Fear myself


Fear myself


your avatar   Shelby, 10 years old

My name is Shelby. I am 10 years old (before I go any further I want to say that my IQ is 132, so I am very mature, meaning I am not being theatrical. I am serious.). I was abused, molested, and exposed to things I shouldn't have been. My mother is on drugs and has an abusive boyfriend who hits her. My big sister is living in a foster home. My dad is in Memphis and steals copper to make money while living with his friend.

I am having thoughts of suicide. I am beginning to fear myself most of all. When I get a knife in my hand, I get the temptation to slit my wrist or stab my leg. I've been through a lot, yet it never seemed to affect me all. But now I think it's starting to get to me.

I am living in a very good environment now, so there is nothing to fuel these thoughts, yet I never had them when I was actually being abused, which I can't understand. There are many dark thoughts running through my head - dark thoughts a 10-year-old shouldn't even know the meaning of. Murder, blood, cults, revenge, anger, sadness, confusion, desperation, disappointment, hope…the list goes on. I'm afraid to tell anyone about my suicidal thoughts because:

A: I'm not very good at explaining serious things without unintentionally trying to pass it off as a joke.

B: No one ever seems to take me seriously when I try to talk about things like this.

C: If they DO take me seriously, I don't want them to think I'm crazy or need medical help or anything like that.

I would tell my friends, but you should know that I really can't - they'd just think I was weird. If I were 15 then my parents might take me seriously, but at the age of ten? That's a long shot. The temptation to cut myself whenever I get hold of a knife is getting stronger, and I'm afraid that when I'm not thinking, and when no one's watching, I'll actually do it. I'm afraid of myself. What do I do? Please help me!


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Shelby my dear, today is the start of the rest of your life.

Do you know how a diamond is formed? A lump of coal is caught in a "volcanic pipe" and is subjected to terrible heat and pressure. Either it gets burned up or it is turned into a beautiful jewel, the hardest stone known.

I also suffered as a child. I chose to turn into the diamond. You can choose to burn up, or to join me.

From your note, I know a number of wonderful things about you:

1. You are highly intelligent, and know this about yourself. Intelligence is a tool. Use it for your own benefit, and when the opportunity arises, for the benefit of others. A rule of the universe is, "The more you give, the more you get." I receive immense rewards for giving back to the universe by being there for suffering people like you.

2. The way you wrote about your father tells me that you disapprove of stealing. I'd rather starve than steal. Theft is a way of hurting other people, and that's always wrong.

3. The way you wrote about your mother tells me that you disapprove of drugs. Drugs, including alcohol, are terrible ways of self-harm that always affect other people as well.

4. Her boyfriend - you disapprove of violence. Excellent.

5. You are indeed very good at discussing serious things. You did so perfectly well in your short request for help. The problem is that you are better at it than people would expect from a person of your age, particularly when we take prejudice into account. "She comes from a druggo family, what would she know about anything?"

The proper response is to maintain dignity, a sense of humor, and belief in your own truth. Set your eye on a shining goal, and then do whatever is necessary to achieve it. Perhaps you can aim for a career in one of the helping professions, such as social work, or child protection. You already have the main qualification: people who have suffered can develop strong empathy, and be highly motivated to relieve suffering by others.

Now, let's look at the suicidal impulses. Tennessee is one of those areas where the death penalty still exists. OK, someone committed a horrible crime, and after all legal processes have been gone through, he is killed by the State. What horrible crime have YOU committed? You are facing Judge Shelby, and she wants to have you killed. Do you think she is right? Do you deserve death?

Of course, the suicidal impulses are more of an attempt at running away than punishment. Only, you can never run away. Death is not the end of a book, only the end of a chapter, and after you die, you will find that you've taken the misery with you. So, again, you show wisdom in being motivated to resist the urge to harm yourself. But how to do it?

An urge is only effective when you accept it as real. Until then, it is only noise. So, the trick is to treat it as noise. "OK, so I have a thought that I want to stick a knife into myself. What a stupid thought! Now, how strong is this urge? Hmm, about 7/10. I wonder how long it will last before it fades away. It's 10:36AM now; I'll monitor it to see when it fades to zero."

This turns you into an observer, who calmly watches the urge to harm yourself (or anything else).

You said, "I am living in a very good environment now, so there is nothing to fuel these thoughts, yet I never had them when I was actually being abused, which I can't understand." This is not unusual. When you were in the war zone, your purpose was practical: survival day to day, moment to moment. Now that you are living in a safe place, you have the leisure to dwell on the past, and of course it can be overwhelming.

Finally, let me address your first statement: that you have been sexually molested. I know you realize that you are not guilty of anything. The center of abuse is the difference in power. As a small child, you had zero power to resist an adult, or to disagree with anything he said or implied. But survivors of sexual abuse often feel dirty, damaged, faulty, disgusting. In part, this is deliberately planted by the abuser as a form of control; in part it's a natural reaction of a decent, sensitive kid to sleazy, horrid activities. But it is not true.

When I was a little boy, some bigger boys smeared feces on my face. For many years, I wanted to die every time I thought of it. I did feel dirty and damaged. But you know what? I am clean, and whole, and feel good about being me. They were dirty. I washed the dirt off. I have washed it out of my inner self-evaluation too. You can do the same regarding whatever was done to you.

My dear, you are welcome to email me so we can continue our discussion. Your new grandfather,


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.For more information visit: http://anxietyanddepression-help.com

Develop an attitude of gratitude. Every night, list at least 5 things you're grateful for.
"We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses."
Alphonse Karr
I am are two of the most powerful words, because what you put after them shapes your reality.