We Need to Talk (about self harm)
Self harm is not an isolated mental health issue and you are not alone if you deal with this. Here is a staggering statistic from the CDC: 1 in 5 girls will self harm at some time and 1 in 7 boys will self harm. More than 2 million cases are reported annually (reported...most are not).
It is a tough subject for us parents and caregivers. But we must talk about it. Why? Because it brings self harm out into the light. And most mental health issues, like self harm, really like us to leave them in the dark. In the dark they can take on the persona of being scary and allow shame to run wild and free on us. That helps self harm gain power and control. In the light - we can see them for what they are and work on making them smaller and less in control. You can see why they (self harm, shame and fear) wouldn't want us to do that.
When I first found out that one of Megan's coping strategies was harming herself, I was physically sick. If I found out her boyfriend or someone else was hurting her I would have gone into full Mama Bear mode and made sure that person paid dearly. But what do you do when it's themselves? How to cope? I had no idea and my focus became to stop the behavior at any cost. I focused on the behavior and not the real problem. FYI, focusing in on the behavior and not the problem solves exactly nothing.
Here was my awakening from a trusted professional early in our journey (I will never be able to thak her for this little speech): "Self harm is not the problem. The problem is that her brain chemistry is causing her to feel very badly (actually feel nothing at all) and this si just a coping skill. Let's focus our energy on the real issue and chart a course for her to find relief from the pain - the coping skill will come along for the ride and we can drop it off when we get far enough in the journey."
I've repeated these words to many Moms on my journey and I still think they make as big an impact as they made on me the first time I heard them.
Whatever your journey or the reason that brought you here - you can insert anything in that space where self harm lies for us: drugs, drinking, sex, eating disorder, head banging, hair pulling, cutting. They are all symptoms of a pain that needs support, love and a help to find a path out.
The post from Megan (My #SIAD Story, ft. Lyme Disease) will give you some insight into how she saw that time in her life. It begins with a lyme disease check in - but moves to her self harm story. You can read it or choose to pass. But I encourange you to read it and bring it out in the light with us. If you have a self harm symptom ongoing, please do not read on your own so you are not triggered. Instead:
1. EITHER: find a trusted adult to read along with you so you feel supported and you have some help to bring your to light. Then go get a Starbucks frozen thingy and talk about this.
2. OR: Please know that Megan and I love you. You are valuable and have so much to share with the world. We want you to feel better so you don't have to hurt yourself. Please tell someone you trust and then go find a trusted mental health professional to assist you in finding good coping skills. We believe in you.