing factor to my depression.
Itís something that until recently I never really connected, my depression and my cutting. But I have to admit it, I was horribly depressed through much of the early years of high school. Thatís when cutting really became a problem. Somewhere between 7th and 9th grade I stopped thinking of it as a way to prove my toughness to my brother, and I started becoming addicted to the feeling Iíd get when I cut. It was a release, a high of sorts, and above all the tumult that was going on in the world around me, it afforded me precious few moments of joy. These journal entries are the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I had just turned 15 the month before.
quote:July 21st, 1999 ďI had stopped cutting again, but on July 5th I did it again. I think itís really a problem. Iím really struggling with this, the urge is almost unbearable. I can imagine how good it felt, the clarity. I long for that feeling, even right now itís a fight to not pick up the blade. Iíll never be without this urge, but over time it fades and lulls, often leaving for a day, maybe two. So until then I will suffer.Ē
July 29th, 1999 ďCutting, well, last Monday I did it, Iíll be honest, it felt great. Itís a memory I treasure and despise at the same time. I think that I should stop, but itís hard, but Iím also not sure I need to. From an outside view itís sick and harmful. But itís not life threatening and it feels great. No one can give me advice on it, the few people I do know who cut or burn arenít addicted. To them itís ruled by emotion, mine is only effected by emotion.Ē
The difference I was trying to make there is one that I still clung to until quite recently. I made no connection between being depressed and cutting. But even then I still had a point, I wasnít just cutting because I was depressed, I was cutting because I was addicted. Itís that endorphin rush I mentioned earlier, itís a chemical addiction that acts like a narcotic. When I was depressed I cut because I knew that it would bring me a very weird peace and calm. And when I was happy I cut because not cutting would make me sad, although cutting often made me sad too, afterwards. Itís not cut and dry. Itís hard to explain the duality of mind that came with cutting. I was always trying to come up with rational reasons to convince myself that it would be okay to cut. But even when I managed to do that, and Iíd give in and do it, the few moments of reward were followed by long periods of echoing disappointment in myself for giving in. And I went through some variation of that cycle every day for years.
1999 was a rough year. In the back of my mind I knew that this was something I shouldnít be doing, there was always a voice telling me it was wrong. But I continued doing it anyway, and the voice just made me feel guilty. And still things got worse. I made a small but short lived foray into other forms of SI, and learned that if I cut in the shower, I could burn the cuts with hot water, which hurt a hell of a lot more, and also reduced the scarring and made the cuts heal faster. It was a horrible innovation that only made me cut more often, made the problem easier to hide, and probably increased my addiction from a bigger ďhigh.Ē I hesitate to call it a real high because I donít know the specifics of the science involved, I only know how I felt. The journal entries tell the story better than I do.
quote:August 1st-5th (no exact date), 1999 ďÖIím pretty much used to the fact that cutting is a part of my life. Iíll stop and go with it, never rid of it. So Iím not gonna try to expel it from my body. Just fight it off when I have the strength, and right now I donít.Ē
August 10th, 1999 (After ďgraduatingĒ to burning my cuts with hot water) ďThis is still a problem I canít tell anyone about. Nobody I know could possibly understand. Dennis [one of my best friends at the time] has already threatened that next time he catches me he will tell, so heís outÖThe thing that makes me the most frustrated is that I have no one at all that I can talk to that knows what Iím going through. And I canít just go askin around cause then Iíll get caught.Ē
August 24th, 1999 ďI cut more tonight than on any other single night. It was great. I mean, itís wrong, but it felt great. So I have to wait a week for the cuts to go away, then Iíll keep going. Guess Iím a full fledged cutter again. No more 3 week breaks. Not until I can find a way to stop again.Ē
September 9th, 1999 ďI havenít cut since my last entry, itís been two weeks and two days. Itís almost unbearable sometimes. I have no idea how Iím holding off. Even now I crave it and some burning. But Iím standiní tall.Ē
I didnít write another entry until the end of that school year, which was the end of 10th grade. At times, though I had a few good friends, I felt extremely lonely not having anyone to talk to about the problem. I think itís easy to look at cutting as a cry for help, or as a ploy to gain attention, but for the vast majority of us, itís the darkest secret a person could keep. For Smallville fans, look at Clark every time he tries to rationalize to himself telling someone about his powers, and then look at what tends to happen to those people he does tell. Thatís a non-serious analogy for a very serious problem, I know, and despite the fact that I pride myself on being able to paint a picture with words, itís hard to relay the internal debate that rages over deciding whether or not to share a possibly life changing secret. Itís a big decision. I told few people, and lost some, and the others just wanted me to stop, just stop, or else theyíd tell an adult. But I didnít want that kind of help. I only ever wanted someone to listen, just to hear me talk about it. You might think of that as a cry for help, or for attention, but in the end I told few people, and struggled over the decision mostly out of fear that theyíd tell others. I needed to talk about it, but I didnít want anyone to know. Itís an interesting dilemma. I was too embarrassed, and Iíd have been mortified if my parents had found out. The only family member I ever told was a distant cousin that my family was close to, and he convinced me one summer to tell my mom, and that if I did we could work it all out. It was late one night, and Iíd finally screwed up the courage to tell her. Not realizing sheíd fallen asleep I tried to get her attention, and she woke up very annoyed that Iíd woken her, and just like that my courage evaporated and I apologized for waking her. Never again did I even consider telling a family member.
