self-injury awareness day
, ,

Teenage Cutting: Why We Cut

This post is intended not just for young people struggling with self-harm, but for their family members and friends who don’t understand why the person they love is cutting. Here it goes.

The question I get most often is the question I most hated being asked when I was cutting myself.

“Why?”

I would get defensive and build up a wall around me and have an “as if you don’t know” attitude. But really, nobody did know.

No one knew what went on in my head. From what they could tell everything was “normal” (most cutters are so masterful at this they even begin to deceive themselves, convincing themselves everything is okay, when clearly it’s not) but I felt like I was dying inside. I had something to share and something to say, but I didn’t.

I was afraid of what people would say. I was especially afraid of what my parents would say. I felt like I needed to be okay for things to be okay. Like the fate of the entire universe rested upon me being the perfect daughter. They had enough to deal with and I didn’t want to burden them with my problems. I didn’t want to cause another fight. I didn’t want to be in the middle. So I kept quiet.

They never intentionally made me feel this way, but when there isn’t any communication and everyone in the household is shut down, what do you do?

You rush to find a way to make the pain end. You try to distract yourself.

Or, you cut.

We all have ways we anesthetize ourselves. Whether it be with food, drugs, alcohol, sex, you name it.

No one wants to feel horrible, but truly the only way to release or change or shift a feeling, is it to actually feel it rather than try to numb the pain.

But you’re still wondering,

“Is is just for attention?”

Yes and no. For the teenagers who are cutting, they want you, someone, anyone to know how bad they are hurting, but are terrified of confrontation. Terrified they will be made wrong for feeling what they feel. Terrified they will be rejected.

It’s easier to just cut.

This isn’t to blame. It’s to bring light to the situation. There are barriers to break down. Things to be said. And forgiveness that needs to take place.

Whether you are the one cutting or the one watching this happen, you absolutely have to get help. Cutting in itself is very serious, but it is a symptom of lack of self-expression, self-love and the inability to process emotions. You must find someone who can serve as a bridge, who will listen to both sides and help your teen recognize the thoughts, feelings and beliefs that have led her (or him) to this behavior.

As I tell my clients, this won’t last forever and you don’t have to do this alone. There are people out there to support you and your kids, myself included. I know how disheartening it is to try seemingly everything and still be going through this.

But you are going to get through it.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to enter your name and email address in the box to the right (below if you’re on a tablet or other mobile device) of this post to receive the “5 Keys to Help Teens Break the Self-Harm Cycle.”

self-worth in teenagers
, , ,

Helping kids connect to who they really are

In my last post, I mentioned “helping kids connect to who they really are” as an antidote for bullying.

I’d like to go a bit deeper into this today.

self-worth in teenagers

As adults who are interacting with young people, the best thing we can do is model healthy self-worth. When we are accepting ourselves, we interact with others from a place of love and empowerment. And when we demonstrate this to our kids, they get to see what healthy boundaries look like.

From a very young age we are taught to seek others’ approval and to always look outside for instruction and validation.

But what if we would have been taught early on to love ourselves first?

When we are in alignment, others can feel it and treat us differently. The following steps will not only allow you to connect to yourself, but you can use them to help others connect to themselves too.

1.Get in your body

We spend so much time in our head allowing our thoughts to dictate who we are. A belief is just a thought we think over and over again until we begin to accept it as truth. The more time you can spend in your body, the sooner you will be able to tell the difference between the you you’ve always thought you were and the you you really are.

The best and easiest remedy for getting into your body?

Breathe art

Imagine your breath filling every area of your body. Allow it to go all the way down into your feet until you feel a strong connection to the ground beneath you.

2.Notice, feel and express what you need to in order to feel better

We have a tendency to hold onto things because we are either in denial or feel we don’t have the right to feel what we feel. We’ve been told “you shouldn’t feel that way.” Truth is, you have every right to feel what you feel. Even if no one else has the same reaction or emotion come up in the same situation, you do. And it’s okay. Maybe you’re more sensitive. Maybe you’re just wired differently. Whatever the case, it’s alright. Just notice and be okay with whatever comes up.

Then, find a way to get it all out. Some suggestions:

  • Write
  • Walk
  • Do EFT (watch a quick into to EFT here)
  • Cry
  • Shake it out (like how puppies do after they’ve just had a bath)

The idea is to give yourself full permission to feel and express anything and everything you need to feel better.

