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Cutting - Self-Injury
From the teen's perspective

"I don't think anyone wants to cut when they are being listened to." S. Hein

Background

Why Teens Cut

The Sources of Their Emotional Pain --
Feelings Which Represent Unmet Emotional Needs

13 Year Cuts After Father Sexually Harrasses Her

Teen Who Wants to Cut After Her Father
Physically Abuses Her

From the Inner Worlds of Those Who Cut

Chat with teen about cutting

Stories About Cutting

Letters From The Unloved - The Hidden World of Teen Depression

How to Help - Letter from Unknown Author

What is Not Helpful

A Chart Showing the Unmet Emotional Needs
of One Person Who Cuts

"I don't want attention. I want someone to understand
" - by Mai

A Poem About Broken Children by Elia Wise

Poetry

Articles from Joey Kellogg's Site On Cutting

Writing by People Who Cut

Letter to Those Who Cut

Article about abuse and self-injuryArticle about abuse and self-injury

Pictures of Cutting

Note on "Attention Seeking"

Letter about "attention seeking" from Mary

Is Self Harm "Stupid"?

A Letter from Someone Who Used to Cut

What We Can Learn About Society

Sasha and her mother - people I've met IRL

A related page is this one about Jessie's abusive mother which helps us understand why teenage females are in so much emotional pain.

Two articles about self injury

Links

http://self-injury.net/doyousi/famous/

http://crystal.palace.net/~llama/psych/ - a very comprehensive site

http://www.selfinjury.org.uk - includes

academic articles

http://www.selfharm.com/ - a list of links

Understanding Cutting: Physical Pain Takes Priority....

Other Items

March 2008 Convo Dec 2007 Convo

Jan 12 - Link to WISH organization in England and letter from Dannie Robinson | Oct 6- Link to famous self-harmers

Oct 5 - 2006 Quote about causes of cutting; Book Suggestion; Book list

April 21, 2006 - Two articles about cutting, self-injury

Nov 28 - Invalidation, Pain, Suicide | Nov 28 - A teen explaining why she cuts

EQI.org Home Page


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Emotional Abuse
Emotional Literacy
Respect | Parenting
Listening | Invalidation
Depression |Education
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Background

The first time I heard of anyone cutting themselves was when I heard that my own niece had done this in approximately 1994. At that time I didn't know enough about cutting to ask any intelligent questions or take any helpful action. Because I didn't understand the significance of my niece cutting herself I didn't really give it much thought and I never even asked her to show me the scar or scars.

Then in September of 2000 I found an online diary site where many teens were talking about their experiences with "cutting." Though I was reading about their stories, the concept seemed very foreign to me. Once I found a picture of someone who had photographed the scars on her arm. At the time this had a significant impact on me. But it was over a year later when something affected me even more.

I was talking to a young woman in Australia. She was around 21 years old. We started talking about depression and cutting among adolescents. I asked her if she knew of anyone who had cut themselves. Without saying a word she held out her left arm and turned her hand upwards. It is still painful for me to recall this memory. On her arm were several very distinct scars. She told me she had done this to herself when she was about 14 years old. She said she was having a lot of problems with her parents and it helped her stop thinking about the problems.

Since then I have begun to ask nearly everyone I meet under the age of 25 if they know of someone who has "cut." I have not kept a formal record but I would say that the number who answer "yes" is around 80-90%.

In just the past week I have seen three more young women who have cut themselves. Two of them had more than 20 cuts on their arm. One was dressed all in black. I tried to talk to her, to help her feel just a little less alone, but she didn't speak English and I didn't speak German. Many people, I am sure, would look at someone like her and say, "How strange! Why would anyone want to dress like that? It is not normal!"

One thing I am learning is that people who cut themselves and dress in ways that are far from "normal," have usually been through some type of abuse and always there has been psychological/emotional abuse or neglect. Because I understand this, I have much more compassion for them. In the past, I am ashamed to admit, I would probably been one of those who would laugh at such people or wonder why they would do such a "stupid" thing as cut themselves. But these are not stupid people. In my experience these are some of the most sensitive, aware and intelligent people. These are people we can learn from. We can learn what went wrong in their families. We can learn what emotional needs were unmet. I believe they have something to tell us about the society we live in.

