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#31 of 51 Old 05-30-2012, 04:58 PM
 
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Right here, in these stories and in my own, we see the different ways mental illness can play out.  It is just an all around difficult situation. In my opinion, where it differs from cancer is in the way it emotionally affects the people around severely and for an extended (lifetime) duration.  My mother was mild enough we were able to live with her disease. But it was severe enough that she emotionally abused me through out my childhood. It was severe enough that I wanted and tried to disappear.  

 

Depending on the seriousness of the illness, it can become really too much to deal with for family.  Family members who are having to deal with their loved ones illness need support as well. The mental and physical strain of dealing with someone that mentally sick can take a huge toll in the health and dynamic of families. And ultimately, in some families, it becomes a question of letting one person go to protect the rest of the members. 

 

As Super Single Mama pointed out, sometimes mentally ill people refuse to seek or accept help. I do not (can not) blame them. They genuinely think they are okay. How can you convince someone that thinks they are okay that they are sick? Unless their disease allows them to have a certain level of introspection, this is really difficult for them to see. And it is not their fault. It is part of the disease. 

 

It is also not the fault of their family either that they do not get help. I currently have another family member who is severely mentally ill.  I have been asked many times why I do not do this or that... That is because I HAVE.  It is maddening that people think we, as a family, have not tried to do everything for this person.  We have tried everything!!! Many families step up to the plate, as CatsCradle put it, but they also periodically step off to survive.  Some illnesses do not go away or get better. It is a question of lifetime maintenance. Very few families can give that without some other outside resource.  

 

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I understand your point of view, I really do.  I understand why people would be wary and not want to deal with it.  However, what's funny in a perverse way is that people with cancer used to be put in institutions.  People couldn't handle it, they couldn't deal with it and even some thought that it was "catching."  We laugh about it now but it was a total misunderstanding of the illness and a lot people died alone, with no support and totally marginalized.  I had multiple relatives who were "sent away" because everyone else was scared for themselves and they didn't know how to handle the issue.  What is interesting is now people understand cancer and do everything in their power to cure/prevent/educate.  Not so much with mental illness.  It is still a stigma in much the same way that cancer used to be.

 

What mentally ill people need is help.  They need support and love by those close to them.  They're not going to get well until people close to them step up to the plate and seek help for them.  Mental illness runs through my family.  I was super resentful of the mentally ill people in my family until I realized that they needed help as well as myself.  They couldn't get the help because no on cared to recognize that this was a health issue and not a "choice."  It needs to be addressed, and avoidance is not the solution, in my opinion.

 

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This really depends on the person and the specific mental illness. Sometimes, they need tough love - as in - you made that mess and now you need to clean it up (I'm gearing up for court battle number 3 in less than 3 years with my ex who has several mental illness issues, and whose family just props him up and refuses to see that there is in fact a problem). Getting them help sounds easy, but again depending on the particular illness, if a person isn't willing to get help they won't - and you can't force them. It sucks, and its hard, but you can't fix someone. They have to be willing to help themselves. (My ex is somewhat high functioning - as in he became a lawyer so that he could bully people - it sucks)

 

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Choosing to limit the alone time or caregiving time with your children is not "avoidance".  I too grew up with a mother who had some significant mental illness events.  I was her caregiver, more or less, from the time I was 6 until I left the house at 17.  Other people cannot address a person's mental illness if they refuse (for a variety of reasons, not all of them bad) to get treatment.  If someone is actively doing destructive things then it is sensible and NOT PUNITIVE to be cautious with one's children around them.  For both the safety of the children AND the safety of the person in question.  I take huge issue with the implication that it is the responsibility of the family to get the person help;  while I do think it's a good thing to make it as easy as possible for the person in question to get help, ultimately unless it's an extreme situation, nobody can FORCE anyone to get help, and the decision solely rests with the individual in question.

 

I stepped up to the plate and sought help for my mother plenty of times.  She refused it, and so did my dad.  Eventually I learned to address things in my own way.  I have compassion for my mother, but compassion does not mean that her behaviors do not have consequences.  It really sucks, but sometimes we have to make some tough choices, even if they're not "fair."  It's not fair to my mom that I do not allow her to be unsupervised with my kids.  She's done nothing to THEM after all;  however her refusal to acknowledge or seek help for behavior patterns has consequences, whether she's capable of understanding them or not.  Her comfort and her ability to help it have no bearing on my primary duty to keep my children safe from mental, physical, or emotional harm.

