“I need to show you something.”
That’s what I heard as a friend came to sit down where I was eating. She sounded serious, but I didn’t know what might be going on.
She looked around to be sure nobody was watching. Then she held her arm close to her body to shield it from other people and then turned the arm over. I saw several small cut marks. It was shocking to see, even though there weren’t nearly as many cuts as shown in the picture above.
I knew that my friend had been having problems and needed counseling. I knew she had done minor cutting earlier in her teen-age years. I even knew she had been having more problems lately. But I didn’t know she was feeling like doing this again. I asked her why she was doing it.
“I wanted to feel something,” she said.
I’ve read a lot about cutting in an effort to understand it. I’ve encountered it before — all in teen-age girls — and everyone I’ve seen it affect has seemed to get over it in time, usually with good counseling. From everything I’ve read and the few I’ve talked with who’ve been affected by it, it seems that the people who go through this have been experiencing intense, out-of-control emotions. They seem to have repressed the intensity of the hurtful emotions they feel so much that they end up numb.
Some things I’ve read say that girls who cut themselves have pushed their feelings aside so much that they feel as though they don’t exist anymore. Inflicting pain on themselves in minor ways is a relief valve, because it allows them to feel something for a change.
I’m not going to give you any details that could give away who this young woman is, because some people who read this know her. I’ll just say that her home life is such that she’s miserably unhappy and feels completely powerless. She feels invisible and isolated. And she has no idea where to turn for help.
I haven’t figured out anything I can do to help this friend. Talking to anybody involved would probably just make matters worse. If I thought she were suicidal, I’d feel compelled to get her help no matter what. But the problem isn’t anywhere near there, as far as I can tell. I just don’t know where it’s going to lead. And that’s breaking my heart.
I’ve seen studies estimating how widespread cutting is claim that 17 percent of teens harm themselves in some way, but I’ve also seen studies claiming the true figure is more like 46 percent. All I know is that it’s a lot more widespread than I once realized.
I don’t have anything profound to say about this. I haven’t figured out how to help my friend. It just frustrates me when people I care about are in pain and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m afraid the percentage of people who are hurting on the inside — and maybe hurting themselves on the outside in order to feel what they’ve become numb about — is higher than we might realize.
As you walk around and see people acting happy, friendly and functional, realize that for some percentage of them, that’s just an act. A lot of the people we meet are hurting.
Although there’s a lot of dispute about the original source of the line, I like a quote that says, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Many of the people around you today and tomorrow and every day are fighting very difficult battles — in their own minds, in their own hearts, in their homes, in their workplaces and in plenty of other ways.
Be kind and loving to someone today. It might make a difference for someone who’s hurting and who just needs to feel alive.