--

Note to Teens - See this page

 

Why Teens Cut

Teenagers cut to stop their emotional pain

Teens cut to stop their emotional pain. This is the most honest and direct way to say it. We have worked with self-harming teens for over ten years. We have learned beyond any doubt that they cut to stop their emotional and psychological pain. They come from emotionally abusive homes and environments. These homes and environments, including their schools, cause them to suffer emotional pain and cutting is a form of temporary relief.

Many people say cutting is to "get attention" but this is a common myth about cutting. Most teens who cut, for example, actually wear long sleeve shirts because they don't want others to know they are cutting. They feel embarrassed about it or guilty for doing it. They often feel very self-critical about it. Below is the case of Michelle, a teen who tried to hide her scars.

Michelle

Michelle would cut herself in hidden places. For example, she would cut herself on the top of her legs. She did not want attention. She wanted to to be left alone and to be free. But she was raised in a very controlling environment, including home and school. She had also been sexually abused, physically abused and emotionally abused.

Read more about the idea of what is often called attention-seeking behavior.

Few of us have been so hungry that we have actually been in physical pain. But we have all heard of hunger pains. For teens who cut themselves, their emotional pain is much more intense than for the average person. It is a intensity of pain that many of us have never felt, just as we have never felt the pain of intense starvation. But these people are starving emotionally. Looking at it this way might help us understand what they need and why they cut.

The next question is where is this pain coming from? See Sources of their emotional pain...

--

See Also "13 Year Old Cuts After Father Makes Advances on Her"

Note to Teens - See this page


Pictures of Cutting


The Sources of Their Emotional Pain - Feelings Which Represent Unmet Emotional Needs

Emotional pain, for all of us, comes when have we have extreme levels of unmet emotional needs. We all find our own ways to cope with this pain.

As adults we have many legal and healthy coping mechanisms. On one website I saw a list of alternatives to cutting. Some of these included: going for a drive, going shopping, calling a friend, going for a walk.

Many of these options are unavailable to adolescents, though.

Many of these adolescents are not allowed to use the phone at certain times, either because it is too late at night, or because they have been punished for some reason and "grounded" from using the phone. Some do not have telephones in their houses. Even if they could use the phone, many of them are afraid to call the crisis lines because their parents might hear them. Unless you have lived in a home full of fear, it is probably hard to imagine that such homes exist. But I have talked to enough adolescents now to know that they do exist. This is one reason I urge us all to start talking to children and find out what they are afraid of. If they are afraid of their own parents when they are young, it is a warning sign for later on.

Many of the adolescents are not allowed to outside when they most need to get out of the house. Normally they feel the urge to cut when it is late at night. This is when they feel most alone, and perhaps most afraid. For some, even if they could go outside, they have no where to go where they feel safe. Nor can they simply go shopping whenever they want, especially not at night. Obviously, most of them can not go for a drive.

One of their sources of pain, then, is simply feeling trapped; of not having options.

A list of their painful feelings includes:

Feelings

Feeling abandoned

Feeling afraid

Feeling threatened

Feeling alone, isolated

Feeling misunderstood

Feeling judged

Feeling unaccepted

Feeling rejected

Feeling controlled

Feeling powerless

Feeling untrusted

Feeling untrusting

Feeling unsafe

Feeling trapped

Feeling imprisoned

Feeling not listened to

Feeling unheard

Feeling failful

Feeling abnormal

Feeling confused

Feeling guilty

Feeling responsible

Feeling overwhelmed

Feeling unloved

Feeling uncared about

Feeling punished

Feeling hated


From the Inner Worlds of Those Who Cut (1)

Feeling Abandoned -- see From a 16 year old

Feeling Abnormal -- see Feeling Abnormal - Quote 1

Feeling Afraid -- see From a 16 year old

Feeling Alone-- see Feeling Alone and Unsafe, Quote 1

Feeling Alone -- see From a 16 year old

Feeling Threatened -- see From a 16 year old

Feeling Unsafe -- see Feeling Alone and Unsafe, Quote 1

Feeling Untrusting -- From a 16 year old

to be continued...