Somewhere during that year, I told my girlfriend at the time that I cut myself, only to find a few weeks later that she cut herself, after I gave the idea to her. I was horrified. Despite how I felt about it personally and my reactions to other friends having tried to get me to stop, I angrily told her that if she ever did it again Iíd never speak to her again, and Iíd tell anyone I had to, to get her to stop. To the best of my knowledge she never did it again, and we never spoke of it again. But in that moment I swore never to tell a friend about it again. Iíd had too many bad experiences.
I got a taste that year of what it would have been like to get it out in the open when I stupidly, and jokingly threatened to kill myself to some friends of mine. They alerted the school councilor, and ironically what I had longed feared did come to pass, but for a totally fictional problem. I wasnít suicidal. Memories of the time, and reading what I wrote at the time reveal over and over that I never even considered it an option, and often specifically reaffirmed that despite cutting, suicide was stupid. More than ever, with my secret intact, with the near misses and the disasters that had come from a problem I saw as wholly of my own making, I reaffirmed my commitment to never hurt anyone else with my problem again. Of course in the future I would tell people again, but Iíd also struggle a lot more with that decision.
After that August 24th entry, I didnít cut for almost two years.
quote:June 11th, 2000 ďI havenít cut in almost 10 months, itís incredible. I feel the urge so often, I know it would feel good, I just keep stopping myself, something Iím proud of.Ē
June 24th, 2000 ďIíve been thinking about cutting lately, like, why did I ever stop? I mean, it feels so good, and Iíve always wanted it, is it so bad? I really need it, if I thought I could stop when I wanted, I would do it. My 10 month thing is coming up, serious stuffÖSeriously, is it so wrong? Iím not killing myself, thereís no danger, Iíll never die from it. It just sounds wrong, but itís not, at all. I look at my scars and I long for the feeling, for the beads of blood, the rush of pain and the pleasure. I wish I could have that again. No one understands what itís like, no one can, no oneís felt it like I have, none of my friends. Iíll have to think on it.Ē
Youíd think after all that time Iíd be over it. But I wasnít. It was always an issue. Entries in my journal and memories in my head remind me of times all over those two years where I thought about doing it, sometimes even lying awake late into the night, rocking back and forth on my bed crying because I couldnít make the urges go away, shaking with the frustration of it all. Often I lamented the fact that I couldnít tell anyone, for no one would understand, and there was nothing they could personally do.
The summer I managed to stop was between my sophomore and junior years. That year Iíd end up with almost a whole new group of friends. That yearís incoming freshman had a lot of gems among them. Eight years later, the best of them are still close friends of mine. It was a fresh start in many ways. None of them knew about my problem. It was a clean slate. At this point in my life I didnít just count the months that Iíd gone without cutting, I counted every single day. Days stretched into weeks, which turned into months, and proudly I marked every single one of them on my calendar. But even more than a year and a half since the last time Iíd done it, at the end of my junior year I still thought about it weekly, or sometimes daily, and almost always like this:
quote:March 25th, 2001 ďCutting though, is the problem to be. Iíve been thinking about it more and more, Tuesday is the next month in my freedom from cutting. I want to do it though, I want to remember the feeling. Itís hard to explain. But I fear itís draw. I donít know if I could stop once I started. It took me so long to stop last time, almost two years. I canít go through that again. I want to tell someone too, but I canít. No one would understand anyway, so why bother? Because I just need to tell someone. None of my current friends know about it.Ē
June 24th, 2001 ďIt's come to a point where I don't even want to not do it. I want to, it's a question of whether or not I could stop myself when I wanted to, if I wanted to. And I think I could. But, once I start, that's a dangerous guessing game... But I want it more now than everÖĒ
I wonder if anyone reading this understands that feeling, to have something haunt you on nearly a daily basis for almost two years. Youíd have to hope to yourself that after two years the feeling wouldíve abated, slowly over time itíd get better and eventually just go away, but it didnít. Constantly it was a fight, talking myself into doing it, saying it wasnít that bad, and surely I could just stop tomorrow, but then telling myself that I wasnít going to throw away years of self control and vigilance just for one moment. Even then I wasnít just arguing for one moment, I was arguing with myself over which lifestyle Iíd choose to lead.
It became unbearable to have no one to talk about over those long months. In that year I slowly began to explore the online SI community. Sometimes it wasnít easy to find. I didnít really know what forums were at the time, and though there was a lot of literature if you went looking for it (mostly repetitive and unhelpful), I wanted someone I could talk to, have a conversation with, not just post to. And I found people with problems similar to mine. And I found that a great many of them were far worse off than I was. Some of it was appalling, to hear what parts of SI appealed to them, I almost felt I was on the lighter side of the problem, not really that bad off. I heard stories of people who were hospitalized, whose lives had been torn apart, and a few who even advocated SI and said it wasnít that big of a deal. But mostly they were a supportive people, a small band of people together, and we all understood, at least to a degree, the problem that everyone else was suffering. It was extremely gratifying having other people to tell my problems to and know that they understood. But it didnít last. After a month or two, I left the community. That kind of constant back and forth, while relieving in one way, was a horrible trigger in others. A trigger, by the way, is anything that especially makes a person want to self injure. At the time, spending so much effort talking about it was a trigger, so to save myself from tempting fate like that, I bade them farewell. From time to time, when I especially felt the need to vent I would pop back in on them, and though when Iíd return I didnít recognize any of the names, I still found a receptive audience. It would be years before I actively communicated with any other self injurer over the internet again.