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#32 of 51 Old 05-30-2012, 07:34 PM
 
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Choosing to limit the alone time or caregiving time with your children is not "avoidance".  I too grew up with a mother who had some significant mental illness events.  I was her caregiver, more or less, from the time I was 6 until I left the house at 17.  Other people cannot address a person's mental illness if they refuse (for a variety of reasons, not all of them bad) to get treatment.  If someone is actively doing destructive things then it is sensible and NOT PUNITIVE to be cautious with one's children around them.  For both the safety of the children AND the safety of the person in question.  I take huge issue with the implication that it is the responsibility of the family to get the person help;  while I do think it's a good thing to make it as easy as possible for the person in question to get help, ultimately unless it's an extreme situation, nobody can FORCE anyone to get help, and the decision solely rests with the individual in question.

 

I stepped up to the plate and sought help for my mother plenty of times.  She refused it, and so did my dad.  Eventually I learned to address things in my own way.  I have compassion for my mother, but compassion does not mean that her behaviors do not have consequences.  It really sucks, but sometimes we have to make some tough choices, even if they're not "fair."  It's not fair to my mom that I do not allow her to be unsupervised with my kids.  She's done nothing to THEM after all;  however her refusal to acknowledge or seek help for behavior patterns has consequences, whether she's capable of understanding them or not.  Her comfort and her ability to help it have no bearing on my primary duty to keep my children safe from mental, physical, or emotional harm.

I think I mentioned in my first post in this thread that limiting time with one's children is a good idea.  (sorry to bold that but it is important that people view my opinions in their entirety and not one single post).  My previous reaction was more to the flippant way that people view mental health.  Of course it is hard on the people who are left with the difficulties of dealing with people with mental health issues, and I wasn't suggesting that we all be martyrs for those people.  What I was saying was that these particular people need help.  Society can choose to ignore them and it has for a long time.  Doesn't change the fact that they need help and even if family or close friends can't help them, society itself pays a price when there are untreated ill people walking around.  In the broader sense, if untreated mentally ill people are a danger to themselves and others in society, then it needs to be addressed.  By someone.  

 

I don't mean to harp on this issue and generally I agree with everyone here, but I still am seeing the general sentiment (whether intended or not) that mental illness is somehow a choice.  That it is a behavioral problem that can be corrected through self realization or willpower.  That people don't get well because somehow they are choosing not to get well.  Maybe that is the case in a portion of the mentally ill population...with people that have enough cognitive function to know they are sick but choose to not address it.  My personal experience, though, I couldn't see past my own nose when I was in the throws of some my darkest periods.  I'm personally grateful for the people who stuck with me even when I didn't know where I was or who I was, let alone had the ability to recognize that I needed help.  smile.gif

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#33 of 51 Old 05-30-2012, 08:40 PM
 
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I agree that it is terrible how our culture views mentally ill people.  But to me that's a different issue than what I think is good for my child around.  So, if I had a friend that was, for example, cutting, I would be thinking both about how to treat my friend and whether or not it would be okay for that friend to be around my children.  I might also think at some point that its okay or even good for my children to have some experience with dealing with mental illness and/or seeing it, or at least to not be protected from it.  

 

As for the example of cancer and how we of course wouldn't think of not allowing our children around someone with cancer...   hmmmmm....  Maybe I am way off the charts on this one, but I would consider it.  I haven't been in that situation, but I remember very clearly visiting a friend of my mother's in hospice when I was nine, four days before he died and it was not pretty.  My mother did that fairly cavalierly, I think.  It was not someone I knew well, probably had only met him a couple of times.  I don't even think she knew him that well.  Of course, if it had been someone that we were close to, there might have been a different calculation, but I'll tell you, I still think of that guy every single time I get a sore in my mouth  --  that was his first symptom.  I wouldn't say I'm a full blown hypochondriac, but I certainly have my moments and he plays heavily in them.  So anyhow...  this is all to say that I may want to protect my child from someone's illness even if I don't blame them or think they or are any way bad and even if I think it is unfair that they are treated badly.  


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#34 of 51 Old 05-30-2012, 09:26 PM
 
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What I was saying was that these particular people need help.  Society can choose to ignore them and it has for a long time.  Doesn't change the fact that they need help and even if family or close friends can't help them, society itself pays a price when there are untreated ill people walking around.  In the broader sense, if untreated mentally ill people are a danger to themselves and others in society, then it needs to be addressed.  By someone.  

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Of course it is hard on the people who are left with the difficulties of dealing with people with mental health issues, and I wasn't suggesting that we all be martyrs for those people.  

I know you were not.  But hardly anyone understands the heartbreak, the grief, the anger, the resentment, the fear, the total and complete emotional upheaval that is involved in caring for and living with a mentally ill person.  I was just trying to bring that into the picture is all. 

 

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I don't mean to harp on this issue and generally I agree with everyone here, but I still am seeing the general sentiment (whether intended or not) that mental illness is somehow a choice.  That it is a behavioral problem that can be corrected through self realization or willpower.  That people don't get well because somehow they are choosing not to get well.  