From a 16 year old

From a 16 year old

Yesterday my school counselor told my mother I cut again. I trusted him not to tell her. Today I went to him and asked why. I was in tears. He said he was sorry, but he was obligated by law to tell her. And he said he was worried about me. I can understand that, I was very upset the day I told him, but I just don't know who I can trust anymore. I cried myself to sleep last night because I felt so abandoned and betrayed by him. Who can I trust? It seems no one. So I have to learn to keep my mouth shut from now on. Just smile and say everything is fine, although I am burning up inside.

When my mother found out she started yelling and threatened to send me back to the hospital if I cut again. What if she really does it? I can't go to a hospital. I will get too far behind in school and people will think I'm crazy if they found out. I feel like I'm in 12 years old again. When I was 12 they sent me to the hospital because they thought I was suicidal. I hated it there. It was like being in a prison. I never want to go back again. What am I doing to myself? Why am I ruining my life? Why can't I STOP???

But what else am I going to do?? Cutting has been my only form of relief to all this pain for the past two years. What else am I doing to do if I don't cut? How can I take this pain?

I know that I hurt my mother. I know I disappointed her. But that just brings me more pain and makes me want to reach for the razor again. She wants me to be happy and perfect. But I am not happy and I am not perfect! I am human with human feelings. Why can't she understand that? Why can't she hold me and tell me everything will be alright instead of yelling at me? Why can't she understand that this is the only way I know of to cope with my pain? Why doesn't she accept me? Why? Why am I such a horrible person that she has to yell at me all the time and find fault in everything I do? Why can't I be happy and normal? I don't understand any of it. I try so hard to be perfect but I always fail and always let someone down. I lay awake in my bed and wonder what is wrong with me. I can't sleep. I am so confused. I feel so lost. And now I feel even more alone.

Not only did I hurt my mother but I disappointed my school counselor... and my therapist. I am just a big disappointment to everyone. I can't do anything right.

I have no one to talk to now. Now I can't even talk to my counselor at school. I knew I couldn't trust my therapist... but him, him I thought I could trust. Now I have no one. No one at all. I feel totally isolated. And I feel so scared. So very scared. So very, very scared.

Feeling abnormal -1

Feeling abnormal

"Why am I like this? Why am I a zombi? A freak to society? I don't know. I'll never know. Maybe I am just...crazy. How I hate that word."

Feeling abnormal and afraid

Feeling abnormal and afraid

" ...school stresses me...emotionally drains me. I see all these people my age who seem just so happy and so...normal. It makes me realize how much of a crazed nutcase I am, and that scares me."

Feeling alone and unsafe

Feeling alone and unsafe

"I wish I had somebody to talk to...or just to sit by me, so that I would at least feel safer. I get so lonely in this house sometimes."


A Letter From Someone Who Used to Cut

After I started this page on cutting I got an email from a woman in India who said she also used to cut as an adolescent. I asked her if she would share her story. Here is what she replied.

Yes, I guess speaking about it seems so easy now- because it is in retrospect- over 7 years now since the last episode. It happened because of the tiffs I had with either or both of my parents. I also used to burn my hand with the head of burnt matches. Except for once, I didn't voluntarily show it to my parents. Also, I remember going through strong destructive urges, during these episodes. I thought I had the worst set of parents, definitely undesirable physical features and belonged to an unenviable social strata. And I NEVER shared these feelings with anybody while I went through them. The only reality I knew was what I believed in- Never confided in my friends- kept busily attempting to keep up a strong and confident sounding facade. I didn't get the idea from anywhere/anybody- just felt like doing it. I can't identify any particular source. I don't & didn't know of anybody else who does it. I was doing very well in my academics, co-curricular and extra curricular activities. I took these successes for granted...

How To Help

To help someone who cuts or self-injures in any way:

  • Study the list of their typical feelings.
  • Try to help fill their unmet emotional needs, as indicated by their feelings.
  • Try for example, to help them feel accepted, not judged or rejected.
  • Try to help them feel normal. Don't stare at their scars or turn away from them any more than you would stare at an amputee's missing arm rather than looking them in the eyes when you talk to them.

