DEAR READERS: I promised ”Heartbroken Mom From Anywhere” (Oct.

5) to print letters from readers offering suggestions about helping

her teen daughter, who is a cutter:

DEAR ABBY: I am a 33-year-old woman who has cut for many years,

starting early in high school. What concerns me is the mom doesn’t

completely understand what’s going on. Not many people do.

Self-harm is a cry for help from someone who doesn’t know how to

voice his or her emotions. I, too, was bullied and didn’t know how

to express the pain I was feeling, so I took it out on my body. Over

the years it became my coping mechanism, although an unhealthy one.

Helping someone who is self-harming requires understanding AND A

LICENSED PROFESSIONAL to identify the emotions and suggest better

ways to express them. One that worked for me was doing puzzles. It

was a way to keep my mind and hands busy.

This teen also needs to know she is not alone. Parents need to

listen. I cannot stress how important it is for cutters to know

someone is there for them with love and no judgment. — KNOWS FROM

EXPERIENCE IN MISSOURI

DEAR ABBY: I grew up in a dysfunctional household with abusive

parents. When I would cut, it was like I could feel all my pent-up

emotions leaking out through the wounds on my legs. The physical

pain was bearable and distracted me from everything that was going

on in my life, and I would feel a little bit better about myself and

a little less desperate.

Cutting is a powerful addiction. Even now, more than 10 years

later, when things get bad I feel a compulsion to just make one

small cut. What helped me to stop cutting wasn’t counseling or

medication. It was becoming passionate about active hobbies that

allowed me to release my bottled-up feelings and stress and feel

good at the same time. — FORMER CUTTER IN MINNESOTA

DEAR ABBY: I have worked in psychiatry for 10 years and have

found that some of these children have been sexually molested. Some

told their parents and were not believed because it was the mother’s

boyfriend, a family friend or a relative. Carrying this around is a

heavy burden.

Parents need to show the child they will look into the

allegation. We should be a safe place for our kids to offload all

their fears and insecurities, because we have a duty to protect them

from abuse. — IN THE FIELD IN BROOKLYN, N.Y.

DEAR ABBY: I have been a cutter from age 9 to the present — age

22 — though now it’s less frequent. The biggest mistake my parents

and friends made when I was really destructive was forcing me to

commit to ultimatums. It turned my cutting into a shameful thing,

isolated me and made it impossible to talk about it.

I advise ”Heartbroken” to keep talking to her daughter (not

nagging) about cutting, bullying, school and things the girl likes.

Share activities with her. Take her hiking, bicycling, to museums or

movies. Spending time with her is important for distraction and

bonding. Physical activity can help depressed individuals feel

better.

And she should understand that recovery is never a straight

line. There will be hiccups, setbacks and days when it doesn’t seem

like it will get better. Eventually, with therapy (via counselors,

bonding with friends/family, connection with nature/animals) and

learning better coping habits, she will improve. Patience and

support are imperative. — KYLE IN PENNSYLVANIA

******

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne

Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact

Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA

90069.


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