Adults self-harm too

CBN woman shares her strug­gles with cut­ting

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

Note: The in­ter­view sub­ject’s name has been changed to pro­tect her iden­tity.

It’s a strug­gle Mary Lou has been go­ing through for over 15 years, and one she will con­tinue to ex­pe­ri­ence for many years to come.

The Con­cep­tion Bay North woman, who is in her early 30s, has been cut­ting her­self since she was 15.

For the last few weeks, The Compass fo­cused on youth en­gaged in self-harm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and how they can seek help. That is only one-half of the story. Adults cut too, and Mary Lou knows just what that is like.

“It’s not just in chil­dren,” she told The Compass in a re­cent in­ter­view by phone. “I know a hand­ful of adults, who also know a hand­ful of adults (that cut).”

Mary Lou strongly be­lieves the act of self-harm is linked with men­tal ill­ness. She has been di­ag­nosed with bipo­lar dis­or­der, among other anx­i­etyre­lated ill­nesses.

“When my med­i­ca­tions are al­right, I have no prob­lems,” she said. “When things go off-kil­ter, that’s what I turn to.”

Be­gin­ning in her teens

Although she was ner­vous speak­ing out, Mary Lou felt it was im­por­tant for adults to be aware any­one can go through it.

When she be­gan cut­ting, it wasn’t just on her arms.

“I did it on my thighs, the crease of my pelvic area,” she ex­plained. “It gives you the most pain.”

For those who begin to self-in­jure, there is usu­ally an un­der­ly­ing cause, Mary Lou noted. For her, it was the death of a loved one. “I was so stressed out,” she said. Her trig­gers in­clude loss, grief, fail­ure and anx­i­ety.

“It’s like your ver­sion of scream­ing,” she noted. “We’re hu­man. We don’t cut for no rea­son.”

It was sev­eral years be­fore she re­ceived help.

See­ing a psy­chi­a­trist has done won­ders for her, and she be­lieves it can help young peo­ple as well.

“If I was a par­ent and I found out one of my chil­dren was cut­ting, I’d have them checked out by a psy­chi­a­trist,” she said.

But that was not some­thing she was able to do right away, and she doesn’t spec­u­late whether it would have stopped her from cut­ting in her youth. But since she’s re­ceived pro­fes­sional help, Mary Lou has been in a much bet­ter place men­tally and psy­cho­log­i­cally.

“When it hap­pens, you have to find the root of it, or you’ll end up like I did,” she said. “And par­ents need to not fly off the han­dle. Take a calmer ap­proach.”

Still a strug­gle

Although she has been re­ceiv­ing help, it is not an easy road to re­cov­ery.

“I’ve (cut my­self) as re­cently as

If they don’t get help for it, it’s no dif­fer­ent than be­ing ad­dicted to co­caine. Mary Lou, ad­mit­ted self-harmer

two days ago,” Mary Lou ad­mit­ted.

Stress­ful sit­u­a­tions can in­crease her anx­i­ety, and she said her emo­tions are height­ened be­cause of her bipo­lar dis­or­der.

So how does she cope? One of the mech­a­nisms she uses is an elas­tic band on her wrist. The wearer snaps it against their skin when they’re anx­ious or feel an urge to cut.

There could be a long pe­riod of time where she does’t cut at all, but it never lasts.

For the past few months, Mary Lou has hid­den the cut­ting she’s been do­ing from her fam­ily. But they have been a great sup­port sys­tem for her through­out the years.

With them, along with her psy­chi­a­trist, she has taken some big steps in her re­cov­ery.

“That’s how it stops,” she ex­plained. “When some­one gives a shit, you have a rea­son to stop.”

But there are days when Mary Lou is over­whelmed, but has to fake it in public, es­pe­cially in cer­tain larger stores where she feels par­tic­u­larly anx­ious.

“You’re try­ing to keep up an ap­pear­ance when all you want to do is cut some­one’s head off, or your own,” she said.

Some­times she gets an urge to “feel nor­mal.” One way she does that is through cut­ting her­self. See­ing the blood and feel­ing the pain has a calm­ing ef­fect for her.

“You bleed and you’re nor­mal,” she said.

Ad­vice for teens

She knows young peo­ple may be us­ing it as a cop­ing mech­a­nism, but it be­comes an ad­dic­tion.

“If they don’t get help for it, it’s no dif­fer­ent than be­ing ad­dicted to co­caine.”

She knows it’s a battle she will go through her whole life. But Mary Lou doesn’t want to see young peo­ple fall into the same habits she has.

“All I can say is just get help,” she said. “Don’t think you’re alone. There’s lot of peo­ple out there that can help you.”

One mech­a­nism used to help stop some­one from cut­ting is a rub­ber band on the wrist. The per­son wear­ing it would snap it in­stead of cut­ting.

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