This gets to me as well. How can a person who does not (and can not) know that s/he is sick seek help/accept help (especially when it comes in the form drugs that often have undesirable side effects!!!!)? I hate when people blame the sufferer.  However, it also gets to me when people blame their family. Family can only do so much. 

 

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My personal experience, though, I couldn't see past my own nose when I was in the throws of some my darkest periods.  I'm personally grateful for the people who stuck with me even when I didn't know where I was or who I was, let alone had the ability to recognize that I needed help.  smile.gif

 

I am glad you got the help you needed and that you are well. hug2.gif  

 

I kinda of wish we had a private area where we can discuss mental health issues (both our own and loved ones).  The sub forum in MDC is totally open and I do not like that. It has not been very active either.  Hardly anyone posts there. 

 

OP I hope you are okay with the answers you received. 

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#35 of 51 Old 05-31-2012, 12:06 AM
 
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Mental illness is not a choice.  However, I have had to make many choices in my life dealing with the behavior and fallout from somebody else's mental illness.  I understand that it is not the person's "fault" or even within their control;  however, I can only devote a certain amount of time and energy to them at this stage in my life, and given that I pretty much had my childhood taken away because of it, I'm reluctant to devote a whole lot of time and energy to anyone who doesn't actively seek help.  Sorry.  It doesn't mean that I don't understand having a mental illness isn't a choice;  it means that I am owning my own choice for how involved I want to become in order to preserve my own balance and mental health.  If that makes me a meanie or bad person, oh well.  I spent the first 17 years of my life being a good person, and so far as I can tell it was pretty much a waste of my time.  There are certain things I need to see for me to feel safe, and that's just how *I* am.  I'm sure a different person with my same experience probably might feel very differently.

 

This is regard to intimate relationships (I don't mean sexually intimate) though.  For whatever reason, I work very well *professionally* with folks in crisis, probably because I can see past their behaviors and into their humanity, and I'm not reactive.  It's not hard for me to love and connect with the people I have worked with.  But dealing with family is a whole different primal ballgame.  And while I have tons of friends who struggle with depression and disordered eating and things like that (because I am one of them), I would not choose for an intimate friend anyone with similar issues to my mom's.  BTDT and I really can't do that to myself *by choice*.  Probably offensive, but again, I am up front about owning that it is a choice on MY part.
 

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#36 of 51 Old 05-31-2012, 07:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I kinda of wish we had a private area where we can discuss mental health issues (both our own and loved ones).  The sub forum in MDC is totally open and I do not like that. It has not been very active either.  Hardly anyone posts there. 
I agree. The mental health forum is useless as is, and there isn't a safe place on here to discuss things.
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OP I hope you are okay with the answers you received. 
Well this is a bit hard to read but I figured that when I first started the thread. Unfortunately it's gotten harder than I expected but that's OK.

I want to clarify something though. I have a lot of experience with mental illness, both first-hand & second-hand, plus it's something I've heavily read & researched personally & formally. There are tons of different forms that mental illness can take. Schizophrenia vs. depression vs. alcoholism vs. bipolar vs. anorexia are all so completely different and then of course each disease displays differently for different individuals. To be honest, when I think of self-injury, I don't even think of mental illness first. While a large portion of people who self-injure also have some form of mental illness, what I first think of with self-injury is trauma. Many people who self-injure do so not because of a deep-lying mental illness or personality disorder, but because it's a way to cope with intense emotional pain or numbness. Someone mentioned up-thread that people who self-injure don't deal with stress well... and that may be true to some extent, and at some point everyday stresses often do become a serious problem, but often it's not the little everyday stresses that aren't dealt with well, but the stresses of trauma, the stresses of repeated flashbacks, body memories, constant numbness, feelings of worthlessness, dissociation, etc. that arise in direct response to having been hurt, shamed, threatened, abused, etc. It's not that you can't handle the stress of a messy house or forgetting your wallet, it's that you can't handle the stress of the reality that you've survived a rape or child abuse or attempted murder or whatever.

This is too huge a topic to neatly respond to in one succinct post... and even harder because this is not a closed forum. I can't say everything I want to here, but I will say just a bit more.

I am surprised that some feel that mental illness is 'contagious'... I do know in high-schoolers there is some evidence of a social aspect to self-injury. I do know some people experiment with eating disorders after witnessing a friend lose so much weight so 'easily'... But I think there is a huge distinction between social cutting, or experimenting with starving/purging, and someone who actually goes on to develop full-blown anorexia, or continues to self-injure... I don't think the latter is contagious, and the former, while potentially dangerous, isn't all that different than the normal drug/sex/etc. experimentation that often goes on in high school. Trying out various behaviors is not the same thing as having a mental illness and having a mental illness isn't usually contagious (I say 'usually' because I'm thinking of cases like mass hysteria, but things like that are generally short-lived, especially if the media doesn't get involved), no more than smoking pot a few times would turn you into a cocaine addict, though yes, it might slightly increase the risk in susceptible individuals.

