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ToxicLove's avatar

My friend is cutting herself, what should I do?

Asked by ToxicLove (179points) January 12th, 2012

Today during P. E. everyone was having fun and playing basket ball when all of a sudden I saw something on my friends arm. Asking to see it, she wouldn’t show me, so I pryed her arm away from her body and got a good look at at least 10 cuts. I asked her what happened and she said nothing. No matter how many times I ask what’s wrong or what happened, she say it’s nothing and she’s fine. What should I do? Should I tell someone, or let it go? With her being my best friend, I feel like I should help her somehow.

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12 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

This is a tricky one. Self injury does not necessarily mean that your friend is suicidal, for starters. Do you know her parents? Are you able to talk to an adult, perhaps a guidance counselor?
The best thing that you can do is be there for her. Be supportive, listen to her. Don’t try to pry information out of her, or scold her for what she is doing… odds are she is not proud, in fact, she is probably ashamed. For some people, self injury has an addictive quality. It is a coping mechanism, a way to deal with depression or other emotional pain. Strange as it may sound, cutting can be soothing to a person who has a tendency to self injure. Your friend should talk to a doctor or a therapist, and hopefully she has a supportive family that can help her seek those resources.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Nothing. There’s really not a whole lot you can do; it’s her problem, and she needs to be the one to do anything about it. And telling someone… it makes you look like a narc, and she probably won’t take kindly to it. Since you already confronted her, the likelihood that she’ll respond to more authoritarian people confronting her with “oh, ok, now I’ll get better” is really quite low. Plus, then she doesn’t trust you as much. Just be for her like you always have been, and tell her that if she needs anything from you, you’re there.

john65pennington's avatar

Your friend requires psychological intervention. Chances are her mother already knows this, but as her friend, tell her parents.

Her next time of cutting may be her last and you do not want this on your mind. Right?

ToxicLove's avatar

So far I got answers saying that I should tell someone,and that I shouldn’t.Now it’s even more confusing.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Aethelflaed I don’t know if I think that is true. Cutting is often a quiet cry for help. She may outwardly be upset that she’s been “tattled” on, but she is cutting in an attempt to cope with emotions that she doesn’t know how to handle, otherwise. It’s like putting a bandaid on a broken bone.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Yeah, I think that “cry for help” stuff gets tossed around a lot for meaning “something’s wrong”. But people who want help? They ask for it, pretty directly. There’s a reason almost all mental health professionals acknowledge that if someone doesn’t want to get help, they can’t provide help.

@ToxicLove Just for reference, cutting with a sharp object accounts for only 0.4% of under-age-24 suicides and 0.6% of suicides at all ages (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control 2008). It’s not the healthiest of behaviors, but the likelihood that she’s going to accidentally kill herself while cutting is really small.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Aethelflaed I don’t know. I cut for 10 years, starting when I was 11, and when I learned that my mother knew that I was self injuring, I felt an unexpected disappointment. I was always pretty good at hiding my injuries, I wasn’t consciously hoping that someone would help me, I was far too despondent for that, but when faced with it.. I realized how much I desperately wanted someone to show the way out of that miserable place that I was in.
I also spent several years working for a support group for young people who self injure, and that seemed to be a common theme. Hiding it, while hoping that someone would help them stop.

I’m not saying that it is always the case, but wearing short sleeves sounds like a red flag, to me. I didn’t care if it was 110F outside, if I had cuts, I was covering that shit up. Leaving it out there for someone to see? That sounds like a cry for help, to me.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf I think many cutters want help, but out of depression, not from cutting. The problem with telling authorities that someone is cutting is that the methods tend to focus on getting people to stop cutting, not on resolving depression. It makes the focus that the person is doing something bad and should stop, not that they’re going through a rough period and here’s the way out. There are ways to approach the appropriate people and say “Hey, I think so-and-so’s depressed, and could use some resources on that” without bring SI into the picture.
Plus, so much depends on if the parents are good people to talk to about this. Kids who are cutting are more likely than the average population to have a crappy home life and abusive parents, and telling abusive parents that their kid is cutting is almost definitely going to only make the situation worse.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Aethelflaed I agree, that the right person should be approached… and the wrong person could potentially make the situation worse. I don’t disagree with you about that.

wundayatta's avatar

This is very hard. Your friend is lucky that you care. The most important thing, I believe, is to show her you love her. You love her no matter what (mostly). That is, you will stick with her through an awful lot.

Why do people cut? I know a number of people who cut, mostly because I tend to hand around with people with mental illnesses since I have one myself. As far as I can tell, we are all pretty much the same in terms of the pain we feel. Our responses are slightly different—some get manic; some get depressed, some cut, some do a lot of other things and there are even some who do it all.

