Doesn’t Everyone Keep the Kitchen Knives Locked Up in the Master Bedroom Closet?

***WARNING***  I’m discussing my daughter’s self-harm by cutting in the post.  I do not want to trigger anyone, so please proceed with caution. 

My daughter, who is now 15, starting self-harm behaviors when she was 12.  I found out about it when she admitted it to her first therapist.  After a hospital visit and change of medication, I thought it was done.  Oh how wrong I was!  We just started on this journey.

The signs were there, but I just tossed it up as her being a teenager.  She long sleeves all the time, no matter what the temperature was!!  Hoodies over t-shirts saying she just felt cold.  No skirts or shorts that would expose her thighs.  I really thought it was a style choice.  She did not look different than most of her peers!  That was until she was able to finally show me what she did to herself.

I could not wrap my mind around it.  Cutting your skin, drawing blood, damaging yourself.  How?  Why?  When?  I was in shock!

What I was able to do, was not overreact.  I did cry… right in front of her.  But I did not yell at her.  I think this was important.  I learned from my own experience as a teenager wandering through life not feeling right, that if I was yelled at by my mother, I wouldn’t come to here with anything again that would, as I viewed it, “get me in trouble”.  My mother’s words still echo in my head… “you have nothing to be depressed about”.  I wanted my child(ren) to always feel as if they could come to me.  I’ve always said, even if I cry,  yell, get mad, I will always love you and don’t want you not to come to me.  Yelling is a trigger for my daughter, so I try not to yell.  I can still get my point across without yelling.  And it is not easy!  In general, I am a loud person.  So even if I don’t think I’m yelling, she may thing I am.

If she slips and cuts again, she now comes to me.  She trusts me.  Trust is so important.  We clean the area and put bandages on if we need too.  It hurts my heart every time.  I tell I would rather her come to me when she has the urge to self-harm, but if she cuts, she needs to come to me so it doesn’t get infected.  When we finish, I hug her (often one-sided), tell her I love her, she leaves the room and I shut the door so I can cry.  She tells me that by the time she comes to me, she already feels guilty about what she as done.  I don’t want her to see my disappointment to make the guilt worse.

Now to rid our house of things she could cut herself with was a different story.  First the obvious, you remove all the knives from the kitchen.  Okay done… except ever time you need a knife for the kitchen (and I love to cook) I have to go into the master bedroom closet.  (Try explaining that to your friends!)  Then we took all the scissors we could find and they joined the knives.  I really thought that was it.  But folks that self-harm are sneaky!!  Next it was the paperclips and pushpins!  And just for safe measure, we have key locks on the master bedroom closet door and the utility room.  WHEW!  Got them all, or so I thought!  The first time she found a screw my husband left out.  I was shocked.  The next couple of times, it was a pushpin.  I swear I locked them all up!  I was wrong.  My son, an avid builder of all things, had a box of pushpins in his bedroom that he used for many things.  She saw them and would go in his bedroom and take one when she had the urge.  One more thing to note, we replaced her shaving blades with an electric razor.
It has been a few months since she has cut.  She still wears long sleeves to cover her arms.  The only time I panicked was when we went to get mani/pedi’s.  The nail tech went to massage her are when she was done and felt the scars and then looked.  Fortunately, she only gasped slightly and continued doing her job.

My daughter says that people react differently and hope that they just don’t ask.  She’s not ready for that… and I’m not either.