Sadly, just shy of two years of not, for whatever reason, I did it.
quote:July 18th, 2001 ďI did it Sunday night. It was strange too, cause I could of stopped myself if I wanted to, but I didnít want to. It wasnít so much the addiction part as it was I finally gave in and said screw it, I want this, Iím gonna do it. I almost did it last night too, but I stopped myself, I didnít want to go overboardÖI know this wont be the last time in the near future, I may even do it tonight. Too bad I donít have enough long sleeve shirts to do more like I want too. My favorite spot is out of bounds til winter.Ē
July 24th, 2001 ďÖStill nothing dangerous but Iím concerned. Plus I ****** up. I mean, I was holding off so well, but I snapped. Now I just need to stop again. Iíve worked and thought about ďcould I stopĒ for so long, now itís time to employ it.Ē
Itís hard to convey the feeling of disappointment that comes with falling off the wagon after doing so well for so long. It makes me wonder how alcoholics feel, or how one would feel if they struggled with it for years, victoriously, and then had a drink, dashing all that work to nothing, and having to start from square one again. Itís in that moment where itís hardest to pick back up and start over, having wasted so much effort for such a small short term gain, how do you go back to the smallest building block? Itís so easy to just say ďforget it,Ē and not bother starting over. Though I was angry with myself, I did go back to the smallest building block and started over. It didnít last as long however, for that was to be an odd year.
In the Fall of 2001, I started my senior year in high school. I was 17, Iíd just started dating a girl that was to become my first love, and academically I was doing very well. All things considered it was the best year of my life to that point. I had a 4.0 average that year, scored well on two AP tests, had great friends, and a great relationship. My relationships with my brother and father were also monumentally better. My dad had by that time begun to make serious efforts to connect with me, and for my part, Iíd developed an incredible passion for hockey. My brother had recently joined the Marines, and I though that decision would cause him and the family a lot of problems, I think it also matured him a bit (though not as much as I wouldíve liked), and our relationship also became much improved afterwards. But for the most part that year, I also cut on a regular basis. Keeping it a secret from my girlfriend was impossible, and I decided it was best to be somewhat up front about it. I told her, the first person Iíd told since my last group of friends and the disasters that came with those decisions, and she told me about some of her own personal problems. We both struggled with problems, and in many ways we kept each other balanced. Itís odd, that the happiest year I had since I started cutting was also the year I cut for the longest period of time on a regular basis. It probably doesnít make any sense, and it certainly doesnít make any sense to me either, but that year the addiction won, and I lost.
The bright side, for me, of living in Michigan and most of the school year taking place during cold months, was that I had the chance to wear a lot of long sleeve clothing. But once in awhile someone would catch a glimpse of scars or fresh cuts, and Iíd have questions to answer. My excuse was weak; that my dog had scratched me again. That no one asked how my 20 pound Cocker Spaniel managed to wreak that much devastation is beyond me, but if people suspected anything they kept it to themselves. Lying about it was a reflex. If Iíd managed to use the dog excuse too much then Iíd come up with something else, but it wasnít hard. I had the fact that the truth was much less believable than a lie on my side. I remember one specific instance when my girlfriend had thrown me a surprise pool party. To this day Iím somewhat self conscious of wearing a bathing suit because of the scars on my arms. Inevitably, someone asked, and before I could say anything, my girlfriend interjected with an excuse. It left me with an odd feeling. I was horrified and grateful at the same time. Horrified that she felt the need to make an excuse for me, that sheíd taken on my problem in such an active way, and grateful that she respected my wishes enough to defend me and let me deal with it in my own way. It was the fresh cuts that were always harder to explain.
quote:June 10th, 2002 Two days ago I graduated from high schoolÖI havenít cut in a few months, though I do think about it almost daily.Ē
Those few months made it all the way to January of 2003 until I cut again. It was short lived, relatively, and I only cut a few times that month. 2003 started and ended badly. After getting back into a rhythm after January, I didnít cut again until December, when my girlfriend broke up with me. Like I said before, generally I did it for no reason other than addiction, but dramatic emotional turmoil was a pretty good motivator. She told me afterwards that one of the hardest parts of breaking up with me was the fear that Iíd do something ďstupidĒ as a result. That of course only made me feel worse, even in hindsight, that Iíd put that kind of pressure on her, but thatís what the secret was, and I think even today thatís part of what the knowledge is. Itís a burden on any close friend who knows it, and maybe in the back of their heads thereís a silent fear and wonder about what reactions any action might have. After that I went almost another year and a half without doing it. I think there might have been a time or two in there where I lapsed extremely briefly, but by and large it was a good year and a half.