  • Try to help them feel trusted. If they tell you something in confidence, keep their confidence.

  • Try to help them feel understood. You might say for example, "You must have been in a lot of pain when you cut yourself. What was going on in your life at that time?"

This might seem "intrusive" or "rude" but I have found that people do not feel offended if you ask in a caring way. While they did not originally cut to get attention, it is likely they did felt alone, uncared about and misunderstood at the time. It is also likely they still have a need for understanding, acceptance, caring and connection.

  • Since one of their unmet needs is to be listened to and heard, try just simply listening.

How Can I Help?
by Unknown

How Can I Help

I think the most important way in which others can help self-harmers is by listening and not judging them. It is often very hard to even try and contemplate why a person would ever want to deliberately injure themselves and if it is someone you care about it can be very distressing and frustrating for all involved and it is ok to seek help from others yourself in helping the self-harmer.

There are a number of online resources for those who have friends or relatives who self-harm where they can receive support and help in coming to terms with others harming behaviour but here are a few simple ways you can help.

If someone has told you that they self-harm then it is because they trust you! This is often the biggest step for us because self-harm is not something we are proud of and often we go to great lengths to hide it. You're probably not aware of how much of a relief it was for that person to have finally told someone so in a big way you have already helped. You have also taken the time by coming here to try and understand and learn more which is also a very good thing; it shows that you care and that is above all a supportive thing to be doing.

It is important not to be sickened by a person who self-harm's purely because you don't understand, they are still the same person you knew before you found out they harmed themselves and so it shouldn't be seen as a whole seperate entity which needs to be immediately banished in order for you to continue loving them.

Self-harmers are often scared that when people find out they will 'disown' them and threaten to walk away if they don't stop immediately; this is an unrealistic burden on a person as self-harm is in many ways an addiction, it is doubtful that they want to harm themselves, they feel they need to for whatever reason and would probably have preferred to have stopped rather than admit the problem to anyone. Threatening the self-harmer will do nothing other than isolate them further and probably stop them from confiding in you again so however much you want to scare the person into quitting you probably won't.

If you have found out by accident that a friend or relative hurts themselves the worst thing you can do is hound them about it! If they want to discuss it with you they will in their own time and by relentlessly questioning them about it you are further backing up the belief they may already have that they are strange or alone. Self-harm is a private act and making someone who doesn't want to talk about it discuss it with you you are intruding in their own personal space in the same way that there are things you may not want to discuss with others. Make it clear that you are always willing to listen and help without judging but please don't intrude because you may well alienate them further!

It may be tempting to rush the person who harms themselves straight off to the doctor/psychiatrist/counsellor/local psychiatric ward but that is rarely the answer. People seem to believe that the medical profession can instantly cure anything but this is not the case with issues such as these. If the person wants to see a psychiatrist then fine, but you should not force this upon them because it will undoubtedly be ineffective as therapy where one party in incooperative is impossible. I have encountered countless younger people who have been dragged off to therapy the minute their parents found out they self-harmed and the overwhelming feelings are of resentment, anger and fear. Believe me the thought of having to discuss your feelings with a complete stranger is hard enough when you have made your own personal choice to let alone when you don't have a choice about whether you want to or not. Psychiatry and drugs have had little success in dealing with self-harm so as much as you may want to get that kind of help for your friend or relative and as much as you may think it's 'for their own good' please reconsider and instead ask them what they would like you to do for them.


What Is Not Helpful

  • Ordering them to stop it.
  • Watching them.
  • Taking away their privacy. (Taking the door off of their room, etc.)
  • Taking away their razors and all sharp objects.
  • Making them feel even more abnormal by saying things like, "You need help. You are sick. That is not normal."
  • Rejecting that part of them. Not accepting their behavior.
  • Threatening them - such as with being sent to the hospital.


Stories About Cutting

I Cut When The Pain Gets To Be Too Much

Nathalie calls her self a "cutter." She is 15 years old. She doesn't have many friends in real life. Her best friends are from the Internet. On the Internet she can be totally honest. She can talk about why she cuts herself and why she doesn't eat.

