Warning: This post deals with self harm. Its content, and specific words used throughout the piece, may be triggering for some readers.
I found her slumped over the toilet bowl which in itself, was unusual. She wasn’t sick but she “couldn’t go to school” she said. It was her first day back after a long hiatus and I was running late for work and honestly, my first instinct was to tell her to stop being ridiculous. That’s when I saw it. Or I should say, saw them. They weren’t overly obvious, just fine little lines extending out from under her pajama shorts.
They weren’t deep, they were more like grazes but they were definite lines drawn with something sharp (later found to be a razor) on her upper thigh. “WHAT is that?!” I asked and pointed, my voice raised.
I panicked, I admit it. I just totally panicked and I am ashamed to admit that I handled it poorly. I think I just went into Mamma Bear, worst case scenario mode and instead of my first instinct being one to nurture, it was one of pure, surreal, terrifying fear.
She ran into her room to escape her now, rather scary mother and I followed. I sat across from her, calmed down and told her to tell me what was going on. She was crying, I was crying, her brothers were knocking on the locked door, wondering what was going on. In short, everyone was petrified. It was less than ideal.
She soon admitted that she had only been ‘cutting’ or self harming for a few days. She was starting to question her sexuality and it was all she could think about. That cutting helped her to feel in control and that “everyone was doing it”. The last bit threw me and as tempted as I was to pull the old “If everyone jumped off a cliff would you do it too?”
I realised that I wouldn’t be helping the situation.
Instead I tried to reassure her that it didn’t matter if she liked girls or if she liked boys or even if she liked both. She would like who she would like and love who she would love. But I knew this was easier for me to say than it would be for a 14-year-old to believe.
I’ll admit, it absolutely blindsided me. I thought I would always realise when my daughter was hurting. It really, just made me so incredibly sad that I was right there, all the time, yet I’d totally missed it. Here I was, telling anyone who would listen that we had a very close, cool relationship yet here she was, in turmoil and taking to her beautiful, untouched skin with a razor.
Of course, I wanted to fix her immediately. I suddenly longed for the innocence of yesterday’s eye rolling and smart retorts. My main priority was to work out how to help her. And I was utterly lost. I Googled ‘self harm’ which just sent me further into a rabbit hole and confused and frightened me even more. Really, too much information can be a very bad thing.