I also want to reiterate that people who self-injure generally hide it. In some instances someone might flaunt their scars and injuries or actively hurt themselves in front of others, but most people don't -- there might be one or two 'safe' people who know about it but that usually wouldn't be your child!! Most people who cut would never ever dream of doing it in front of anyone, nevermind a child. Most people who self-injure are a danger only to themselves, not others. And many people who self-injure are very, very safe people to have around your child -- like a previous poster said, they may be extra in-tune to keeping children safe because of what happened to them.

Wow it's hard to respond to all this carefully & I doubt I'm really helping much but I am glad that I asked this question because I did need to know how open-minded mamas might respond to the situation I posed. Very helpful to have these answers, even if they are negative, sad, uniformed, or hurtful, and especially good to know that there are others out there who do understand...
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#37 of 51 Old 05-31-2012, 09:22 PM
 
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Well, it would be highly hypocritical of me to judge a mother for self-injuring!

 

I will say that I self-injured for many years as a teenager, before I started seeing DH, and for the informative purpose of this thread, I will go ahead and say why. My childhood best friend, who was also my first boyfriend and the person to which I gave my virginity, committed suicide when I was 14. Self-injuring gave me a way to think about ANYTHING ELSE. I honestly wasn't trying to kill myself (seriously, after being the survivor, I could never do that to my friends and family), or really even hurt myself in a medical way, I just wanted to FEEL pain to clear my head. Often, I would do this just so that I could sleep. To be honest, I find it unlikely that any friend or possibly even my children would "figure this out", because I always cut my hips and upper legs, hidden by all of my clothes. My scars now look like typical stretch marks more than anything. So crunchymommy, I highly agree that when I think of self-injury, I think of TRAUMA.

 

As an aside, I have also struggled with bulimia since approximately that same time. I am now just shy of 23. I am doing significantly better lately, but it's an ongoing battle.

 

I don't think any of that affects my ability to care for children. My kiddos are my world, and just as I keep things from them that are not age appropriate, I don't spill personal issues all over them. Much less would I do that to someone else's child! I am capable of encouraging healthy eating habits in THEM (because I know what they are!) even when I fail to do it myself. Because I don't have any body image issues for my KIDS, kwim? 

 

I don't have many friends that are close enough to know all of this about me, but the ones that do love and trust me just fine with their children. SIL also knows all of this and trusts me with my brand-new niece so she can get a nap! 

 

Bottom line, I don't think someone who struggles with THEMSELVES automatically has problems with everyone (or really anyone) else. I would not be deterred from a friendship for anything mentioned unless I honestly believed the friend was suicidal, and may take their life while caring for my children. I am more likely to confront a friend than most (given losing a friend to suicide, and having self-injured myself) and offer to talk, but I'm not going to base a person's stability on scars. 

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#38 of 51 Old 06-01-2012, 09:23 AM
 
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That was a great post. Thank you for sharing anjsmama.
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#39 of 51 Old 06-01-2012, 11:56 AM
 
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I understand why people hurt themselves, I did this as a teenager when I didn't know how else to deal with the trauma I had experienced, but I have less patience with it when it comes to people my age.  I would honestly have a hard time not looking down on someone who still self mutilates at thirty and have a very hard time respecting them.  I would try to be supportive as much as possible, while also limiting any of my dd's time around the person if it was obvious they are injuring themselves on purpose, but I have a hard time seeing something like this as anything other than a choice to maintain a bad habit (though I would obviously not tell a friend who is struggling that because it would be unsupportive and possibly harmful to their emotional well being).  I would also be very careful to avoid being an enabler.  I was an enabler once before in a very co-dependent friendship and it hurt my family life a lot.  When all is said and done my family does come first and I would be very careful to make sure that continues to be the case.

 

I agree with what has been said about scars.  If you don't see fresh marks then I think you should assume they self-injured as a teen not that they are currently doing it.  Having a tough or traumatic childhood doens't mean you are an emotionally unstable adult, it just means you had some extra things to conquer on your way to emotional stability.

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#40 of 51 Old 06-01-2012, 12:20 PM
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I understand why people hurt themselves,
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I have a hard time seeing something like this as anything other than a choice to maintain a bad habit

See, to me these two statements are contradictory. If you see it as a bad habit, then you really don't understand why I hurt myself, anyway.

A lot of people did some cutting as teens - I know it became sort of trendy at one point, if I can use that term. My kid did it. And I don't want to minimize the feelings teens have when they do it, but I think that's a really different situation from my own.