She has never had a boyfriend and she can not remember the last time anyone hugged her or told her they loved her. She lives with her grandparents because her step-father and mother didn't want her to live with them anymore. She gets one hour three times a week on the Internet. If she goes one minute over, she loses it for two weeks. She said she can't talk to her grandparents. She said they come from another era.

Nathalie told me she cuts when the pain gets to be too much. She has 23 scars. When she was 10 she would sit in the class and stare out the window. When the teacher would call out her name and tell her to stop looking out the window and pay attention it would frighten and embarrass her. She said the other children in the class would laugh at her. They called her the Nathalie the daydreamer. Sometimes she would get punished for not knowing the answers to the teacher's questions. She said once she had to write "I will not stare out the window" 500 times.

I asked her what she would think about when she was staring out the window. She said she was usually trying to figure out why she was such a horrible person. I asked her why she thought of herself as a horrible person. She said, "I thought I must be horrible if my mother doesn't want me to live with her and my father never wanted to see me." I asked her if her mother had hit her. She said, "Yes. Sometimes." I asked her if she thought that her mother was abusive. She said, "No, I wouldn't say that. She only hit me when I made her angry. So I guess I deserved it."

Then I asked her why she thought her father never wanted to see her. She said, "I really don't know. Isn't it normal for a father to want to see his own daughter? What could I have done to make him hate me so much?" She said he moved away when she was 6. She said she has written him letters but he has never written back. She said she lays awake at night wondering if he ever reads the letters or if he even gets them. She said he must get them because they never get returned to me by the post office.

I asked her if she ever told anyone that her mother was hitting her. She said once she did but then they talked to her mother and the mother said Nathalie was a "compulsive liar." They believed her mother over Nathalie, so Nathalie was afraid to ever tell anyone else again. When we talked about her feelings she always said she learned that people didn't want to hear her true feelings. So she kept themself. When they got too much for her, she would reach for her razor.


13 Year Old Who Cuts After Father Makes Advances On Her

A 13 year old I was chatting with told me that she was upset with herself because she didn't tell her social services worker something about her father. But she also wasn't sure if it was important or not. I asked what it was. She said:

well. this happened like 8 times i would be watching tv in the dark cause id be watching a film then my dad would come in and squash right up next to me basically sitting on me. then he would put his hand on my thigh and rub it up my thigh then up my back then around to my side and hips.and then like this other thing where he squashed next to me and put his hand on the opposite side of my face and pushed my face to his mouth and kissed it

Then she added:

but its not very big or anything so i don't know

Not wanting to "over-react," I told her it didn't sound too cool to me. Then I asked how she felt when he did it.

scared. upset. afterwards id burst out crying and then cut myself deep. ashamed worried horrible really sad really frightened

by AR


What We Can Learn About Society

The people who cut and self-injure have the same emotional needs we all do. The problem is that more of their needs are unmet. And they often are people who are more emotionally sensitive than average. This means they feel the pain of the unmet needs more than the average person, just as a person with sensitive hearing feels pain from loud noises.

The people who are more sensitive can tell us what is lacking in society if we will just listen to them. If they tell us they feel over-controlled, then we can look at the ways society is over-controlling in general. None of us like to feel controlled, but for these people the feeling is more painful so they are the first to recognize situations where they are being over-controlled.

There are many ways we could learn about society from sensitive people.

In a classroom of 20 students, for example, there will always be one or two who feel the pain of the teacher's remarks more than the other students. We have a choice on how to handle this pain. We can tell the student that she is too sensitive and needs to get on with things, or we can listen to her and see what the teacher is saying which is causing her pain.

If a child tells us the teacher frightens her, then we can learn from listening to her. Or we can tell her there is no reason to be afraid.

If a boy says he is bored, we can listen to him and try to make the classroom more intellectually challenging. Or we can tell him to stop complaining.

If an adolescent tells us she feels judged by the comments we make about her choice of clothing, we can listen to her and try to be more accepting and less judgmental. Or we can tell her she takes things too personally.

If an adolescent tells us she feels unloved by her parents, we can ask her to explain why and learn from her. Or we can tell her that we are sure her parents do love her, that they mean well and that she should appreciate all the good things they do for her.

