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March 01, 2005

Comments

Chris Tessone

Thank you for that, Hugo. I think you're right that most adults are not aware of how serious this problem is. Kudos for bringing it to light with your story.

Nancy

Thank you for sharing this with us. I'm certain that recalling that particular period of your life must not be easy.__I can see why you give so much of yourself to the youth of your church. You are a great role model for them, and an amazing person!

wolfangel

Thanks, Hugo; it's really good to have more people posting about it -- why they used to self-injure and why they stopped. It's funny how similar everyone sounds when they describe things, though it's also, in so many ways, unique.

I don't think people don't understand the urge to hurt themselves, quite honestly. I think that they refuse to admit they understand it -- but they do it anyhow, in other, less obvious ways: the violence of self-injury (I've never liked the term self-mutilation, because I've never felt the point was having scars) is overt and scary. Plus there is something to the violating of the boundary between eslf and other that I believe ties in, though I can't make it quite clear.

(I've blogged a great deal about this recently, so it's in my head; Michele Catalano at a small victory also has some nice posts about it.)

I can imagine how having an adult there with the same proof would be helpful: you do important work.

annika

An important and timely post, Hugo. My only knowledge of cutting is from a poorly written thriller novel i read recently, called Ashes to Ashes, in which one of the killers was a teenage cutter. Needless to say, the portrayal was not sympathetic. Thank you for helping humanize the issue for me.

erica

see, this is why I have to keep coming back. I never cut myself, but at my most painfully paralyzed moments of an angst ridden time, I really felt the urge to. And it completely freaked me out and I never understood it. until now. thanks, really. helps me reclaim a part of my history I couldn't before.

JIC

Bravo. Just because you make a habit of laying yourself bare doesn’t make this any less important or brave. Thank you.

I have friends who cut. The ones I've met in RL are in their early twenties. I don't know how old the others are, so I wonder how often the urge fades with adolescence. I do know that many if not all of my friends who self-injure also suffer from depression.

It's important to remember that, even though it may not be apparent to an outside observer, self-injury is serving a function for the person who does it. Figuring out what functions it serves and helping someone learn other ways to get those needs met is essential to helping people who self-harm. That’s an excellent thing to point out and to remember. As a teenage girl, I cut a couple times, but I didn’t really get anything out of it, so I didn’t continue.

Orange Hans

Hugo,

I wasn't aware how widespread the practice of self-injury was until I read your post. I remembered that G. Gordon Liddy wrote in his autobiography about doing things like holding his hand over a candle flame until he could smell the flesh burning. He portrayed it as 'mastering his will.'

I had dismissed the practice as something that extreme right-wingers would do to train themselves to be good soldiers.

As I write this, it occurs to me that certain religious traditions practice self-flagellation too. It must meet some psychological need, but I must say it never been something I wanted to do. Pain is something to avoid!

MetaMetaX

One of my three utter failures in life was trying to love a cutter out of her desire to do so. She called it "matching her insides to her outsides" - a desire to show the world outside what was going on in her head inside. She'll always be a paradox for me, for the awful pain and suffering she went / goes through on the one hand...and the beautiful art and superhuman optimism she created on the other hand.

For what it's worth, I do somewhat side with Malkin on this one. I know this is based on very little evidence, but my own intuition, and the testimony of some others leads me to believe that for every cutter who does suffer, another is doing it merely to be cool or to overinflate her suffering in front of others. Again, I've no way to prove this, but it is what my instincts are telling me.

I cut myself only once. It was during the worst six months of my life, a particular semester in college where I would often spend three days at a time in bed, too miserable to get out. I remember feeling so stupid and uesless before the deed, but rapturously beautiful and valuable afterwards. Made no sense. I never did it again, but I'll always remember the feeling...

On a side note, James Hillman points out that the word "character" means "marked with sharp lines - or simply, cut." Wasn't it Dr. King himself who demanded that people be known through the content of their *character*? It's certainly something I wouldn't wish on others, so it feels strange to congratulate someone for having done it - but your experience has given you character, Sir. And it's something that will never leave you...

Eve

Just wanted to say it's nice to know others do understand--and that it's NOT all hollywood (I read Malkin as well).

I first had self-injury problems as young as three years of age. Then throughout my childhood, problems would surface then sink. It was an on-again, off-again affair. At least until I was ten.

At ten, I took on serious mutilation. It was just life for me. Daily life. Self-injury has been a fact of life for me, for most of my life. I never did it to be cool, nor did I ever know anyone else who did it. I never even knew there was a name for it until I was 21. For the most part, my mutilation and self-hatred was secret--no one knew. Sadly, though, a few people, friends, found out. They started doing it just out of curiosity or for attention, I guess. It was easy for them to quit, though.

When I was 21, my oldest child was two. Although he had never seen me mutilate, he began to slap himself or bang his head on the walls when he was upset. I knew then that I had to stop, somehow, I had to...just in case. I went to counseling, took medications, everything I could do to stop. It worked for a while. I stopped at the age of 22.

Now, in my late twenties, I still fight the urge--and fight it often. Though I know that I can resist, I just have to try. Since I "stopped" at 22, I have physically mutilated less than five times per year. That is a HUGE thing for me. Yes, it still happens, on occasion, but not every day, every week, or even every month. It is hard. I wonder if I'll ever be able to be rid of the urge, the compulsion, the act.

