Dear Counselor,

Yesterday I have tortured my self again and I am afraid to relive the details. No offense to you of course but I must tell you my family isn’t much of the religious type. In fact I havn’t been to church sence I was five. I do agree with you about getting help But its to hard right now. I do not think I can just stop after all these years of doing it and keeping it a secret to tell some one this week. I realy realy don;t know what to do. I am afraid to be alone and yet I want to be alone. I am 13 years old and will be 14 this october and I have done this sort of stuff since I was 8 years old or since 4th grade to tell you the truth I don’t even remember when I started it was so long ago. the good news is I have stopped cutting my arm but the bad is I continue to lay on tacks and sharp Items. I nead help I now! But I don’t now how to get it.


Dear G.,
Here are some teens explaining what happens when they self-injury:

“Self injury to me is when u look for a release, and that comes in self harm to a particular problem that you face, it calms u and takes out ur anger which u can’t express any otha way”

“self injusring is when u do sumthing harmful to ur body, whether it be cutting, burning, etc. its a release…a way to get pain out…a way to release it that u mite not be able to get from talking or writing or anything else.”

“i self injure because i have so much pain and anger built up inside and i don’t have or know any other way of letting it out.”

Can you identify with any of these teens, G.? Most teens who self-mutilate talk about the anger and the pent-up feelings they experience and the need to let those feelings out. One teen puts it this way: I don’t cry because I cut, I cut because I cry!

One of the only ways to manage this destructive behavior is to admit how destructive it is and that it is not working – that you need to express your feelings in a healthy way. Under the behavior you are hurting – you are angry, lonely, depressed, stressed, punishing yourself, fearful, sad and desperately looking to relieve your feelilngs. Many people say they get a “high” from self-injury. That “high” quickly dissolves into feelings of guilt, self-loathing, more depresion and anger and a sense of failure. What is the answer? Truly, the need you have is a spiritual one. You are right in that the answer is not religion – but, the answer lies in a person you can authentically relate to – Jesus.

But, it seems that you are not ready to get help. That means you really don’t want to change. I can’t make you change – no one can. It will have to start with you. Consider the following and see if you might do something differently – take a step towards healing and wholeness.

Decide to make a change because changing is the healthy thing to do. Changing your behavior will change your feelings and give you satifaction that you are making progress. Adults and teens tend to rely on their feelings as a measure of how they will behave in this world. Feelings are deceptive but are an indicator that there may be an issue to deal with. Will every disappointment, feeling of hopelessness and fear drive you to self-mutilate? Or will you decide to fight this drive and addiction to numb the inner pain with external pain?

Telling someone: Maybe your parents are not the ones to tell – but. you must have an adult you can trust and can talk to. First you need counseling and a physical exam. See the American Association of Christian Counselors directory to find a professional in your area who will help you deal with this issue or see your school counselor – who will have experience helping teens who self-mutilate.

Identify new ways to respond:
I have another idea, G. Why don’t you try three things before you torture yourself? You have come to me for help. So, now take some of my professional advice.

Commit to doing 3 things before you torture yourself (maybe you have some other healthy ideas to try).

1. Pray.

You need a higher power to help you. You may not be religious but, anyone can talk to God. Even the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous teaches to begin with admitting you have a problem and can’t handle it yourself and that you need to turn to God for help.

2. Express yourself:

Write out what you are feeling. What is the pain? What is the anger? Are you taking out your anger towards someone else on yourself? Maybe this is anger turned inward. What disappointment just occurred to make you feel helpless and hopeless about life?

Or call a friend, Aunt or Uncle and talk about what is goind on in your life. You don’t have to start out by telling that you torture yourself. You can just talk about what is disturbing you – whether it’s your parents or school or feeling bad about your life.

3. Do something productive:

Get out of the house and go for a walk or ride your bike. Or go to a shopping mall and walk in-doors. You need to exercise and think about what is going on. Or begin a hobby such as photography. Take pictures of the world around you and see the world in a different way.

I am challenging you G to start doing something. Only you can change yourself. No one else can. You an anonymously email someone like me or chat on some discussion board – dropping your pain but, you don’t deal with it and the issue of self-torture never gets resolved.

You don’t face the fact that you have a serious disorder. You need to get professional help but, you won’t. As long as you keep this a secret and don’t take serious steps to change – you will stay where you are – laying on tacks and sharp objects. It’s your inner self that is tortured… your inner self that needs comfort, hope and power to stop mutilating yourself and get on with life. Get on to a better life – the one that God has for you.

Read Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren and An Anchor for the Soul: Help for the Present, Hope for the Future by Pastor Ray Pritchard. You need to see that there is a purpose for your life and you can discover a personal relationship with God if you really want to.

What’s behind the pain and emptiness and self-loathing you have? Maybe you are angry about your life, can’t forgive someone, lost someone when you first started self-mutilating? Maybe you were abused? Go to this site for Christian Self-Injury Resources. Explore what’s going on underneath. Maybe you are dealing with other issues of depression, guilt, bipolar, drug abuse, adhd, etc. Counseling can really help. Being in a community of Christians and talking with a Pastor can help.

© copyright 2004 by Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC