Em shares her story and gives an outside perspective on what it’s like to watch a loved one struggle with self-harm.
How did you learn about your friend’s self-harming habits?
Em: “He told me. I was 14 at the time, and he was 16. There was minor cutting on his wrists and forearms, and it had apparently gone on for a couple of years. He had gotten help when we first started dating, and stopped cutting for a while, but then started doing it again toward the end of our relationship. Only a few friends and family knew.”
What did you do in response to finding out about his self-harm?
Em: “I supported him. I understood how he felt and how difficult it could be. One of the things that caused him to self-harm was a bad relationship with his mom. I respected him for getting help and tried to take care of him and be there for him.
“He was too afraid to tell his family that he was cutting because of his mom, so he blamed it on me. He needed more help than I could give him and offer him. The blame he put on me instead of his mom strained our relationship and ultimately ended it. He wasn’t being honest, and he was pushing me away by making me feel guilty for something I hadn’t done. He took his anger towards his mom out on me.”
This was seven years ago. Have you heard anything from him recently? Do you know how he’s doing?
Em: “He seems to be doing well now. He took a break from school after he graduated high school. Last I know, he was doing well. He got help after we broke up (I think it was a wake-up call to him). He was hurting his life in more ways than the cuts and scars.”
As someone from the outside, what do you think the misconceptions that society has about cutting/self-harm?
Em: “A lot of people see it as a method of seeking attention, but I know that in many cases, people will cut because it makes the person feel better. Instead of shaming people for it, help that person find help and a different way to cope.
Also, many people think that this is just something that female teens/pre-teens do. There’s an equal playing field in teens for men and women. People seem to be surprised when they see a male self-harm. I think there’s a higher rate of self-harm in college, just not the type that people automatically assume (drinking, drugs, etc.)
What did you learn from this experience?
Em: “Everyone has hard times. For some people, those hard times are harder to manage than others. It doesn’t make them weak, everyone just deals with things in different ways. As much as it’s important to help those people, you also have to stay strong yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in their mind set, and that can hurt you. The best way to help them is to step back from the situation by finding a variety of outlets for them to use.”
Advice to any other people who have a loved one that self harms?
Em: “Support them. Stay optimistic. Just because that person is going through a rough time right now, doesn’t mean you’re losing them or that they’re changing. They’re not changing who they are. It’s just a place where they are in their life; but it’s not a place in their life where they’ll always be.”