Sadly I hear all the time parents, peers, and even doctors the same old thing when someone is brought in for cutting themselves or doing self harm.
“ It will pass. It’s just a phase. ”
“ They just do it to get attention. “
“ They think their so special just because they cut themselves. “
It never fails to amaze me the misconceptions people have about this behavior. I’m going to pull a page from my book and add information from my time as a cutter.
“ It will pass. It’s just a phase. “
Actually it will NOT pass because it’s not a phase. It is a self learned behavior usually done because the person has an emotional issue that they don’t know the correct way to deal with it. Occasionally they learn a proper way to deal with it and if they don’t get guided by a counselor or a parent it can look like the behavior just “ went away “.
Most people learn to deal with their emotions properly. If they are sad they cry. If they are distressed they will see help. If they are hurting emotionally they will talk to a friend. Not cutters. I was bullied pretty horribly in school and there were a few times I wasn’t do sure I wasn’t going to be killed. I didn’t want to cry in front of those other kids. I didn’t want to let them see I was hurting so I would often cut myself with a hair barrette that I kept with me all the time.
As I said it was a learned behavior. When I felt myself starting to cry I would cut myself. The pain drove away any feeling that was brewing inside me and it took my attention off the problem. When I first did it I was actually kind of thrilled that I was able to bottle up my emotions and take my pain and transfer it to my body.
Rather then learn more constructive ways to deal with my issues I started cutting. I had gone to teachers and my parents about what was happening but my parents relied on the teachers who pretty much shrugged and said kids will be kids and girls can be so mean at that age but everyone goes through that. I still remember when my guidance counselor said that dismissing my fears. Later that same day one of the boys bothering me sprayed hair spray on me sleeve and tried to light it up with a lighter while the girls cheered him on.
So first task. Focus not on the cutting itself. Focus on the why. Until you deal with the why and offer a constructive way to deal with the emotions surrounding it the cutter will not stop.
“ They just do it to get attention! “
The very worse thing any one can do is tell the person they are trying to get attention. Consider this a majority of cutters will go through great lengths to hide their injuries. They won’t seek medical attention and they certainly don’t like talking about it so how is it giving them attention? Most of the time they get ‘ caught ‘ because someone has seen them doing it, or changing clothes, or because they have been admitted to the hospital for an unrelated issue.
In my case cutting wasn’t my only issue. I was also bulimiac. I was also deaf and had a speech impairment. Even though I wasn’t diagnosed until many many years later I was bipolar. These things combined to cause me to attempt suicide as well as abuse my body by over using laxatives and hurting myself. It was actually going to the hospital to get guidance on my Bulimia that my family found out about my cutting.
It took dealing with the body image I had, addressing the bullying, and addressing my depression before they could sit down and work with me to learn ways to deal with my horrible emotions. I remember one night crying. I cried for hours literally. My parents were scared but my doctor was over joyed and I have to admit I felt a little better. Not enough to stop cutting however. In fact I simply became more sneaky to get my ‘ fix ‘.
Instead of a hair barrette which was taken from me I got a needle from my mom’s sewing kit and I started using that. I became a master at hiding ways to injure myself. Most people think that self harm just involves cutting. They would be wrong. Some of it is caused by stabbing oneself either with a knife or other objects. Being that is a more severe at time people who stab themselves tend to wing up with more infections and trips to the hospital.
There is also a class of people who prefer to burn themselves. Often times they will simply put cigarettes out on their own skin. Regardless the underlying issue is they can’t find a way to deal with the froth of emotion that is causing them to do self harm. It can literally take years to unlearn this behavior as it becomes like a drug. The minute we stop we’d start feeling those regular emotions that people take for granted. If it’s caused by abuse or trauma of some kind the emotion is more powerful. It becomes a need to cut, or stab, or burn to shut off that input. So in a way it is every bit as addictive as a drug and requires specialized help.
“ They think their so special because they cut themselves. “
Sadly there does seem to be some kids who consider this cool or think that in order to be considered Goth they have to do this. But true cutters don’t think their special. In fact most of the time we consider ourselves not even worthy of living. We are ashamed of ourselves even though most of the time we are victims. We don’t want to talk about our problems because we know we will be judged and thanks to insensitive comments, we will most likely be found lacking.
I was a cutter through elementary and middle school. I finally found a way to cope with my issues and hit high school much more hopeful. I met my future husband who went along way towards letting me know I was special and I have always had wonderful and loving parents.
If you or someone you know is a cutter please seek help. Don’t expect it to just stop. Even with therapy it can be a long slow process. Don’t focus on the injuries unless they are life threatening, again, the injuries a symptom of a bigger emotional issue. Telling someone to ‘ stop it ‘ or telling them it’s a dumb way to deal with life’s problems is one of the worst things you can do.
I hope all who read this will take a moment to think about what I said and put it to good use in their daily lives. If you are a cutter or you practice self harm you’re not alone. Feel free to contact me. If you are parent dealing with this issue I implore you to seek out groups and information about this issue. I recommend;
You are also not alone. That being said many blessings to everyone I hope I was able to help.