This is a journal entry written by one of my clients, who agreed for me to share this with you. My goal in using this is to bring to the light the terrible emotional suffering so many people, especially young people, carry EVERYDAY. Cutting (a form of self-harm) is more than a simple call for attention – it is a condition which should be addressed immediately.
Clinically speaking, many different elements can be the catalyst for self-harm. But at the core of this behavior is a general and significant lack of self-esteem. Teens may feel the pain is somehow deserved, or they are simply trying to feel anything at all. So many times the young patients I work with wonder inside their heads, “am I even here?”.
This is a dangerous and highly addictive behavior and contrary to popular belief, teen girls are not the only victims. Studies show teen boys are nearly as likely to engage in self-harm and in my experience this is seen in all races, genders, nationalities, and socioeconomic groups.
I am 26-years-old now, but I am thinking back to my early teens. I look down at my left arm and can’t help but see the perfectly designed horizontal scars – lines up and down my arm reminding me of my desperate attempt to gain attention from someone – anyone.
Being 13-years-old is difficult.
Way more difficult than adults will ever understand. Mean girls, popularity, friend groups, drugs, alcohol, smoking, grades, boys, expectations, the media, appearances, body weight, sports, teachers, parents, and more…
I had a best friend who I met in kindergarten. We grew to be inseparable; talking daily, hanging out every chance we got, being involved in dance together, and telling each other our deepest secrets. Even our moms were good friends!
In 8th grade, my world collapsed.
This same friend became friends with another friend group I was not included in. We continued to talk every once in a while, but our relationship as I knew it had changed. I had no idea why, and felt confused. My friend would go to sleepovers I wasn’t invited to, and post photos on social media. She’d walk by me at school and rarely speak to me anymore, criticize me when we did talk, and share with me the cruel comments the other girls were saying about me. What was happening?
I spent countless hours crying, over-thinking, and trying to determine what I had done to cause this to happen.
I felt alone, betrayed, and lost.
I think I had a normal family, if there is such a thing. My parents are still married, I am the youngest of two kids and grew up attending church. There was no drug or alcohol abuse, no physical or sexual abuse in our home. We had loving grandparents and I made pretty good grades. So when my mood got darker, and my attitude was edgier, my parents noticed “a difference” in me. But when I tried to explain what was going on, I just couldn’t.
I began searching for answers or just a connection and found myself on social media and websites. I wanted to find an answer in how to fix this problem with my friend or even more, to find out what I had done wrong to cause this. As crazy as it seems, I found comfort talking to other people who too felt the same way as I did. I found them and they described in intimate detail how they felt, and most importantly how they coped with the painful emotions. This is where I was introduced to cutting. I did not want to die or kill myself, but I felt numb many times (I have since learned I felt lonely and unworthy) and convinced myself cutting my arms and thighs was a way to feel the pain I felt inside which I could not seem to communicate on the outside.
The other “cutters” wore their cuts as a badge of honor and it seemed they had their own friend group. I did not want to belong to this group, I wanted to learn how to deal with my emotional pain and I thought I did.
I told nobody.
My mom noticed my first cuts and I blamed the scratches on my new kitten. When the cuts became more abundant, I remember not caring if people would see them. My cutting became a coping skill. When I had a bad day, a guy I liked ignored me, my friend was mean, failed a test – I cut.
I finally admitted the cutting after being confronted by a teacher. I was ready for help and deep down wanted it to stop. I now see that I was screaming for someone to notice me and care enough to ask me, and then help me.
I have since learned my feelings were directly linked to my self-esteem. My tremendous need to be liked and accepted by my best friend led into me wanting to control her. My issues of control skyrocketed when she rejected me. Today I continue to work on my personal boundaries, my self-esteem, and saying openly what I feel. It is not easy being a kid and I struggled throughout my adolescence to finally get the help I needed to be stronger and to actually like who I am.
Interested in more? I would love to virtually meet to you! Email or call anytime to schedule a virtual session. (817) 701-5438 | firstname.lastname@example.org
CRT, CCDC, CACC | Counselor & Life Coach
Empowering individuals, families and communities to grow and heal through advanced approaches in Creative Arts Therapy, setting the standard for treatment, practice and training within the field.