Boy seeks help to find the light
Dear Straight Talk: I just stopped cutting about a month ago. I started a journal, but sometimes when I get frustrated or angry, I start to cut again.
I was wondering if you have any ideas for helping me. I am so scared of falling back into that dark place. Also, do you have suggestions for how to tell my parents and friends? — Leo, Carson City, Nev.
Katie, 18, Auburn: While journaling and art-making are wonderful and healthy ways to let the feelings inside you escape, therapy is essential for cutting. I have used both talk therapy and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy). Even if you don't like it at first, push through and don't give up. Results are not instantaneous, so it's important to continue therapy for as long as you need it.
Other resources: dailystrength.com and 1-800-SUICIDE. You don't need to be suicidal. Call them if you have even the slightest temptation to cut. They will talk to you until you feel better.
Regarding telling parents and friends, having someone you feel accountable to is the best way to overcome cutting. Print out parent-friendly information about self injury and use it to talk with your parents. Explain that you are struggling and want help.
Justin, 25, Redding: Tell your friends and family right away. You don't have to do this alone. Having people to lean on makes any recovery easier.
Katelyn, 17, Huntington Beach: You need another outlet for your darker emotions. Creating art and listening to music helped some of my friends pull away from cutting. There is no easy way to tell your parents and friends, but do it when everyone is relaxed and has time to listen.
These people will become your support system and will remind you that you are not alone — even when you feel like it. Your parents may suggest counseling or a support group. Don't fight the idea. A professional can help you leave that dark place behind.
Christina, 19, Marysville: A counselor will help you heal and help you tell your parents. When journaling isn't enough, try walking, listening to music, talking to a good friend or a hobby. There are also groups online you can message any time you need to talk. When I have hard times, I take out my frustration by serving my volleyball against the garage.
Ryann, 15, Tustin: I am inspired by your courage. It's not easy to admit you have a problem. It is even harder to ask for help. But with courage, anything is possible. The hardest days are behind you; now is the time for rebuilding mentally.
To heal completely and ensure that you never return to that dark place, tell your parents or a trusted adult. That relationship will help you more than you can imagine. I am optimistic that you will emerge even more amazing than you already are.
Dear Leo: I believe in you, too. And, like the panel, I can't recommend therapy enough. Cutting is highly addicting and drug-like in the way it relieves pain temporarily and keeps you coming back for more.
Many have kicked cutting by substituting healthy stress-relieving activities, such as writing, art-making, music, exercise, time with animals or hobbies. If you need more than journaling, a good therapist will help find what soothes you — while addressing the pain that made you cut in the first place.
Telling parents and trusted friends is a key part of healing. The panel gives good ideas on how to tell them. I will add that sincerity, humility and no blame almost always opens hearts and doors. To heal, be real. You can do it!
We have many columns on cutting. Find them in our "search by topic" list at our website.
It is thought that people cut to relieve mental pain by turning it into physical pain. Others report the visual relief of seeing the blood. Cutting is the new "drug," yet few parents realize their child is "using." If you are a parent, show this column to your child and ask compassionately if he or she ever cuts.
Regardless of the answer, if you haven't seen your child's arms (or legs — often the inner thigh) in a while, be curious. Cutting is highly addictive, leaves permanent scars and is indicative of unresolved stress. I recommend counseling for anyone who is cutting.
To aid in recovery (or stay balanced in the first place), don't underestimate the value of adequate sleep, nutrient-dense food and a rhythmic schedule. It is an understatement that today's world is extremely stressful. Even without trauma (which many kids have), sleep deficit, junk food and/or a helter-skelter schedule can take a person from stressed to depressed. — Lauren
Lauren Forcella co-writes Straight Talk TNT with a panel of 85 teens and young adults. To ask a question or become a panelist, click StraightTalkTNT.com or write to P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628.