After my ex broke up with me, I started getting closer to another person in the group, and we ended up pretty tight by the end of that spring. I told her about my problem after awhile. She knew I had secrets, and as our friendship progressed she wanted to know them, so I decided there was enough trust there, and maybe enough time had passed that I could. And though we briefly talked about it a few times, it was almost never an issue. This was largely my doing. Some journal entries that Iíve decided not to add here reflect a raging internal debate on whether or not to share more with her, because I was seriously struggling at the time, and longed to have a friend to talk to about it. Itís not about wanting someone to solve the problem for me, or even to help me with it, itís really just having someone to listen. But in the end I decided it was too great a burden for her, and kept it to myself. Anyway, my friend, Kara (she said I could use her name), told me that another friend of ours (a more distant friend to me at the time, I didnít see her that much) had a problem with cutting, and I talked to her about it. She, like me so long ago, didnít have anyone who really understood the problem to talk to, and I think she greatly benefited from talking about it. I on the other hand discovered that I was really not at all comfortable talking about it, and it was still a bit of a trigger for me, and selfishly, I told her I couldnít talk about it anymore. Years later I maybe regret that decision. Knowing what she must have been going through as I do, it was horribly selfish of me to cut myself off like that, but then, after all those years I really just didnít want to deal with it anymore.
My last journal entry on the subject was on May 30th, 2004. Iíd be turning 20 less than a month later. Itís a particularly angry entry, so Iíll have to edit out some language.
quote:May 30th 2004 ďI wanted to cut tonight, and right now at this moment I still want to. I carefully considered taking a shower and cutting, then burning. And right now I still want to. I think I will still want to in an hour, and tomorrow. That worries me. I wanted to do it thursday night too, and I was considering trying to find something sharp to do it with, even while I was at a friendís house. I'm worried that things are starting to slip back. I don't want to go back to a life where I live in constant back and forth on doing this. I want to be solidly free of it, or at least in control of the urgesÖthe last time I did I did it the worst, it was over spring break, and one of the cuts is still barely visible. And that is NOT good, when usually the cuts fade into scars after a week or two.
I don't know. I have this problem, and I think I might need help with it, I'm sick of feeling like this. I'm ******* SICK AND TIRED of feeling like this! But if this is my big drive to rid myself of this problem it is NOT something I can drag Kara into. I might need to see somebody. But, that just gets so complicated. I don't have the time, I don't have the money, and I DONT want anybody to know. I want to feel better. I've never said that before. Honestly I've thought for YEARS now that how I felt was normal. I thought "yeah, well I guess now that I have this I will have to feel like this forever, and that's okay because it's no big deal." But now I think that is ********, and I want to feel better, and I want to actually be NORMAL. The real kind of normal that other people have, without dependency on this gross and sick problem that contrary to what Kara says I DO feel ashamed of. Horribly ashamed of. This is something I felt okay talking about with anyone a month ago, but that was when I felt like I had it under control and it was IN THE PAST. But itís in the present, and Iím back to supersecret modeÖ.Maybe. I have to see how I feel tomorrow, if I still want it, and the day after that and so on. If it's a problem, maybe I will mention it to her. If i actually cut, which I probably will, maybe I will mention it to her. I don't know. I'm so confused.Ē
Itís been almost three and a half years since that entry. Have I cut since then? Yes. But itís been months and months. I donít keep track of the days and weeks anymore like I used to. I couldnít point to a single event or time that marked the turning point, but somewhere along the way, the constant urges that I felt slowly faded away. I can talk about it comfortably, and read about how I felt in a detached sort of way. Itís not the same problem it used to be, not something I talk myself into and out of, not something I keep myself up late at night worrying about. But is it still a problem? Yes, I think it is. Deep, far in the recesses of my body I do still feel it, in a tingling in my toes or a shiver in my shoulders, but itís more easily shrugged off. It comes when I briefly remember the feeling I got from cutting, as it is a terrible memory, but I canít deny that I did enjoy it, and I would probably enjoy it again if I were to go back to it. With that memory, and those shudders and shivers, I can honestly say that I really think this will be something Iíll live with for the rest of my life in some way. But maybe not. Maybe in the same way that itís gotten easier recently it might get even easier as I get older, and then just fade away beyond memory. Thatís certainly what I hope for. I couldnít say with any honesty that Iíll never cut again, I might, but I donít see it happening any time soon.
I donít want to leave anyone with the feeling that situations like mine are hopeless. If I knew then what I know now, thereíre a lot of things I would have done differently. While itís true that there is no cure per se, if I had seen a professional years ago, they might have been able to help me cope with my depression, and it might have helped me cope with my problems sooner. If I had talked to my friends, and gotten support from my family, and the help I needed, put together I might have solved it sooner, or stopped it before it really got serious. The biggest problem in ending cutting and self injury is awareness. Thereís a stigma against it, which isnít unfair probably given how unorthodox it is, but itís that stigma that forces sufferers into hiding. And those are the people that need to seek help. Itís the fear that keeps them silent, and the shame. Hopefully by raising awareness, people can be on the lookout, can be ready and willing to lend an ear, or a hand, or whatever a friend might need to help them. Otherwise itís a problem that many will suffer and fight alone, and thatís what makes it a long, losing struggle. But also keep in mind, that while not hopeless, for people with situations like mine, it wonít be easy, it might be the hardest thing someone can go through, or at least it will feel that way. I wouldnít have advocated this a couple years ago, but people should seek help, should talk to friends, should make the decision to not suffer alone. And everyone else, just try to be understanding, and listen, thatís often all they want.