And I could say that I don't do it anymore, I guess... there have been periods of years when I didn't. For me, though, it feels more like an "in recovery" thing, because I think it's always something I'll have to battle. I've been cutting myself since I was 7 or 8 years old...

I do think parents need to protect their kids. I wouldn't leave my kid with an alcoholic who wasn't in recovery or was newly in recovery, because I wouldn't trust that that person would be able to care for her well. It's not a moral judgment, and I do feel like I know enough about alcoholism to make that decision. Someone who had had years in recovery, even with an occasional relapse? That would be a different situation and assuming the person was otherwise a good caregiver, sure.

I just don't think most people know a lot about cutting and self-injury, and it's scary. I get that. Whether you want to talk about it as mental illness or a response to trauma - PTSD itself *is* a mental illness, after all - it's not something people talk about, and it looks weird and gross and upsetting.

I've never had anyone who knows me well not be comfortable with me caring for their kids, even if they know about my self-injury stuff, so I think part of it is just having time to know someone well enough to get past those initial reactions. This discussion is all hypothetical, and in the real world things often work out differently.

 
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#41 of 51 Old 06-01-2012, 05:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Anjsmama, thank you for sharing. <3

Dar, thank you for your post, I agree 100%... and especially about teens cutting being sometimes different than the situation of adults who continue (or start) to cut.

And while, yes, I posed this question as a hypothetical, it does have very real implications to me. And it's really strange reading this thread but not being able to respond as fully as I'd like. I am happy that many of you have been so willing to share such personal stories.

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#42 of 51 Old 06-01-2012, 08:51 PM
 
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See, to me these two statements are contradictory. If you see it as a bad habit, then you really don't understand why I hurt myself, anyway.
A lot of people did some cutting as teens - I know it became sort of trendy at one point, if I can use that term. My kid did it. And I don't want to minimize the feelings teens have when they do it, but I think that's a really different situation from my own.
And I could say that I don't do it anymore, I guess... there have been periods of years when I didn't. For me, though, it feels more like an "in recovery" thing, because I think it's always something I'll have to battle. I've been cutting myself since I was 7 or 8 years old...
I do think parents need to protect their kids. I wouldn't leave my kid with an alcoholic who wasn't in recovery or was newly in recovery, because I wouldn't trust that that person would be able to care for her well. It's not a moral judgment, and I do feel like I know enough about alcoholism to make that decision. Someone who had had years in recovery, even with an occasional relapse? That would be a different situation and assuming the person was otherwise a good caregiver, sure.
I just don't think most people know a lot about cutting and self-injury, and it's scary. I get that. Whether you want to talk about it as mental illness or a response to trauma - PTSD itself *is* a mental illness, after all - it's not something people talk about, and it looks weird and gross and upsetting.
I've never had anyone who knows me well not be comfortable with me caring for their kids, even if they know about my self-injury stuff, so I think part of it is just having time to know someone well enough to get past those initial reactions. This discussion is all hypothetical, and in the real world things often work out differently.

I don't think it is contradictory at all. I understand why people, especially young girls, recovering from traumatic situations have no idea how to cope except self injury, the incredible sense of relief, and the need to continue doing it because the horror you lived through goes away for a little while and you get a sense of some control. There came a point for me where I learned the skills I needed to cope with the turmoil and control the ptsd wirh more appropriate outlets and at that point continuing to hurt myself intentionally was a bad habit not anything else so I see it as both understandable and a bad habit.

I haven't heard of cutting being a fad. I wonder if that is a geographical thing. I do think it is sad that so many people don't know what emotions are behind self injury. As a teenager I had only on therapist, out of many, who understood and was there for me in a way that helped me move towards healing. It is definitely n urge that is never completely gone but not a habit I indulge because at this point in my journeydoing so would be the same as returning to any other innappropriate expression of emotions and quite frankly a bad habit. For someone who had just experienced trauma that wouldn't be the case, but in a friendship you know when your friend is dealing with new trauma so that isn't the scenario I envision with my response to the op.
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#43 of 51 Old 06-01-2012, 09:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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One_Girl, the thing about "old trauma" is that you think you've worked through it, you think you're over it, but one year, five years, ten years later things can happen to bring it all back. Having a child, for example, can be a HUGE trigger, among lots of other things... I don't think it's fair to say that self-injury in an adult only makes sense if the trauma is new/recent. I just don't think that's how trauma works. I also don't think all teens luck out with a therapist who truly understands trauma or SI enough to 'cure' the problem.