3. Decide what kind of day you’d like to have

When you know what you want and focus on it with faith, your situation has to improve. You are a powerful creator and you create with your every thought. When you are in alignment and everything else is out of the way (or when you “get out of your own way”) anything is possible.

Imagine how you’d like your interactions with your friends and family to go. See yourself handling each situation with grace and ease as you know your own value and worth.

We so quickly and easily hand our power over to others, but we don’t have to.

You are powerful and you know exactly what you need to do.

When you know this and embody this, others will feel it. The people who are “bullying” you will leave you alone as if by magic.

What if all this was just to get you to see how amazing you are?

How has an unpleasant situation actually strengthened you as a person? Please share in the comments section below.
What's wrong with me?
, ,

It’s gonna be alright…

Use this affirmation when you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

Everything will work out fine. 🙂

What's wrong with me?

For more affirmations, go here.

helping someone who self-harms
, , , , , ,

Helping someone who self-harms (part two)

helping someone who self-harms

This is part two of helping someone who self-harms. The first post can be found here.

Despite what many think, most teens who self-harm don’t really want to hurt themselves. They just want to stop feeling the immense pressure and loneliness that comes from not feeling safe to express who they are. The most common reason anyone self-injures is as a last resort. There is literally no other option available in the moment someone makes this decision.

When they feel like they need to be okay so you’ll be okay this creates increased pressure and anxiety and makes the urge to cut even stronger.

As a parent or someone who is working with a teenager who is self-injuring, of course you want them to stop. But here’s the thing: they want to stop too. It just becomes such a natural response to stress – the go-to thing and in fact the only thing that brings relief.

Yes, it’s a bad decision. Yes you want them to stop. But the cutting is here to show you something. Where is your child not feeling safe to express his/her feelings?

Be willing to explore this. And be willing to go through your own feelings about the situation.

Do you feel like you’ve done everything and start to question your parenting and wonder what went wrong? When did this happen? Why did this happen? These questions and the thoughts that follow generally bring you to a place of needing to fix it right now, but let me tell you something:

It’s less about what you do and more about who you are when you’re with your son or daughter. They want you to see them for who they are not what’s happening to them. The more you can do this and the more things you can find to appreciate about your teen, the faster his or her recovery will be.

You have to accept and surrender to the fact that he or she is not okay. And you also have to know it’s not your fault. Absolutely create a plan to keep your teen safe, but when it comes to talking about it, don’t press.

Here are three things to do instead:
1. Acknowledge

Say something like, “it’s good to see you,” or “how was your day?” (don’t ask “did you have a good day?” – keep the questions open ended), or “You look upset. Would you like to talk about it?” Be okay if they say no and make sure to say this out loud. Possibly even say something like “Well that makes me feel ________, but I understand and respect your decisions. You make good decisions and I know you’ll find a positive way to express it if you need to. I’m here if you need anything.”

2. Listen

Be willing to hear what your teen has to say without offering advice or trying to fix. Make sure to try to make eye contact. If they don’t want to look at you, let that be okay.

3. Appreciate

Deliberately look for things to appreciate about your teenager. Find and focus on all the little things your teen does well. It could be anything from the way they handled a situation to doing the dishes without you having to ask a thousand times. Even if it was 999 times, focus on the improvement.

Ultimately this is a collaborative effort where all parties must learn how to cope, communicate with and appreciate one another. You’re in this together and can start to change the family dynamic. I know you’re going to get through this.

Journal prompts to explore
For parents: What fears do you have as a parent? Where are you taking responsibility for these fears? In what areas aren’t you?
For teens: What is the feeling that most often leads to you cutting? 
How can you allow yourself to experience this feeling without needing to cut? i.e. Write about it, talk to someone about it, scream into a pillow, etc. In other words how can you express this feeling in a way that doesn’t hurt you?
Would you like additional support from me? Sign up for a free consultation below.

Teens go here.

Parents/Teachers/Counselors go here.

Space is limited so please take advantage of this offer as soon as possible.

 

Questions or comments? Submit them using the form below.