As this post comes with a dual purpose, as both a landmark to share the greatest struggle of my life, but also as a means to raise awareness, Iíll try my best to answer any questions if people have them. Iím comfortable talking about this subject, and though organizing this post has brought back a lot of painful memories, it also feels good to get it all down like this and really take stock of how I got to where I am. I know there are a lot of misconceptions about SI out there, and I donít claim to have all the answers, but hopefully people reading this can leave with a better understanding of the problem.
PS. Like I promised before, here are a couple sources for further reading:
That's just...wow. Thank you so much for sharing this. I've read small snippets about SI before, but nothing this in depth and this personal. While I can't fully understand this without having experienced it, I do have empathy for you. And I applaud your bravery in posting this.
I think it's fair to say that most of us have suffered from some compulsive behavior or another that we have struggled to overcome. So while I haven't experienced the severity of your situation, I think I can understand some of your feelings during it.
quote: June 24th, 2001 ďIt's come to a point where I don't even want to not do it. I want to, it's a question of whether or not I could stop myself when I wanted to, if I wanted to. And I think I could. But, once I start, that's a dangerous guessing game... But I want it more now than everÖĒ
I wonder if anyone reading this understands that feeling, to have something haunt you on nearly a daily basis for almost two years.
YES. I definitely understand that feeling. It's like...you know that you probably physically, mentally, emotionally, whatever, have the strength to overcome something, but sometimes you lose the desire to overcome it.
And the social stigma surrounding it is interesting as well. Interesting is a bad word. Appalling, really. "Emo" is a word that's tossed around a lot these days by ignorant apathetic people. There's the stereotypical angsty-teenager that people seem to associate with SI, but it's -- in general -- an untrue picture.
Anyway, thanks again. I know this must have been hard to write this up, but I hope it was at least somewhat liberating.
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Reading this totally wrenched my gut a couple of times. I've never gone through anything like this, but I have some obsessive tendencies, and think I can understand a little where you're coming from. I'm so glad you're not doing it now, and feel in control enough to talk about it. Thanks for sharing your story.
So, are you getting treatment for your depression now?
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I spent a year in a situation surrounded by many, many cutters. And on and off had contact with them before that. I never connected it so clearly with addictive behavior until I read your post, though. Reading your journal entries is EXACTLY like talking to recovering/trying to recover addicts with more "classical" addictions (cigarettes, alcohol, overeating, sex, just about anything you can think of.) It was very powerful. Thanks for sharing. I know it can be really hard to put yourself out there like that.
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I wouldn't say the people who laugh at emo kids are being ignorant. They are everything bad we felt as teens taken to a rediculous extreme. It's hard not to laugh at them because on some level we're laughing at ourselves.
Apathetic, sure. It's hard from this side of the hormonal divide to remember that all that angst was legitimately felt at the time. I'm only 27 and it's hard to remember that I really felt my parents were out to oppress me and keep me from making my own decisions. The older you get, the harder it is, I'm sure. When you're stressing about mortgage payments, lousy coworkers, all the to dos around the house, and finding time for yourself in all that, it's hard to remember a teen's problems are still the worst stress they've ever faced.
Adults could certainly do better, but teens could cut us some slack, too. Of course, they won't realize there's any need to until they also wake up one morning and wonder what they were thinking for the past several years. Understanding across the generation gap is probably not a reasonable goal.
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I read everything, and while it was difficult at times, I really appreciate you posting that. I have a niece who self-injures, and is in residential treatment (not just for the self-injury, but other things as well.) It really helps me understand her struggles in a new light by reading your story.
Could I ask a question? Do you have any advice for me as a soon-to-be teacher of teens?
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quote:Originally posted by Lyrhawn: Little is known about who self injures, though itís suspected itís mostly a problem among Caucasians, almost equally across the gender field, though with a slight favor to girls. It is also primarily a problem for the young, as in, those under the age of 25. ....
First, I would like to echo the posts that say you're brave. You are indeed brave for posting details like this in a public forum and it is my hope that this may help someone to work through similar problems.
Second, I am slightly curious why this would be mostly a problem among Caucasians (or indeed, if that is true or not). I can't really come up with any theories on my own why that would be the case (although I'm sure there are some) and I'm curious.
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Thanks to those who've read so far, and for your many kind words. If anyone wants to say anything or ask me anything but don't want it on this thread, you can feel free to email me, my email is in my profile.
To answer some of the questions asked thus far:
Eljay - To be honest, no, I'm not currently seeing anyone or taking any kind of treatment. I think I might have some sort of benign depression going on at the moment, in that it takes a lot to get me motivated to do much, but it's nowhere near as bad as it used to be. I used to be depressed, didn't like myself, didn't have much self-esteem, etc. But for the most part, now I think I'm a decent human being with a lot going for me, so long as I don't let myself get in the way Maybe I should see someone about it still, I just have so many other bigger things in my orbit right now, I'm not paying as much attention to the smaller things.
I agree, about the generation gap. I do think there is a tendency to trivialize the issues that teens have, which I think comes as a detriment to society. We forget pain, everyone of every gender and age does, and I think they have to, otherwise we'd never be able to move on, but it's no less real for any age group. That tendency to trivialize can have long lasting and devastating consequences that ripple across society, and I'd think those consequences are pretty clearly seen. But really, most of what I was referring to in the post was intra-generational stereotyping, by which I mean, young people looking down on other young people, rather than older generations doing it. The under 25 generation is fairly intolerant, or at least scathingly mean to what they describe as emo, which seems to just be a catchall term for anything they think is lame.
quote:Could I ask a question? Do you have any advice for me as a soon-to-be teacher of teens?