In many countries we have an abundance of material things. Our physical needs are well accounted for. But our emotional needs are not. Many of us have unmet emotional needs. But for the most part we are simply unaware of them unless we become severely depressed. Even then we often turn to medication rather than to addressing the shortcomings in society.

By listening to those who are in intense emotional pain, rather than telling them they have a disorder, such as the all-too-popular "Borderline Personality Disorder," we can see what changes are needed in the homes, the schools, and the workplaces.

See note on mental health facilities


Notes on mental health institutions

Changes are needed even in the mental health institutions which are designed to help people with emotional problems. These problems can be seen as unmet emotional needs. Yet inside many facilities people's natural human emotional needs are actually less provided for than they are outside. For example, we all have a need for connections and communication with other humans, especially those we feel most understood and accepted by. Often these people are not our own family members.

Yet in the mental health facilities it is common, especially for adolescents, for visitation and phone calls to be limited to family members. To make things worse, often it is these very family members who have been most responsible for the adolescent needing treatment.

It is also common for phone calls to be restricted in duration and in times of the day. For example, in some places calls are limited to ten minutes and not allowed during the night when people often feel the most alone.

With the introduction of the Internet we can now have friends, even best friends, in far away places. It is comforting to be able to communicate with them. Yet as far as I know, mental health facilities do not provide access to the Internet. Nor do they provide patients with ways to make long distance calls, or sometimes even local calls. If the patient has no money, and no one brings them any, they are simply out of luck.

People are also often isolated in these facilities and told that it is for their own protection.

People who need to feel more in control of their lives are placed in situations where they feel even less in control.

People who need freedom and try to get it, are often punished harshly and deprived of even more freedom.

When people are afraid of punishment, another of their emotional needs is unmet - the need to feel safe, emotionally and physically. It seems we are very concerned with the physical security of the staff, first, and the patients, second, but not with meeting emotional needs of the patients. Yet wouldn't it make sense to make the emotional needs of the patient the highest priority? People whose emotional needs are met are neither violent to themselves or others.

Many people, particularly adolescents perhaps, are literally afraid to be locked up in a hospital for emotional problems. Parents will sometimes use the threat of hospitalization to try to get behavioral changes from their sons or daughters.

What does this tell us about these facilities and about how society views unmet emotional needs?

It could tell us we need to make them more emotionally appealing. Ideally, we would want people to feel willing to going to get help when they feel a need for it, rather than making mental health hospitals places which are feared and used as threats.


A Chart of Showing the Unmet Emotional Needs
of One Person Who Cuts

accepted 1
accomplished 0
acknowledged 1
admired 0
alive 1
appreciated 0
appreciative 0
approved of 0
capable 1
challenged 5
clear (not confused) 0
competent 0
confident 0
developed 0
empowered 0
focused 1
free 0
fulfilled 0
grown or growing 0
happy 0
heard 0
helped 0
helpful 1
important 0
in control 0
independent 0
interested 3
knowledgeable 1
listened to 0
loved 0
needed 1
noticed 1
optimistic 0
powerful 0
privacy 0
productive 5
protected 5
proud 0
reassured 0
recognized 0
relaxed 0
respected 0
safe 1
satisfied 0
secure 0
significant 0
successful 0
supported 0
treated fairly 0
understood -10
useful 0
valued 0
worthy 0

Notes about attention seeking

Today i talked to two tourists* in their twenties from england. i asked them if they ever knew anyone who tried to kill themselves. they said yes, a girl they knew. i asked why they thought she had done it. one said "it was totally attention seeking, i mean she had lots of problems, but it was obvious she was just looking for attention."

I asked what kinds of problems and the girl said, "Well her father killed himself the year before. And her mother was a bit.. just weird. And the family never went to counseling or anything." I told them that sometimes people cut and don't want people to know about it, and they seemed to agree, but had no explanation for that.

i have been meaning to start asking people like this what they think someone should do if someone is seeking attention. Should they give them attention or ignore them? And if they do give them attention, what kind of attention? Lecturing or listening, for example?

