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August 21, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Hard Knocks

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I can't cut anymore, so what do I do?

Question:

I have been to a psychiatric hospital for suicidal attempts four times in the past two years. I turned 18 October 4th.

My counselor said that in order for me to be able to continue to see her, I can't self injure and I have to see her once a week. The reason I was sent to her at the age of 15 (almost 16), was because my school counselors found out that I was doing that stuff. I don't feel like I can talk to her about deep feelings and issues, but she is the only person to stay with me for so long. Even my psychiatrist bailed on me (without so much as a goodbye, he just wouldn't return my calls).

My counselor says that my family is very dysfunctional, and that I'm an abandoned child. What's wrong with me that everyone leaves me? Am I that much of a problem? I don't get it. I was fine before they got involved. I didn't ask them to and they did, but now that I'm asking for help, they all leave me. My counselor decided that she couldn't counsel me the day I went to the psychiatric hospital this last time. I needed her and she bailed. Then she made these conditions in which I could go to her.

I know it's my fault, but how can I cope without hurting myself? I've tried all the recommended coping skills and a few of my own; they only work for a little while then I'm back to wanting to kill myself. I tried to change my personality to be exactly what everyone wants, but I don't know how to be who my counselor wants me to be. I'm scared she's going to leave me like everyone else and then I'll have no one to keep me sane. I don't want her to tell me its OK to cut or burn or any of that stuff; I just need to know that she's here for me. But obviously, I'm not hearing that. I'm at the point of no return here. What can I do?

I'm sorry for bothering you. Thank you for reading.

Megan, 18-year-old woman

Answer:

Megan my dear,

The heart of your problem is when you say, "I know it's my fault." All I know about you is what you've written here, but I can GUARANTEE that this is false.

All your life, you have done the best you could, in the circumstances. If you could have done things differently, you would have, because nobody suffers on purpose. The same is true for everyone else. Your psychiatrist is bound to have had professional values, and is required to follow a code of ethics. If he bailed on you, there must have been a reason. I have no idea what, but a few possibilities are:

1. He had a heart attack, got hit by a car or something similar that killed him or made him very sick.

2. He could have suffered something terrible in his life that made him unable to continue working. For example, his wife might have developed cancer.

3. He could have won a million dollars and took off for a world cruise without bothering to tell anyone.

But let's suppose he is still practicing, still seeing other people, but decided he couldn't continue with you. Then he should have gently talked this over with you, and referred you to another person. The fact that he didn't reflects badly on HIM. It says nothing bad about YOU. His job is to ease suffering. You were suffering. If he let you down, that is not your fault but his.

Your counselor has told you that you come from a dysfunctional family. Is this your fault too? Did you invent your parents and other people who were around when you were a baby and a young child? I am not blaming them. Chances are, they are pretty unhappy too, and live stuffed-up lives. What you experienced in your childhood was the fallout of their problems. However, while I do not consider them guilty, they ARE RESPONSIBLE.

At every moment of our lives, we all have choices. One or all of them could have made changes in their lives to get rid of the bad things, whatever they are. They failed to do so, probably because they didn't realize they had such choices, and as a result, you suffered. Like many people in this situation, you made sense of your suffering by believing that it's your fault. Can you now see that this is not true?

All the same, you also had choices, and you have choices now. You have the power to change your life for the better. Your family, teachers, school counselors, psychiatrist, counselor, me, everyone else in the world, cannot make you take one choice over another. All we can do is to give you invitations, never commands. Your counselor is inviting you to take responsibility for your physical well-being: if you stop hurting yourself, she will allow you to come to her once a week. This gives you power. It gives you a reason for fighting old habits that are harming you. Please accept her invitation.

Kids cut for various reasons, usually several reasons mixed together. These include:

1. Because of past suffering, I have shut down emotion. Things are so awful that I become unable to feel much of anything. Typically, only anger and sadness are left. So, when I feel nothing, I feel like I'm not even alive. Therefore, I give myself some physical pain to feel SOMETHING.

2. If I have a lot of crap in my life and it's all my fault, then I'm guilty and need punishment. So, whenever things get bad, I have to do something to hurt myself.

Some kids do so by cutting, others by taking risks and engaging in dangerous behavior, or drowning the pain in substance abuse or, of course, all of these.

3. If I feel completely helpless, without any hope, like a puppet being pulled about by other people, the reaction can be to do something that is a sort of a rebellion, and whatever others react to with horror and disapproval can become the hitting back. Hurting myself can be just the thing to assert some control.

4. It can also be a halfway house to suicide.

Reading your letter, I think in your case all of these could have figured. The four suicide attempts, the long habit of self-harm, were there because they helped you to cope with an impossible situation. You are not guilty of anything for having done these things. You are not at fault, and you are not faulty. In reaction to your situation, you chose to do some things that made sense at the time, and that allowed you to continue. But, in fact, they were bad choices. You had better actions you could have taken.

Right now, you can make such changes. You can take control of your life, and go in a new, much better direction. Your title asks what you can do now that you are no longer able to cut. Here are a few starts to an answer:

1. Please go to http://anxietyanddepression-help.com/firstaid.html and read 7 important measures to start you on the way to a self-respectful, strong, decent future for yourself.

2. In your work with your counselor, request that the two of you do some brainstorming about new directions for you. Develop a plan for your life, and then put it into practice.

3. Study people you admire. You know girls who live lives you might envy. Study how they handle stress, conflict, put-down statements by others, abandonment, and do what they do.

4. Learn about meditation or yoga, and start practicing it.

5. Start learning an eastern martial art like Tai Chi, Tai Kwan Do, Karate, Judo, or Kung Fu. If taught properly, these teach you to develop a strong respect for yourself, inner power, poise, and self-confidence.

6. Find ways you can be of service to others. You have suffered, so you know how others feel when they are in trouble. Be there for them, and that will pull you out of your own problems.

Megan, you can do it. You have the power to live a GOOD life. And it can start this minute.

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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