Co-sleeping is really wonderful when your child actually SLEEPS!! familybed1.gif
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hola.gif I self injure. I have been doing so in one form or another for more than two decades. I started when I was 7 not long after the first time I was raped by someone outside my family. I have severe mental health issues. In the past I was a teacher and now I spend all day every day with my two kids and a neighbor kid. 

 

I just finished babysitting my friend's 2 year old autistic son for four days while she was in labor. He did really well with us. 

 

When I find out that someone else is a self-injurer what I say (I have no worries about "over-stepping") "How are you going to deal with the fact that you are modeling this to your kids?" I don't give a shit if someone feels offended by me asking. Someone has to fucking ask. It's a real and serious issue. I haven't cut since right before my four year old turned three. I can't do it again while she lives in the house with me. I finally got rid of my scalpel. That was a huge deal. I am not going to teach my children that they should deal with emotional pain by slicing themselves to ribbons. There has to be another path.

 

I try hard to be honest with myself about the ways in which I have various bad habits that don't qualify as "self-injury" by the cannon and I'm kind of relying on those right now. I haven't beat my head on concrete in over a year. Last year was a really bad year. Last year my uncle died. He raised me. He was the only male caregiver in my family from my childhood who didn't sexually assault me. My family didn't tell me he was in the hospital and they didn't tell me they were taking him off life support. My niece called me after the fact and said, "You had better hurry." I got there less than ten minutes after he died. Then I had a nasty confrontation with my sister. I then outed the fact that my father raped me to my entire extended family. And I wrote a book! It was a bad year.

 

I have been seeing therapists intermittently for 27+ years (much of that court ordered and paid for by the state because I prosecuted my father for raping me) at this point. So as to the person who has a low opinion of people in their 30's who still self-injure--well, ok. I'm sorry I haven't "gotten better" at a speed you deem acceptable. I'll try to take those 20 years of sexual assault and terror and process them faster.

 

I'm incredibly defensive about this issue. It is a real thing in my life. I am god damn aware that lots of people shun me and avoid me because they just don't want to deal with me. Mental illness is difficult. I have a very small life these days. It has to be small enough for me to handle without resorting to things that are inappropriate in front of my kids. My husband gives me a lot of private time to process my emotions. I can keep my behavior in check all day long while I'm "on" with my kids but I spend a couple of hours crying and writing nearly every day. I blog prodigiously. People who see me interact with my children are surprised when they find out about the extent of my mental health issues. 

 

See, I went out and carefully studied how a "good mother" would act and I very carefully act that way all day long. My kids think they have an occasionally snippy but usually very gentle mom. They have no idea how many holes I have punched in walls in my life. I give myself a lot of time outs to calm down. I have my day structured so that I can handle it. 

 

I'm a train wreck on that other forum site because I expect my husband to do too much keeping me together. joy.gif Fair enough. I'm a train wreck who is making lots of forward progress in life. I garden a lot. I do a lot of home repair. I hang out with my kids and talk and laugh all day long. I don't have to be upset here. There is nothing upsetting here. I can handle it. I don't take my kids behavior personally in the slightest. They don't bother me. Kids just don't. They are a blank slate and I'm aware that their behavior mirrors mine. When my daughter starts getting a little sassy (she's four going on forty with the actual speech abilities of a twelve year old. She's extremely gifted verbally.) I know that I need to back off on my speech with her. I don't comment on her attitude or tone or really any part of that. I just am much more careful with my tone and manners for a while. She treats me how I treat her. So I'm really really nice to her.

 

It's kind of funny because I am also extremely strict with boundaries. I have rock solid boundaries in my life. You can do this you can't do that and it's not up for debate, moving on. I do it with a smile on my face and a gentle voice and I tell her, "That's appropriate for a ten year old, not a four year old" and she accepts that and moves on. My kid is very mellow. I'm lucky.

 

It's kind of funny that I don't think of myself as a "dancer" or a "writer" because I don't do them professionally or as a serious vocation. But I do both activities compulsively. I always have. I'm quite good at both. I do vintage ball room dancing and swing dancing and English Country Dancing and Irish dancing and and and. I think of myself as a self-injurer even though I haven't had the urge all that recently. I'm currently training for a marathon and I think that is enough masochism for this year. I don't need more pain thankyouverymuch.

 

When I find out someone is a self-injurer I'm very blunt and to the point. I see no good to come of beating around the bush. I'm very out about my mental health issues. I've been blogging since 2003. People self-injure for a lot of reasons and I tailor my approach for the individual. But really it doesn't matter which reason someone else picks I can probably say, "Yeah me too." I have a lot of reasons I hate myself and want to hurt myself.