* i wont call them backpackers because they are riding around on a party bus called the kiwi experience.

s. hein
wellington, new zealand. april 2003


For Children Who Were Broken

by Elia Wise

For Children Who Were Broken
it is very hard to mend......

Our pain was rarely spoken
and we hid the truth from friends.

Our parents said they loved us,
but they didn't act that way.
They broke our hearts
and stole our worth,
with the things that they would say.

We wanted them to love us.
We didn't know what we did
to make them yell at us
and hit us,
and wish we weren't their kid.


They'd beat us up and scream at us
and blame us for their lives.
Then they'd hold us close inside their arms
and tell us confusing lies
of how they really loved us --
even though we were BAD,
and how it was OUR fault they hit us,
OUR fault that they were mad.

When days were just beginning
we sometimes prayed for them to end,
and when the pain kept coming,
we learned to just pretend
that we were good
and so were they
and this was just
on of those days ...
tomorrow we'd be friends.

We had to believe it so.
We had nowhere else to go.

Each day that we pretended,
we replaced reality
with lies, or dreams,
or angry schemes,
in search of dignity ....
until our lies
got bigger than the truth,
and we had no one real to be

Our bodies were forsaken.
With no safe place to hide,
we learned to stop
hearing and feeling what they did to our outsides.

We tried to make them love us,
till we hated ourselves instead,
and couldn't see a way out,
and wished that they were dead.
We scared ourselves by thinking that,
and scared ourselves to know,
that we were acting just like them --
and might ever more be so.

To be half the size of a grown-up
and trapped inside their pain....
To every day lose everything
with no savior or refrain...
To wonder how it is possible
that God could so forget
the worthy child you knew you were,
when you had not been damaged yet ...
To figure on your fingers
that the years till you'd be grown
enough to leave the torment
and survive away from home,
were more than you could count to,
or more than you could bear,
was the reality we lived in
and we knew it wasn't fair.

We who grew up broken
are somewhat out of time,
struggling to mend our childhood,
when our peers are in their prime.
Where others find love
and contentment,
we still often have to strive
to remember we are worthy,
and heroes just to be alive.

Some of us are healing.
some are stealing.
Most are passing the anger on.
Some give their lives away to drugs,
or the promise of like beyond.
Some still hide from society.
Some struggle to belong.
But all of us are wishing
the past would not hold on
so long.

There's a lot of digging down to do
to find the child within,
to love away the ugly pain
and feel innocence again.
There is forgiveness
worthy of angel's wings
for remembering those at all,
who abused our sacred childhood
and programmed us to fall.
To seek to understand them,
and how their pain became our own,
is to risk the ground we stand on
to climb the mountain home.

The journey is not so lonely
as in the past it s been ...
More of us are strong enough
to let the growth begin.
But while we're trekking
up the mountain
we need everything we've got,
to face the adults we have become,
and all that we are not.

So when you see us weary
from the day's internal climb ...
When we find fault
with your best efforts,
or treat imperfection
as purposeful crime ...
When you see our quick defenses,
our efforts to control,
our readiness to form a plan
of unrealistic goals ...
When we run into a conflict
and fight to the bitter end,
remember ...
We think that winning means
we won't be hurt again.

When we abandon OUR thoughts
and feelings,
to be what we believe YOU
want us to,
or look at trouble we re having,
and want to blame it all on you...
When life calls for new beginnings,
and we fear they re doomed to end,
remember...
Wounded trust is like a wounded knee--
It is very hard to bend.

Please remember this
when we are out of sorts
Tell us the truth, and be our friend.
For children who were broken...
it is very hard to mend.


The author of "For we who are broken" asked for this to be included:

Signed copies of the book of this poem are available for $8.50 each (this includes shipping) from:
Inspired Company
P.O. Box 10
Mill Valley, CA, 94942

Elia Wise is author of Letter to Earth: Who We Are Becoming... What We Need To Know

--


Notes: 1. Some details have been changed for the sake of confidentiality.


