I remember the day I first cut. It was like a wave of emotions just flowing out of my body. I could breathe again. I didn’t feel the heaviness on my chest. The literal pain in my heart was gone. Gone for that brief moment. It was the 1st time, I felt in control of what I was feeling.
I was 15 years old, sitting in my room, crying saying to myself over and over how much I hate myself, how much I wish I was dead, no one could ever love me, and I am so ugly. While I sit there, taking my fingernail and scratch and scratch and scratch until there was blood.
Oh, the feeling of release. It poured out of me. I felt numb. Time stood still, there was not feeling of sadness, hatred, ugliness, or disgust. I just was. This became my new way to let go. Let go of the emotions that were suffocating me. When I cut, I could breathe without the depth of pain that was always around me.
YES, I get it. I understand. I know too well the feeling of numbness. The want to have control over my emotions. This was freedom to me. That is why I know.
When I get the message or call from parents in panic, because they just found out their son/daughter has been cutting and they are full of blame, I listen and then say, “I understand.”
I let them know it is not their fault. I let them know that cutting is a symptom, not the issue. What they should be concerned about is what is creating so much pain in their child that they are escaping with self-harm.
I reassure them they are not bad parents and that there is nothing they could have done to prevent it. There doesn’t need to be a label put on their child. Many tried to label me, without hearing me, or without seeing me. I told them, to ask questions, get curious and get to the cause.
When you get to the cause of the deep pain, then you can start to relieve the symptoms. Many want to medicate. I will tell you, a pill will not be a miracle, where your child wakes up and never cuts again. It will mask the feeling that is inside of them. It will have side effects which will detour you from seeing what the real cause is.
There was no mistake in why my path led me to be a mental health provider for over 20 years. With education, training, and living it, I was able to understand this at the deepest level. Now as a coach, when people say, “I do not know what to do, we have tried counselors, and psychiatrists, and nothing is working.”
I know! Why? Because they did not work for me either. I was never asked the right questions. They were only concerned about my cutting. They wanted to just keep me in the same story over and over and explain how I felt. I was 15, I DO NOT KNOW how I felt. I didn’t know what they wanted me to say. I felt ashamed. I felt they wanted to blame my mom.
What’s my superpower? Talking to kids/teens/adults, getting them to feel safe, heard, and understood so they open up on their own. Helping them see what the cause is and ways they can resolve it.
No kid should feel the only way to deal with their sadness is to cut, burn, or any other self-mutilation.
Statistics are hard to come by because more than not, self-injurious behavior goes unreported. Here are some stats: A 2008 publication by the US National Library of Medicine reports the following non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) statistics:
1/3 to 1/2 of US adolescents have engaged in some type of self-injury.
Cutting and burning are the most common types of non-suicidal self-injury.
70% of teens engaging in self-injury behavior have made at least one suicide attempt.
55% had made multiple suicide attempts.
Here are some strategies to use if you find out or you think your kid/teen is cutting:
Talk to them without blaming them or taking the blame
Ask them questions, as opposed to telling them.
Get Curious, not Critical
Find someone our kid/teen will trust and be open with.
Make sure anything they are cutting with is removed, but with them giving it to you.
The last thing someone that is cutting wants to feel is untrusted.
GET HELP, do not feel you have to do this on your own. There is no shame in asking for help.
If you or someone you know is going through something similar, please feel free to reach out to me.
The book I wrote and had 5 other co-authors is called Numb. It is about the self-injurious journey 6 of us went through and how we thrived past it.