 

But I look at my kids and I realize that I don't want them to feel the same way about themselves. So I talk about how wonderful our bellies are. I tell them how much I love mine. I tell them that I like myself because I am strong--look at how far I can run. I ran a half marathon in March. My full marathon isn't until October. I feel buff. I tell my kids I like writing because it helps me clear all the cobwebs out of my brain. I get to organize things in my head and really work through how I feel about things. I tell my kids I love food. We are working on the "love cooking" part. Erf. I talk to them about the balance between food that tastes good in our mouths and food that helps us grow and be strong and have energy.

 

All of this is part of being a self-injurer for me. When I find out someone has that much self-loathing I do think about how it effects the people around them. Many people with mental illness have no interest in doing as much work as I do to prevent harm to the people around them. I grew up in such a situation and broke contact because my kids aren't going to be brought down.

 

Which is to say, as a self-injurer I flinch when people talk about avoiding people like me. But I understand it. We are dangerous. The reason that self-injury is contagious (and it is) is because once you see it really and truly as a perfectly viable way of handling your issues it is always there lurking in the back of your mind. You know you are a piece of shit. You should cut. Toxic thinking is often learned. You learned to think that way about yourself. Maybe by being treated that way and maybe by witnessing someone else do it.

 

I don't want my kids to grow up with someone who hates herself. I want my kids to grow up with someone who is god damn aware that she is a good person. I'm not a perfect person, but I am good. And I need to be ok with that. I need to act as if that is true and no longer treat my body like an enemy. My body has been very good to me. I'm trying to learn to be good to it.

 

Self-injury is very complicated. I don't think there is a "right" way to think about it. I actually believe in the Harm Reduction school of thought. If you can cut instead of killing yourself, do that. If you have to beat your head against the floor in private before you can handle going out for the evening, well... ok. But let's talk about the effect of repeated concussions. I want you to really understand the choice you are making. You have to really look around you at the people who will feel the wave of toxic emotion coming off you. You can't bullshit yourself.

 

A lot of the way that I justify my behavior is by thinking that it doesn't matter because no one notices. Until I had kids it was true. I recently found out my ex (whom I lived with for four years and had an intense bdsm relationship with so he saw me naked a lot) had no idea I was cutting. HOW DID HE MISS IT?!?!! I guess I'm a better liar than I thought.

 

I can't hide anything from my kids. I have to be my simplest self with them. I have to be the part of me that does all day long. I have to be loving and supportive of myself in order to show them how to be loving and supportive. It's my job. It's going well so far. My children take my breath away. They are both kind and polite. I'm really happy these days. Mixed in with all the same toxic self-loathing. I only get to look at the self loathing before they wake up during my writing time. It's kind of weird finding this balance.


My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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#45 of 51 Old 06-02-2012, 06:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Krissy - wow - can I just say I am completely in awe of the progress you've made over the past months/year or so???? HUGE HUGS to you... You seem like a completely different person, so much more grounded & all... hug.gif

Co-sleeping is really wonderful when your child actually SLEEPS!! familybed1.gif
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#46 of 51 Old 06-02-2012, 06:18 AM
 
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Thank you. I kind of melted down in Surviving Abuse here and the women on Mothering helped me through. They sent care packages in the mail. They talked to me on the phone. They emailed and texted and checked up on me. I felt so loved and supported. I can't express how much gratitude I feel towards all of the people who did that. I'm trying to be subtle like here. I'm not outing anyone. *cough*

 

It was a bad year. This one is going really well.

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#47 of 51 Old 06-02-2012, 07:09 AM
 
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One_Girl, the thing about "old trauma" is that you think you've worked through it, you think you're over it, but one year, five years, ten years later things can happen to bring it all back. Having a child, for example, can be a HUGE trigger, among lots of other things... I don't think it's fair to say that self-injury in an adult only makes sense if the trauma is new/recent. I just don't think that's how trauma works. I also don't think all teens luck out with a therapist who truly understands trauma or SI enough to 'cure' the problem.

I didnt say there is a cure I said I found other ways to deal with the emotions that came from the trauma. Childbirth is a big trigger as are anniversaries, being stuck in a space surrounded by people, too much sress in general, etc... The thought of ever dating sets me off into a negative spiral. To me that doesn't justify going back to self injury. As an adult I have other tools and resources to seek help when I feel myself slipping back. I freak out, cry, seclude myself, etc... but I don't do that and cut myself and I do recognize what is happening and pull myself together quicker each time I am triggered.

There are definitely many crappy therapists out there and it is true that not all teens had an opportunity to do much healing with help. Even with great therapy there is no cure, there is learning to accept that you aren't at fault, learning to manage triggers, and learning how to cope without letting it rule your life but you will always be a human with physical and emotional stresses that trigger flashback.