I'm hesitant to give that kind of advice specifically for a variety of reasons, so take this with a big grain of salt. If you mean advice on how to spot problems, I guess I'd say you sort of have to look at it the same way you'd spot abuse. When a kid says he hurt himself falling down the stairs, we're I think sort of trained to be suspicious and wonder what really happened, especially if he keeps happening. Like I said in my LM, it was easy for me in high school because the truth was less believable than pretty much any lie, which made it extremely easy to hide at times.
Despite the fact that cutting (or SI of any kind) is often not suicidal behavior, wrists are still one of the favored areas (along with the stomach and thighs, for reasons I'm not sure of), so if you see something that looks suspicious, make a note about it, maybe ask the kid about it and see what their response is. Multiple cuts in neat little lines are hard to explain away when you kno what to look for, and that's often what it looks like.
If you mean advice in how to handle the situation, well, that's where I might not have an answer for you. I don't know what the rules are with regards to what you're legally obligated to report to the school authorities. But chances are extremely good that if someone is cutting, they have some sort of underlying issue and they probably need help with it. The help may never be enough, but doing it alone is terrying, and lonely.
I'm not sure what else to tell you. Personally for me, I don't think I would have ever told a teacher in high school, because I think I'd have known for sure that they'd have to report it. But part of the reason was that I was afraid they'd totally misunderstand what I was going through. I wasn't suicidal, I was trapped. Maybe understanding the mindset might help you connect with a teen you suspect of having a problem. But I'm wondering if connecting and what not is less important than just noticing, which I think is somewhat easier if you know what to look for. Also, inappropriate out of season clothing, like long sleeves in the warmer months (or at all, if you're in the south) might be an indication.
I hope that helps some, I don't mind answering questions, so if you have anything else, or something more specific, I'm fine with it.
Thanks. Much as I wish neither of us had to deal with anything harsh at all, it's comforting to know that someone understands.
quote: it is my hope that this may help someone to work through similar problems.
That's my hope too.
quote:Second, I am slightly curious why this would be mostly a problem among Caucasians (or indeed, if that is true or not). I can't really come up with any theories on my own why that would be the case (although I'm sure there are some) and I'm curious.
I'm really not sure. I haven't done as much research into the race aspect of it, but it might just be a reporting issue. If black men and women are less likely to seek treatment, or if they go to a place where the behavior isn't reported to a higher medical authority, it won't be recorded and the statistic will never get passed on. That's why men in general are so underreported. So there might just be a disconnect there, or it might be a real phenomenon. I'm not sure of the reason, if it is in fact true.
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I'm continuing to read small snippets. I'll be working my way gradually through this post. I was thinking about this during the night. The Elija/Priests of Ba'al smackdown in 2 Kings depicts cutting. Also, cutting oneself is prohibited by the Law of Moses, and may have been a ritual prior to that time. I found that kind of interesting.
I think there is a relationship between injury and sacrifice, which is not to say I think cutting may be a valid mode of worship, I'm just thinking it's not an accidental correlation.
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I had a girlfriend who cut. my first girlfriend actually. I probably wouldn't have been able to deal, but my favorite uncle counsels cutters and other SI IRL and online, and he helped me to get cope with a listener's side of it. I also had a certain amount of inherent understanding as I have my own methods of triggering an addictive endorphin rush that're just as socially unacceptable. I felt overly responsible for her for years afterwards because I shared in the secret and worried she was suicidal after her next boyfriend broke up with her after she abused him (she broke up with me to go out with him, it would have been almost impossible for me to break up with her for fear of that acting as a trigger and knocking her off the wagon). Heh we had a trainwreck esque dysfunctional relationship, but thought we were great at the time. in fact we're arguing via email right now about that dysfunction, and I've been ignoring an email for a week because I can't or won't deal with feeling regret or responsibility for something six years gone and behaviors and 'shameful' immaturity that are equally aged. especially with the amount of stress at work right now. Dwelling and brooding and internally agonizing over past behavior is a pretty significant trigger for me. SI really needs more open understanding, so this post means a lot to me.
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First off, thanks so much for sharing Lyrhawn. This is something I've always wished to understand better. In High School I found out my best friend was cutting and it was such a shock as I had no idea people did that. In an odd coincidence very soon after, I found out that two other people in my close circle of friends were also cutters. And then I saw the wonderful movie The Abyss, and seeing one of the characters cut themselves because of stress made me wonder if perhaps the world was filled with people who cut themselves, and I had just missed it.
You are not alone in feeling haunted by an addiction daily for years on end.
One part of your post concerned me.
quote:Itís been almost three and a half years since that entry. Have I cut since then? Yes. But itís been months and months. I donít keep track of the days and weeks anymore like I used to. I couldnít point to a single event or time that marked the turning point, but somewhere along the way, the constant urges that I felt slowly faded away. I can talk about it comfortably, and read about how I felt in a detached sort of way. Itís not the same problem it used to be, not something I talk myself into and out of, not something I keep myself up late at night worrying about. But is it still a problem? Yes, I think it is. Deep, far in the recesses of my body I do still feel it, in a tingling in my toes or a shiver in my shoulders, but itís more easily shrugged off. It comes when I briefly remember the feeling I got from cutting, as it is a terrible memory, but I canít deny that I did enjoy it, and I would probably enjoy it again if I were to go back to it. With that memory, and those shudders and shivers, I can honestly say that I really think this will be something Iíll live with for the rest of my life in some way. But maybe not. Maybe in the same way that itís gotten easier recently it might get even easier as I get older, and then just fade away beyond memory. Thatís certainly what I hope for. I couldnít say with any honesty that Iíll never cut again, I might, but I donít see it happening any time soon.
