SELF INJURY/CUTTING (something new?)

A family is sitting at the dinner table talking about what had transpired that day and what a wonderful time they had at Aunt Sissy and Uncle Tommy’s all-day pool party. Little Sammy, the youngest, boasts about how fast he can swim with his red “floater” wrapped around him. “Aren’t I the fastest Momma? Aren’t I?” “Yes, Sammy, you are the fastest floater I’ve ever seen.” The rest of the family chuckles as they enjoy their roast beef and corn on the cob. But one stays silent. Raymond, the father of the family looks at his teenage daughter Ramona and says, “You are awfully quiet tonight, Ramona, didn’t you have a good time today?” “Yes…Ramona stutters..but there’s just something bothering me but I don’t want to talk about it now…not in front of Sammy and Angie.” Raymond shakes his head “Okay, we will talk after dinner.”

Later that evening Raymond remembers that his daughter was concerned about something at the dinner table so he goes upstairs to her bedroom where he hears her familiar music playing. He knocks quickly with two fingers and enters the room. Ramona jumps-startled when Raymond enters “Whatcha doing in here, sweetpea?” Ramona hides something quickly into a towel and says, “Oh nothing, Dad”. Raymond sits down in a chair filled with clothing that hasn’t been hung up yet and asks what Ramona wanted to talk about that she didn’t want her younger siblings to hear. It takes some time and coaching on his part until Ramona spills what is troubling her. “Dad, did you wonder why Dee (Ramona’s cousin) didn’t swim today or even get into her bathing suit?” “Hummmmmm,” Raymond thought a moment remembering all the young children and adolescences swimming around the pool and laying in the sun. “You’re right, Ramona, Dee didn’t swim. She was acting stand-off-ish which was also unusual. Is Dee doing okay?” “Dad, I don’t know how to tell you this, but Dee is now a cutter, and she is not the only one! ALL the girls are doing it, Dad! They use a knife or anything they can find, really, and cut their arms and sometimes their legs. Raymond sits in disbelief as his daughter begins to cry.

Is this something new? Does anyone know of someone who cuts? Are they just trying to get attention? Is it a suicide attempt? What can be done? Are really ALL the girls doing it?

Cutting is not new and it is not something that is just a girl-thing. There are also many forms of cutting and they all have one thing in common; they leave scars. I know of a man who has many cigarette burn scars up and down his right arm. He says he doesn’t do it anymore but while he was suffering in his worst depression and self-loathing. It can also come in the form of “picking” of the skin until it forms scabs and then the scabs are repeatedly reopened by picking some more. Knives, razor blades, silver nail files, a pen or pencil, a stick, the spokes from an umbrella, the corner of a sharp object, a burning device; just about ANYTHING can be used to injure oneself. If it can be used, it is used, it doesn’t really matter.

I have learned from listening to others that if a person is under serious mental distress cutting seems to relieve that emotional pain, at least for a moment. If a person is suffering with depression, anxiety or self-loathing it can be common that they cut. I’ve been told by people who cut that the initial relief feels so good it almost like doing a drug or eating a gallon of ice cream in one sitting. Therefore, we see that cutting can easily turn into an addiction. The blood is soothing and when a person self-injures it isn’t until later when the physically pain is felt. Cutting is NOT a suicide attempt, it is NOT done just for attention, and NO! Not ALL young girls are doing it!!!

One of the most clear examples of a cutter comes from the Bible. Yes, folks, there really is nothing new under the sun. In the book of Mark, Chapter 5, we have a depiction of a man who is tortured in his mind. This man lives in a cemetery and roams around the tombs day and night suffering unmercifully with mental anguish. He is feared by all and even chains can not bind him, as he can break right through. Here it is folks – in Mark chapter 5 verse 5 it states “NIGHT AND DAY AMONG THE TOMBS AND IN THE HILLS HE WOULD CRY OUT AND CUT HIMSELF WITH STONES.” Self-loathing.

What can be done about it? First and for most psychiatry will tell you to STAY CALM and DO make a big deal about it, in a calm, loving way, ask if you can put some Aloe on the arm of the person…tell them you care about them and this kind of behavior is not a good choice. In a sense, you can LOVE the person through this cutting period in their life. Screaming and yelling and freaking out will NOT help although that is usually a parent or guardians initial reaction. Asking “WHY?” or especially “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?”only leads to a shut down in communication. The person is not thinking of you or anyone else except themselves when they cut, although it could be provoked by an argument.

Now going back to Mark 5 in the Bible. Who is it that helps this man? After all those years of living in the cemetery suffering unmercifully cutting himself with stones, all of mankind being afraid of him, tortured day and night, literally living in a place of hell while on the earth; who helps this man? Who has the ability to help this man? Is there a “nationally known psychiatrist” waiting patiently to give this man a prescription of a Benzodiazepine such as Ativan? Let’s see, at this point Thorazine – the old staple anti-psychotic would be a good choice….the man would slow down, for sure, drooling and doing the well-known “Thorazine Shuffle” (not a dance I recommend neither within a cemetery NOR a psych ward)) This may calm the symptoms, but there is NO CURE. NO CURE FOR MENTAL ILLNESS, folks.

So what happens in this chapter of Mark that takes away this man’s anguish? Who is qualified in every way? The one and only Jesus Christ shows up and heals the man. And afterwards? Jesus says to the man “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Oh! I love that part! “Go….tell…” That is where I am at, folks. I want to GO and TELL the WORLD what JESUS can DO for THE MENTALLY ILL.