7 Ways To Respond If A Friend Tells You They've Been Cutting
I remember my first time. I was lying in bed tossing and turning trying to fall asleep. My head was buzzing, and it just wouldn't stop.
Sadness, anxiety, fear, embarrassment, remorse, all bounced around my head vying for my attention.
I couldn't scream because my roommates were sleeping, I couldn't leave my bed because, well that just would have made things worse.
So, I scratched my right hand down my left arm, leaving white marks all the way down. The small pain burst through my emotions, and my mind slowed down, the buzzing quieted and I was able to fall asleep.
This was the first time I hurt myself.
When I woke up the next morning I nearly vomited remembering what I had done. I prayed and begged for forgiveness. Every part of me felt dirty and empty at the same time.
I wanted to tell someone, anyone, but I was too ashamed. I swore I would never do it again.
But I did. Time and time again, and my methods grew worse. I hurt myself for years, and as studies show, self-harm is addicting, and like any addiction, it became harder to break the longer I did it.
It took some time, but I’ve broken the habit now, and I thought when I stopped, I’d finally be able to talk about it.
However, the sad truth is, if there’s a stigma around mental illness, self-harm has a similar stigma a mile wide.
So I figured I would share my experiences in hope of getting a conversation started, about why some people turn to self-harm, so that it can be better understood.
I also wanted to quickly share some tips of what to say, and not to say if someone tells you that they are involved in self-harm.
1. Most times, you don't have to tell them they're doing something wrong, odds are they know that already.
2. Do not offer them an ultimatum. If someone is involved in self-harm they probably already feel isolated, and isolating them more will just exacerbate the problem.
3. Ask if they're okay now, if you are able, tell them they can always call you if they need someone to talk to. If you’re not available anytime tell them when. If you say anytime and mean something else, and you receive a call in the middle of the night, it includes then.
4. You can ask if they're seeing a psychiatrist and suggest that they see one if they're not.
5. You can offer to help them find resources to help them out. There are various programs for people who self-harm.
6. Listen to what they have to say, try to not judge them.
Most importantly, and probably the most difficult one: do not treat them differently. This may make them cut off communication (I know it did for me)
I’ve found that this website has some great advice both for people trying to tell people they are self-harming, and for people being told that a loved one is self-harming.
If there's one thing I've learnt it's that you have to use every resource at your disposal.
I can draw a direct line between my willingness to discuss my illness, and self-harm, to my handling of both improving.
Unfortunately, it was a very rocky road, since I didn't know how to discuss it, and others didn't know how to respond.
Maybe after reading this you understand a bit better, and will be able to have an open and healthy dialogue in the future.
Because if someone reaches out to you, and it turns out they’ve been cutting themselves, it wasn’t done for attention, it was done out of desperation.