In my own efforts to kill an addiction, I had this exact same experience. It just stopped one day and I could not tell you why. The desire occasionally showed up, but for some reason I just tossed it aside and was fine. Back in my mind I was always worried that if something distinct had not happened to end my addiction then it must not be truly gone, and that it could suddenly return.
I was right, and I wish that while I experienced that lull, (and it seems you have had at least two lulls like this) that I had attacked the problem. I wish I had found a way to replace that craving to feel good with something productive, something that could muscle it out. Exercise, greater discipline in my routine, accomplishment, ANYTHING. But I didn't, and just as for no reason my addiction left me for a while, for no reason it suddenly returned and I sank into it once again.
I can't tell you what you could do to replace this particular addiction, I've never had it. I also do not know how much you really care to try to end it. While my own addiction is behind me, it too has never fully left me, it will probably try to claim me again the rest of my life. The difference now is that I can see clearly what I stand to lose every time I succumb, and have seen what I can gain by not giving in. It's a sacrifice worth making for me, and let's not kid ourselves, giving up an addiction is a sacrifice. The good news is that it repays itself over and over again each time you sacrifice anew.
If there was anything I could do to help you, I would do it. Figure something out that you can use to replace the rush cutting gives you. I may not replicate it completely or even closely, but find something that can replace your addiction. I have a lovely wife, children to discover, the love of God, a supportive family, and most of all my honor. If this list shortened I'm not sure how I would keep going on, but I feel stronger everyday I consciously choose right over wrong. And the day I made some specific choices designed to help me fight my addiction, was the day I started making real progress. As somebody who has failed time and time again, and has the audacity to believe he will succeed this time, I hope you can find that same gift.
Again thanks so much for posting, don't go anywhere, this forum could use folk like you.
I was going to post a response but it seemed so petty compared to what you've had the courage to post here. Thank you for that post. It was enormously insightful.
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quote: was right, and I wish that while I experienced that lull, (and it seems you have had at least two lulls like this.) that I had attacked the problem. I wish I had found a way to replace that craving to feel good with something productive, something that could muscle it out. Exercise, greater discipline in my routine, accomplishment, ANYTHING. But I didn't and just as for no reason my addiction left me for a while, for no reason it suddenly returned and I sank into it once again.
If there was anything I could do to help you, I would do it. Figure something out that you can use to replace the rush cutting gives you. I may not replicate it completely or even closely, but find something that can replace your addiction. I have a lovely wife, children to discover, the love of God, a supportive family, and most of all my honor. If this list shortened I'm not sure how I would keep going on, but I feel stronger everyday I consciously choose right over wrong. And the day I made some specific choices designed to help me fight my addiction, was the day I started making real progress. As somebody who has failed time and time again and has the audacity to believe he will succeed this time, I hope you can find that same gift.
Thankfully, for me, it's different with this particular lull (which is and isn't a good word to use for me). During the other times when I managed to stop, there were insatiable daily cravings to give in. I had to tell myself 10 times a day, every day, for two years and a year and a half, no, no, no, no, no, no! It was a fight on a daily basis that eventually ground me down and I lost both times.
This time around, I don't have to fight as hard, sometimes not at all. It's gone from a scream in my head to a dull roar, and at times, just a whisper. Sorry for maybe the dramatic prose throughout, but, I can't think of a plainspoken way to describe it that I think really captures it. I hope that this isn't just a calm between two storms, but that this is a new stage in my life. It's just all around easier now. I don't want to say I'm all cured, but I'm better.
I tend not to need to, but writing has become an incredible outlet for any antsyness that might build up. Once and awhile in one of those few and far between moments where I do consider it I tend to vent via writing. Sometimes it almost comes out as dark teenage poetry (though never as actual poetry, I haven't written poetry since my teens), but more and more I can channel those feelings into some of my better writing. Like I said, it's not often that I need to, but I've learned, I've improved, and I'm stronger.
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This was a great landmark. I can't help but echo and remark how brave it really was.
quote:Originally posted by Adam_S: I had a girlfriend who cut. my first girlfriend actually. I probably wouldn't have been able to deal, but my favorite uncle counsels cutters and other SI IRL and online, and he helped me to get cope with a listener's side of it. I also had a certain amount of inherent understanding as I have my own methods of triggering an addictive endorphin rush that're just as socially unacceptable. I felt overly responsible for her for years afterwards because I shared in the secret and worried she was suicidal after her next boyfriend broke up with her after she abused him (she broke up with me to go out with him, it would have been almost impossible for me to break up with her for fear of that acting as a trigger and knocking her off the wagon). Heh we had a trainwreck esque dysfunctional relationship, but thought we were great at the time. in fact we're arguing via email right now about that dysfunction, and I've been ignoring an email for a week because I can't or won't deal with feeling regret or responsibility for something six years gone and behaviors and 'shameful' immaturity that are equally aged. especially with the amount of stress at work right now. Dwelling and brooding and internally agonizing over past behavior is a pretty significant trigger for me. SI really needs more open understanding, so this post means a lot to me.