Everyone deals with trauma their own way and at their own rate which is why I would try to be supportive as much as I could without it affecting my family. But those thoughts would still be there in the back of my mind and I am sure I am not the only one. We all have thoughts in the back of our mind that are somewhat offensive to other people, sometimes even about friends but mostly we manage them well and are supportive with each other in any case.
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#48 of 51 Old 06-02-2012, 07:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I didnt say there is a cure I said I found other ways to deal with the emotions that came from the trauma. Childbirth is a big trigger as are anniversaries. The thought of ever dating sets me off into a negative spiral. To me that doesn't justify going back to self injury. As an adult I have other tools and resources to seek help when I feel myself slipping back. I freak out, cry, seclude myself, etc... but I don't do that and cut myself and I do recognize what is happening and pull myself together quicker each time I am triggered.
There are definitely many crappy therapists out there and it is true that not all teens had an opportunity to do much healing with help. Even with great therapy there is no cure, there is learning to accept that you aren't at fault, learning to manage triggers, and learning how to cope without letting it rule your life but you will always be a human with physical and emotional stresses that trigger flashbacks.

It just sounds like you're saying, "I pulled myself together, and if other adults can't, they are just reverting to bad habits," when in fact many adults haven't ever had the opportunity to learn other ways to cope, or haven't worked through their issues enough, or have even had repressed memories surface as an adult etc. I know 'cure' wasn't the right word but it was the only one I could think of... I'm just trying to reiterate that not everyone has the tools & resources you have developed, and I don't think that means that adult has somehow failed to 'grow up' or is simply reverting back into old unnecessary habits. Sometimes those old habits (self-injury etc.) are the only things keeping someone alive. I am not saying SI is "OK" but I do think it is one way to take care of yourself during difficult times... obviously not the best way, and not without its own dangers, of course, but it's also not the worst thing in the world.

And there are a million ways to hurt yourself, cutting isn't the only one, it's possible to go years without cutting and convince yourself that you no longer self-injure because there isn't blood involved or it leaves no scars... (I am not in any way implying this is the case for you, One_Girl! Just a general statement!) It's interesting to me that cutting is a shameful, hidden thing that implies someone is unstable, incapable, untrustworthy, etc. while other just as (or more) dangerous coping mechanisms are much more socially acceptable in our society -- some forms of drinking, smoking, over/under-eating, over-exercising, pills, drugs, tattoos/piercings, unnecessary risk-taking, plastic surgery, etc. Of course not all of these things are always done for self-harm reasons, but often they are, & in their milder forms they are much easier to hide & much more readily accepted by others... while even mild forms of cutting would be reason to send someone to a psych ward.

Co-sleeping is really wonderful when your child actually SLEEPS!! familybed1.gif
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#49 of 51 Old 06-02-2012, 08:35 AM
 
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I think that as parents it is our job to screen the world for our kids. I believe that very strongly. I'm ok with people being cautious about how close to me they get because they are trying to protect their kids. But I feel that way partially because I am an adult and no adults owe me anything. If the SI was young I would say that adults should be more interventionist and less hands-off, but that's my beef with society.

 

crunchy: she isn't saying that people have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps or else. She is saying she has to put her own oxygen mask on first, then her kids', then she can decide what she gives to other people. I agree with her.

 

I wasn't "given opportunities to learn" I just decided to go do it. It's hard. I can't teach someone else how to do it. This has to come from within. You have to want to learn other coping methods and then do it and do it and do it. If you won't do that then you are teaching something. Something I may not want taught to my kids.


My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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#50 of 51 Old 06-05-2012, 08:28 AM
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It's interesting to me that cutting is a shameful, hidden thing that implies someone is unstable, incapable, untrustworthy, etc. while other just as (or more) dangerous coping mechanisms are much more socially acceptable in our society -- some forms of drinking, smoking, over/under-eating, over-exercising, pills, drugs, tattoos/piercings, unnecessary risk-taking, plastic surgery, etc. Of course not all of these things are always done for self-harm reasons, but often they are, & in their milder forms they are much easier to hide & much more readily accepted by others... while even mild forms of cutting would be reason to send someone to a psych ward.


This is what I was trying to say, but you said it much better.

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#51 of 51 Old 06-05-2012, 01:49 PM
 
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This is what I was trying to say, but you said it much better.

 

 

yeah, I've tried to reply to the thread to say pretty much the same thing.

 

I'm a former cutter who hasn't cut in years, but now my weight goes up and down like an elevator. I switched to a different behavior that is more socially acceptable but is still not healthy for me. I pass as sane, together, person who does a lot of community service in spite of that fact that most people who know me know I'm a stress eater. 

 

I gotta say, if I had a friend who was currently cutting I would be hesitant to ask them to do anything for me out of a desire to not add to their stress. But from my personal experience, cutters are generally safe people to be around -- they turn their anger inward. They are far better suited to watching children than someone with a yelling problem, IMHO.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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