Adults self-harm too
CBN woman shares her struggles with cutting
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.