Wow man. I can empathize here with you on so many points based on my own experience.
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Adam, I'm so proud of you for posting this. I know you've been struggling for a while on whether to post this or not, but I think you showed a lot of courage by sharing your story with others. By telling this story, you're allowing others to know that they're not alone, or to help people understand more about SI and how to help those who are going through the same thing you went through. I can't tell you how proud I am right now.
SI is a very serious problem for many teens. I have a couple friends who cut or burned themselves during high school, and I never really knew how to help them. All I wanted to do was to make them stop, but I knew that I couldn't make them if they didn't want to. But I tried to be a sympathetic listener to their troubles, just like they were for me. Is there anything else you think someone like me could do to help out friends who make the decision to cut?
As for emo kids, I feel like those types of kids are charicatures of people going through real problems. I feel like emo kids think it's "cool" to cut or to be depressed, and so do it. I feel that they aren't truly depressed, but instead are just pretending to be accepted in their certain group. I'm not saying this to discount or ignore those who truly are depressed (as I am myself) but that's why I feel most people make fun of emo kids for cutting. I don't think they have the same problem with cutting that Adam did/does.
Adam, I just want to let you know that I'll always be there for you. I know you probably already know this, but I just wanted to make sure. I'll listen whenever you need me to. I'll help you through whatever problems you have. And I know you'll do the same for me. And again, I'm so proud of you for posting this. I think you helped a lot of people through your post.
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Long before I read this post, I have been looking for an opportunity to say something to you.
I think that you are one of the most important contributors to the community of Hatrack that we have ever had.
I constantly marvel at the time and effort you put in to your contribution. If we did a word count, rather than a post count, you would probably rival TomD. More than that, your posts are substantive and informative.
Simply put, you make this a better place.
I have seen the joint go through good times and bad. And the latest trends are somewhat worrisome. But your presence here gives me confidence in the future. You bring an earnestness and depth that makes Hatrack meaningful and worthwhile.
This particular post only raises your esteem in my eyes.
I admit I found it difficult to read. I started before there were any replies but only finished late last night. I read an article earlier in the week that I found terribly disturbing about a young man who cut off his own hand as a result of his compulsions. I hesitate linking even now. Content and language warning. But, your story may have been the bookend I needed to actually assimilate the issue somewhat. It is so easy to avoid dealing with disturbing issues when they don't directly affect you.
So thanks Lyrhawn - Adam - thanks for this and everything else you do. For me. For us. Thanks.
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Thanks for the words, and for more than that =) You know I've always got your back.
quote:Is there anything else you think someone like me could do to help out friends who make the decision to cut?
Like I said to Belle earlier, it's so hard to answer that question. Everyone wants something different. The best thing I can suggest is that you listen to them, patiently, and urge them to seek help from a higher source. Do whatever you can to help them in whatever way they need, but don't give ultimatums, don't threaten or force. If it's forced, chances are they won't make any progress towards a solution. As with any addiction (if that is their problem in their specific instance), you have to WANT to stop. That's a big part of the battle you can help them with. A lot of it is about communication.
Wow, thanks, that's extremely nice of you to say. And wow, I read that link you posted there. I think wanting to amputate a limb and SI are on separate wavelengths, as one is a coping mechanism and the other is, well, I'm not really sure what it is, as I don't have anything beyond a freshman psych class under my belt. It looks like a much deeper psychological issue. For me personally, reading that article gave me a feeling that I imagine is quite similar to what non-cutters must have felt reading my own landmark, so that was a bit of an eye opener for me to read. It was pretty shocking. You're right in that it IS easy to avoid something that isn't in your face.
I was surprised to see so many people respond with personal stories of knowing or being related to people who SI. There's no reason why it would have come up here I think other than a dedicated thread to talk about it, but it's amazing that a problem that touches so many is something of a conversational taboo, and that taboo prevents so many people from easy access to support and information.
Thanks again to everyone who took the time to read through a massively long, very difficult to deal with post. Abby was right when she said I struggled with the decision to post this here, but clearly I made the right choice. This is a fantastic community, and the people that comprise it are amazing in their ability to open their minds and attempt to understand a difficult issue. You guys rock.
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I used to know a girl who had severe eating disorders. She described it in a very similar way, the shame and hiding and physical addiction of it. I'm glad I haven't had anything like that to struggle with. Thanks for sharing.
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Thanks for answering my question, Lyrhawn. I know that as a classroom teacher, I will be trained in all the mandatory reporting laws and such - but I just wondered what a teacher can do to support someone beyond all the official stuff I HAVE to do, ya know? Sounds like listening is important, though it may be one of the hardest things for a teacher to do, because he/she has sometimes 180 kids they teach a day.
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Listening, understanding, and supportively pushing them to seek help. I don't really know how it feels to be on the other side of this equation, but I've had friends tell me before that they feel powerless, in that they want to help but just can't. Mostly you'll just be a cheerleader and sympathetic ear, which might not sound like much, but I can't tell you how helpful that could be.
Whatever you do Belle, I'm sure it will be great, and helpful. You care already about kids you don't even know but are willing to help, and that's amazing and awesome.
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