I’m going to tell you about my pain, but I’m going to do it quickly, so it’s probably not going to sound like much. Trust me. This is the worst kind of pain you can feel. What your friend is feeling is that she is completely and utterly worthless and unloved and unlovable and ever worse, she doesn’t deserve to be loved because… well… I don’t know. That’s just the way it is. Maybe—most likely—her parents have helped her believe this in the way they treat her.

Being unlovable is a horrible kind of pain. The worst, really. But sometimes physical pain will make you forget your psychological pain for a while. It’s kind of cool, hurting yourself. I haven’t cut, but I’ve done… other stuff, and I can see where the desire comes from. It takes such control to cut yourself, and it is so intense—the whole process—and what that does is that it forces you to focus on the process of cutting. Which means you can’t feel the other pain during that time. Cutting is a relief from the real pain.

So think of cutting as a form of self-medication. Like other forms of self-medication—drugs and alcohol—it can be addictive and it isn’t really all that healthy, but it does serve a purpose and it does make people feel better, for a small amount of time. But you can’t cut all the time, and so in between, well, the other pain comes back and then you start wanting to do it again and… and…

Ok. That’s the story I tell. Like I say. It’s not my personal experience. I do other shit that I’m not going to talk about because I’m ashamed of it that is another form of self-injury. Weird. Usually I talk about everything. Oh well.

But underneath the cutting, it’s really the deep, endless, complete bottomless black pit of a sense of worthlessness and inability to be loved that makes most people completely despair.

When I was sick, I just wanted to be loved. But I never believed I was worthy of love. So even if people did love me, I pushed them away. No one was allowed to change my image of myself as being the absolutely bottom dregs of the universe, worthy only of lying in some granite curbed gutter that was filled with rotten fish. I swear I had a gutter all picked out up in the Bowery in NYC to go lie in. Unfortunately, they don’t allow the homeless to lie in gutters in the City any more.

So how do you love a person who doesn’t believe they are lovable? Well, like what @ANef_is_Enuf said about people wanting someone to tell on them, what I wanted was for someone to love me and to ignore all my attempts to push them away. Just ignore them. Just to show me that I was so wrong about myself, they didn’t even bother to acknowledge I was trying to push them away.

I wanted people to tell me they cared. Over and over and over. Of course, I couldn’t allow that, because it would be too needy and demanding and manipulative. I didn’t want to be someone who was manipulative, and I was a manipulative person, so that meant that every thing I did to open a door for someone to love me had to be slammed shut in their face because I’m a manipulative whoring asshole who doesn’t deserve to live.

The inner life of a crazy person is full of double thinking. You can’t give yourself a break. And I don’t know how many people are aware of all this stuff they do to trick themselves and manipulate themselves. When I talk about it, people often nod in agreement, but then, we’re the same. This is not something you can admit to someone who hasn’t been in this place.

And that’s the next thing I recommend. She could get great benefit from talking to other girls who cut. You need to talk to her like you know she cuts and it’s not an issue. Her denials are kind of like noise. Just not part of the conversation. Eventually she’ll understand that you can’t be put off. But then you can talk about feelings and just let her talk about her life. What’s going on. The real stuff. Not the pretend to be normal stuff.

You can give her information. There are groups of girls like her. There are doctors who know all about it. There are websites she can go to to read about it. You will talk to her and you won’t judge her. And urge her to talk to someone who might help. It could be her parents, and it would be nice if it is her parents. But parents don’t always want to listen and then you have to try elsewhere. Some other adult who can be trusted. Maybe the doctor. Someone.

I believe @ANef_is_Enuf that people want to be found out or have someone tell on them because I don’t think people really want to suffer. We know we can’t fix it ourselves, but we believe we have to. It’s just our own problem. So we can’t tell others, but if someone else does, it gives us an end run around our rules that we are too worthless for anyone to pay attention to us.

When you tell, you show her you think she’s worthwhile, and you show her you love her—even if she says otherwise. Eventually, she will come to understand (if she doesn’t already) how much love you have for her if you do that. But first, love her. Support her. Talk to her. Empathize with her. Educate her. Let her know that her suffering can be overcome. There are many sources of help. You want her to get some help, and you’ll help her get help.

You are a great friend!

john65pennington's avatar

ToxicLove, as a retired police officer of many years, I have run into this situation quite often. To tell or not to tell. A friend is a friend and this is what a close friend needs to do.

My grandaughter was in this same condition. She lived with us for many years as a baby through 15 years old. She began cutting her arms. I recognized the symptoms of her problems and immediately took her to Vanderbilt ER for evaluation. Once she received the medical attention she needed, she is a great person today.

The point here is, its your being her friend that makes the difference. She may be mad at you at first, but she will get over it.

I would hate to know I could have done something to prevent her death and sometimes, this is the end results. I have seen this many times. You can prevent her possible suicide, but nothing is going to happen, until you take the first step and call her parents. They will look at her arms and take the appropriate action for her. Words are cheap. Take action.

Make it happen.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Wow, well said, Wundy. I agree completely.

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