 

Tell an adult
, , ,

About this “tell an adult” stigma that drives teens crazy

Tell an adult

This post is for teenagers! My intention is to help you better understand where the adults in your life are coming from. And to help them better understand you too.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a group of High School students (shout out to the Veteran’s Tribute Career and Technical Academy [VTCTA]!) who are helping me with a county-wide project which will bring suicide prevention posters to schools. The posters are to be created by students – for students.

This is quite different and quite brilliant which is why I am so excited to be part of it. I’d also like to thank the Clark County Children’s Mental Health Consortium and the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention (of which I am a member) for bringing me in.

Anyway, while at the school, I asked the students why they felt this project is so important and asked them to share any comments they had.

It is so amazing what happens when you just ask.

Initially very few said anything, but luckily I had a backup plan. I had created an online form for them to fill out. Why? Because I know it’s much easier to write about these things than talk about them. Hence my fascination with journaling.

A concern that came up was the “tell an adult” stigma that surrounds any young person who is having a challenge. The feedback was:

“It doesn’t really seem like counselors, teachers, parents, etc. act like they want to help depressed/suicidal teens and then are horrible at helping and giving advice.”

It is not uncommon for young people to feel this way. And often times it is true. You can tell when someone really cares about you. I know you can. I also know most adults get angry when you bring this up to them.

But don’t stop speaking up for fear of upsetting someone.

If you’ve got something to say, say it. Your opinion does matter.

And you deserve to voice it.

But guys, it’s not their fault. They have a lot going on too. Trust me when I say, being a parent is really challenging to say the least.

Many adults have not yet realized that you are here to teach them just as much as they are to teach you.

Do you know this? It is absolutely 100% true.

Your parents were brought up the same way they’re bringing you up – probably even worse and I’m sure they make this known, but I can guarantee they are making the best choices they have available to them.

I know what you mean though when you say you don’t want to tell an adult.

When I was hospitalized (for drugs and cutting), it was one of the worst experiences of my life for that reason. I didn’t feel anyone there had my best interest in mind. I didn’t even feel like a human being when I was there. It was as if no one saw me – just my bi-polar disorder and my ADD and the cuts on my arms.

You don’t want to be ridiculed.

You don’t want to be fixed.

But you have to know not everyone is as you think they are. Just as you are not as they think you are. There is a lot of misunderstanding that takes place and it took me a long time to forgive and learn to understand that the adults that were around me were just doing their job.

I didn’t come with a manual.

And unfortunately learning how to treat ourselves with love and respect is not a huge part of the high school curriculum (though it should be).

Fortunately, however there are very bold and courageous people out there who are doing things differently. Who are advocating for you. My husband (who is finishing up his masters in social work) is one of these people.

He and I (and so many others I have been meeting and connecting with) are vouching for you because we know and believe with all of our hearts:

You are highly intelligent, sensitive, brilliant and so much more.

And yes it would be really nice and really awesome if everyone saw you this way.

But not everyone will.

The thing is though, you still have to tell an adult about what’s going on. Your parents love you and worry about it. This will make a lot more sense when you get older, but for now just take my word for it.

Find someone who feels safe and you feel you can trust.

Allow them to be a bridge between you and your parents. If it’s your friend they will likely side with you and if it’s another adult like a teacher or counselor, they’re likely to side with your parents.

So find someone who is neutral.

It is SO IMPORTANT to find some middle ground so both parties can feel safe and be heard.

As a teen, you do know what you need and who can help you – much more than most people give you credit for. And you also have the right to choose which adults you want in your life (not your parents, you’re stuck with them :)).

So YES, absolutely talk to the person who feels best to you (like your friend or a girlfriend or boyfriend), but know that “telling an adult” will have to happen eventually. Your parents have the right to know what’s going on with you.

And believe it or not they really do love you.

 

Pointer for adults: The main reason kids don’t want to open up to you is because they feel you aren’t empathizing with what they are going through. All they want is for you to be real.

How did this article land for you? Please share your comments below.

What not to say to someone who self-injures.
, , , , , , ,

How to REALLY Help Someone Who Struggles with Self-Harm

Recently, I’ve had a lot of people (therapists, counselors, support group facilitators, parents, etc.) ask me about how to help someone who self-harms.

So, here are some things you should know.

  • Most cutters are highly intelligent and extremely sensitive.
  • Many don’t do it in an effort to end their life, but rather, to end their pain.
  • There are, unfortunately, people and websites that are pro self-harm (this is NOT one of those websites and I am NOT one of those people).
  • Self-mutilation is an addiction, and should be treated as such.