My youngest of my two children is now also having self-injury problems. This child has NEVER seen me do this, so one also has to wonder about the possibility of a genetic role in the cause of self-injury. Both of my children have exhibited these urges, so perhaps the genetic link should be considered in some cases. However, no one in my family mutilated before me, at least not to my knowledge.

Self-injury is not glamorous, it is not cool, and it is not easy--especially to quit. It is not new, nor do I believe it applies to teens more than other age groups. Self-injury, mutilation, is an attack not only of the body but also the psyche and the soul. It is severely intense self-hatred. It is burning, bruising, cutting. It is the constantly nagging knowledge that you are poison, you are evil, you are undeserving, you are an unnecessary burden to all, that you are a waste of breath.

It is time for acknowledgement of the issue, so that some progress can be made in preventing it's occurrence and in treating it. Living with it, the self-loathing, it's hard yet so easy. I'm glad that there are people who understand and are in a position to raise the awareness such as Mr. Hugo Schwyzer. You, sir, are doing a great deed for humanity and for each of us now labelled "mutilators" or "cutters" THANK YOU.

Hugo

Thanks, Eve, for sharing and for your encouraging words.

Lyvonne

i am a cutter too and i think that it is great that people are finaly trying tounderstand us and are tying to help in any and every way that they can.

my mother told me that she doesnt know how she missed the signs that i would some day have this problem. when i was little and i did something bad i would bite myself untill i drew blood. but that was then and this is now right?

i am going to be a senior in high school next year and i am already starting on my senior project which is on self-mutilation and societies views on the subject. i am trying to get peoples stories to get a better grasp myself.

i used to think that i was all alone and that i was a freak but that all changed when i started finding help pages and forums and all. i am so glad that there are people out there that actually want to listen adn help. thanks for this i am now trying to stop hurting myself and telling what i know is part of the healing process.

Paula

Have you ever come across a book written by Suzy Johnston? It is really good and gives greatinsight. It could help your students and your colleagues on quite a lot of issues.

The Naked Bird Watcher

Can be bought in shops or on the internet and

she also has a site at www.thecairn.com

Daisy

Hey I've read that - its pretty cool - and I related to it real strongly Did you know the mother wrote a book too telling her story - pretty smart having both stories together - that must be real unusual. It is interesting seeing the two sides of it together and how they worked together to deal with it. think folk could learn from this. The other book is To Walk on Eggshells

Kim

Hi, I just stumbled across your site on this particular journal-blog-page-thing.

I have been a self-injurer for 3 years, and for a long time, I had no idea why I was doing it. Now I'm trying to get a grip on it after all this time of being confused and hurt...I recently told my youth pastor about it (first person I told) and I think he's taking it reasonably well, although I feel like I'm 'burdening' him with it :/

By no means do I enjoy harming myself; I hate it. I hope I'll be able to stop someday, but for now I'm trying to find better ways to get by.

I find the comment by JIC hurtful: "I had dismissed the practice as something that extreme right-wingers would do to train themselves to be good soldiers."

I can't believe people would think self-injury as something so trivial as to associate it with politics. :(

Thank you for recognizing this issue in your journal...it's encouraging.

Hugo

We get better, Kim, by "burdening" the people who have been called by God to help us carry our burdens. Keep reaching out. It does get better.

Angel

I have never been a cutter. I used to get the urge, but I overcame and learned to control myself, without ever putting blade to skin. Beleive me when I say it is not easy, but it can be done if you are serious about it. Think this way, your body is supposed to be a temple right? Well treat your temple the way God would want it to be treated. When you get the urge, just go for a run-not walk-run. The idea is to vent your emotional turmoil in a constructive not destructive way. If you cant run, just start smaller with push-ups, sit ups anything that will work your body and your mind. You also must think positivly-I know it is NOT an easy thing to do, but the harder you work and think, the closer you are to staying "cutting" free. Another great way is a steady, hard workout-punching bags, or weights; either one would work. The workout releases chemicals in your body that can help balance your unhappy, angry or depressive moods. Its like a happy pill- and it does work as long as you are consistant.

Just a side note- cutting is not genetic. Cutting is a method of venting or expressing emotion without words. It is also dealing with control or the lack there-of. Children may not know how to express themselves with well modulated and articulate words, but the human will(even in the very young) does understand violence-ever see a temper tantrum? Some do take it further and if the parent is a cutter then they will see their own problems in the actions that the children take. It is not to worry as long as you the parent intervene and help your child learn more constructive and benifical methods for an outlet- and that may also help you in return-they is no greater modivation than the safety of your own child.

Hugo- this site is a bleesing and I hope you do well it your indevors. You can affect so many young lives with your story. God Bless

Stephanie

Ever since June 2004 I've been a cutter. I was abused as a child. My parents are really supportive and want to help me. The thing is I don't know if I can help myself. Does anyone have any good advice to help me?

John

Hey guys just want to put some stuff down. I know what it is like to self-injury(cut). I used to be involved with it. I got over it by the power of Jesus only. I know that some here don't go to church. I am not pushing Christianity on anyone. However to get over anything, only Jesus can help the person. If anyone can send me info on this topic. I wish more churches know about self-injury
address actually e-mail me before I get out to much personal stuff
Thanks

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