Teen Who Wants to Cut After Her Father Physically Abuses Her

Here is an email I received in 2004

hey steve,

Well i feel really bad right now...me and my dad just got in a fight and he grabed my head and arms and shook me just cuz i sad a bad word to him. 

your right that my parents' parents treated them like shit too. my moms parents got a divorce and that was hard on her and her mom didnt want her and as for my dad's parents they chased him and his brohters around the house with a yard stick and hit them and stuff. Thats how my dad knows how to dissapline kids. and worst of all when my dad grabbed my head my mom was sitting right there and she didnt tell him to stop or anything.  i feel like crap right now and i want to cut myself so bad but im tryin not to. 

Well to answer your questions about the USA and the schools i think that we need a better school system. the administrators need to observe the teachers way more because there are alot of bad teachers and the states expect so much from the kids and the tests they give each grade are too hard. i think they should let teachers write the state tests or someone that knows what the teachers are teaching in classes.   Are u living in Ecuador?  well it felt good to complain to you about my parents. hope to hear from you soon..

Alyssa


Quote about causes of cutting

Here is a quote I found from a university psychology department. I feel encouraged to see that this site sees the connection between abuse and invalidation and self harm:

Self-mutilation behavior has been associated with individuals who have histories of one or more of the following: sexual abuse, emotional abuse, insecure caregiver attachments, invalidating environments, substance abuse, or eating disorders.

This site also says:

The treatments that have been found to be unsuccessful with individuals who self-harm include: physical restraint, hypnosis, chemotherapy, no-cutting contracts, faith healing, group psychotherapy, relaxation therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, family therapy, and educational therapy.

Successful therapies have incorporated Marsha Linehan's Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) into various formats. DBT combines eastern meditation philosophy and psychodynamic principles with cognitive behavioral approaches. The model incorporates skill training in the areas of mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. Similarly, Manual-Assisted Cognitive Behavior therapy (MACT), which is based on DBT techniques, has been found to decrease the number of incidents of self-mutilation behaviors, and reduce anxiety symptoms in participants. MACT provides treatment through several manuals used at home by individuals who self-mutilate.

From http://www.rit.edu/~w-schpsy/Mental Notes/14-2/profchair.html


Book Suggestion

This book was recommended to me by a teen who cuts. She said "it's called 'Cutting- overcoming and understanding self-mutilation' by Steve Levenkron.  I think the guy who wrote it is a therapist and he talked a lot about how the home and parents are to blame... "

Here is a link to the book on Amazon.com


Books on self-injury

Here are some books I found listed on this site: http://www.angelfire.com/il2/figskating/library/silibrary.html

Her top recommedations

A Bright Red Scream...An amazing book which presents the "voice" of people who self-injure. Might be a little bit triggering
The Scarred Soul: Understanding & Overcoming Self-Mutilation....A workbook, from what I hear, it's REALLY good
Bodies Under Siege : Self-Mutilation and Body Modification...The first book ever written about SI, and the namesake of the BUS mail group
Skin Game...A very powerful memoir I just started reading.

Others

Crosses (Laurel-Leaf Books)...Fiction, about two self-injurying teenage girls
Cut...Another work of fiction.
Understanding Self-Injury: A Workbook for Teens
Healing the Hurt Within...About all sorts of self-destructive behavior... she's coming out with a new book just about self-injury soon!
Cutting...By Steve Levenkron. I'm not very impressed with the man's other works, but this is an okay book
The Luckiest Girl in the World...Another Levenkron work, a fictional story about a figure skater who cuts.
Women Who Hurt Themselves : A Book of Hope and Understanding
Women and Self Harm


Letter from Dannie Robinson

Hi,

My name's Dannie and I run and co-facilitate a self help and support group for female self harmers ages 13-19,called Girls Xpress! which is funded by connexions.

I just wanted to say how much I like your pages on self harm because they are so personal. Most websites I have seen and used for research are very generic and although they are useful they all seem to say the same thing. I think it's great that you take the time to try and understand cutters and post things in their own words. I am a recovering self harmer myself and at the wonderful age of 18 helping other in pain is what I do 2 days a week. If you wanted any other information please feel free to ask me. If you wouldn't mind could you put a link to us on your page?

www.myspace.com/girlsxpress

www.thewishcentre.org.uk

Thank you

Dannie