And here are some materials to use. Starting with, the top 5 things to never say to someone who self-injures:

What not to say to someone who self-injures.

Next, 5 things you should say instead:

What to say to someone who self-injures.

Take time to know and understand what the person who is cutting is going through.

And listen.

See this person as whole and send your love and compassion. I promise, he or she will be able to feel it.

If you are the one who is self-mutilating, I made this for you to print out (therapists and support group facilitators you can print these out to use in your sessions):

Self-harm worksheet

It’s okay to ask for help. In fact, please do so. Don’t keep it to yourself. I know you feel like no one understands you, but they never will if you’re not willing to let them. Believe it or not, the people around you are just as scared as you are.

Here’s mine as an example:

Tell me you love me.

Here’s another one for you to print out and use:

Things to do instead of cutting

It’s important to know what to do when you feel the urge to cut. When you’re in that state you’re not always rational so having something physical to have on you or in a place where you can see it will remind you that you have other options available.

Here’s mine (feel free to steal some ideas from it):

My list of things to do instead of cutting.

That’s it for now. I hope this is useful!

As always I welcome your comments and suggestions.

self-harm mental health
, , , ,

A Former Cutter’s Rant

The following is a poetic retelling of my experience with cutting, panic disorder, drugs and rejection. It is my intention to give those with similar experiences a voice. To say, you’re not alone. You’re okay. This won’t last forever. You’ve got this. You’re doing just fine.

It bothered me that you didn’t ask.
I hated how you pretended you didn’t notice.
I heard what you said about me behind my back.
But I didn’t say a word.
I believed every word you said.
I didn’t look up.
I stared at the ground.
You said I was scary,
But I was just scared.
You said I was crazy,
But I wasn’t even there.
I was nowhere to be found.
I didn’t exist.
That’s why I have these scars on my wrists.
You didn’t ask,
But now I’m going to tell you.
When you can’t handle your life,
Your options are few.
When you can’t handle your life,
No one can handle you.
It’s not that I wanted to be this way.
I hate the words “are you okay?”
So riddled with expectation.
I had to say yes.
I had to pretend.
Did I pass the test?
Is this a test?
Hello, can you hear?
No my dear, you’re all alone here.
I’m just a notebook.
Remember me?
Snap out of it Carrie.
Hear my plea, hear my plea.
“Stop it.”
“What’s wrong?”
“Here we go again.”
The worst things to hear
When no one hears you.
“Hey, we’ve given up on you.”
A lost cause.
A statistic.
A textbook example.
Of a girl who’s lost her mind.
What’s the diagnosis?
Bipolar’s just fine.
Oh labels, let’s dance.
I’ll give you a chance.
Friends are my fears.
Bad habits and jokes.
Friends are manic.
Depression.
And dope.
Good day.
Let’s play.
Take a dip.
Take a spin.
Now I’m spun.
Wow, she’s even crazier than before.
She’s talking to herself.
She’s hard to ignore.
Well, not that hard.
Let’s just close the door.
Let’s leave her there.
Yawn.
What a bore.
She’s exhausting.
And she hardly says a word.
She’s stuck in her notebook.
In her own little world.
My world is the only world that is safe.
But do you think I don’t hear every word you say?
I can recite it back to you if that’s what you’d like.
I can tell you
Whatever you’d like.
I’m here to please you.
It’s what I do best.
Are you impressed?
I doubt it.
I can’t breathe.
This pressure is too much.
When, oh God when will I be enough?
I said I can’t breathe.
Can I please disappear?
Crazy crazy crazy crazy.
Fear fear fear.
The thoughts just get louder.
And louder.
And then.
I grab something
To make the pain end.
I have to feel something
Other than this.
I have to feel something.
Is this all there is?
Oh razor blade, you’ll have to do.
Alright arms and legs,
I’m going to cut you.
Relief starts to spread
As the blade touches my skin.
I have to go deeper. 
I have to win.
I didn’t want to die.
At least not all the time.
I didn’t want to die.
I just wanted to fly.
Far far away.
And never come back.
I’m back to my senses.
This blood is bright red.
I notice.
I see.
I am not in my head.
My thoughts are now focused
On this puddle of blood.
The torture has ceased.
I can hear myself breathe.