a blog about daughters in crisis and the moms who love them

Archive for the tag “self-injury”

Feeling Out of Control?

Trident rocket spinningMany who face issues like self-injury or eating disorders say they decided to try it because they felt like life was out of control. Cutting or self-imposed food rules sound like ways to exert control that people hope will eventually allow them to regain it in other aspects of life.

I find this line of reasoning very interesting. And I say this as someone who dabbled with anorexic tendencies as a teen. This is the precisely the path my mind took when I decided to limit my calories down to a specific weight goal.

The behavior honestly did make me feel like I had more control over my life – initially. While I had limited choices about certain things as a teen (which is typical in a normal family where parents are in charge like they ought to be), in my mind I was too restricted, too watched, too controlled. I was somewhat rebellious, angry. And there were likely things happening at school and socially, too, that contributed to this mindset (but not big enough things that I remember them now).

Harnessing my body to my whims and desires meant that I could decide what to eat, when, and how much. I could decide how I wanted it to look.

I know others who describe their thought process about these behaviors in much the same way.

Eventually, though, it dawns upon the consciousness that this pursuit of control through self-destructive habits has slowly, methodically and insipidly gained a hold on one’s mind, heart and daily life. It begins to feel an awful lot like the thoughts, motives, and behaviors have, ahem, taken CONTROL!

Yeah. That must be why these things are often called “life-controlling” issues, huh?

So the moral of this story is slow down and be careful when you start to feel like life is out of control. Reach out to someone you trust who can look at your situation objectively. Ask them if they think things are as bad as you feel they are. Maybe they are. If they are, I’m so sorry. Please don’t try to carry your burdens alone. Reach out and get the help that you need to get through this. You can get through it.

Maybe, though, life really isn’t as bad as it feels. Maybe talking about it and looking at it from fresh eyes will push a reset button within you that will refresh your mind. Even better, ask someone to pray with you.

The best time to stop a life-controlling behavior is before it starts. Scars, possible health issues, emotional upheaval, relationship difficulties, and social awkwardness can all be part of the package. Think it through. There are better ways of coping, believe me. Avoid the regret.

As hard as it may seem right now, your life is actually much more under control than it will be if you start cutting or stop eating.

Don’t let the pursuit of control take control of you. You are worth too much.

You Are Not Alone

Discovering that your daughter struggles with an issue like self-injury disrupts your equilibrium. While more and more families are affected by this issue, it’s still uncommon enough that it can make you feel isolated, alone and misunderstood.

I felt desolate and devastated when it all started. I had never heard of self-injury. I knew nothing about it and was totally baffled by it. Why would someone consider hurting themselves?

I started trying to educate myself, but my sense of isolation was actually compounded by my research. I kept finding psychological banter laden with heavy doses of guilt about the types of family situations or life events that made people want to resort to harming themselves. Our family didn’t match the profiles I read about, but I couldn’t help absorbing shame and guilt and culpability nonetheless.

For the sake of my daughter, myself and my family, I made up my mind to continue reaching out until I found the sources of empathy, support and wise counsel we all needed. I wanted real answers and real solutions, not just pills and positive thinking. I found what I was looking for. Best of all, I found out what powerful things God can do in these situations. He put incredible people upon our path who walked alongside us and helped us tremendously. Our sense of aloneness gradually faded. Healing began for all of us. God is good.

You can find the support you need too. I invite you start here. Send me an email at spoudazo.blog@gmail.com.

How To Read The Signs An At-Risk Girl Gives Us

One of my greatest regrets is failing to intervene sooner when my daughter’s trouble started. If this blog can help even one family confidently take action before their daughter starts walking through the Valley of High-Risk Behavior, it will be more than worth every keystroke and late night. As a disclaimer, I do not pretend to be a credentialed expert on this topic. My assertions, however, are backed up by research and I will gladly share my sources.

Looking back with accuracy is much easier, sometimes, than seeing the present correctly. I noticed issues that seemed relatively small and amorphous early on. Tessa had a hard time interpreting “girl politics” as early as kindergarten. We worked on it, but nothing seemed to stick too well. She complained about it from time to time, but she also formed a couple of close friendships and seemed happy in general. Until 5th grade. That year, some of her classmates reached the cusp of puberty. A child’s brain transforms from primarily “black and white” thinking to abstract thinking at this juncture. This takes girl politics to a whole new level.

My daughter had not entered puberty yet, but she picked up on the new and different ways her peers were behaving. It was difficult, I’m sure, to articulate her concerns. Tessa was undoubtedly even more bewildered than ever by the cattiness, strife, positioning, and subtle bullying. She began asking if she could be homeschooled. We talked about it and considered it as a family, but it didn’t seem like the situation warranted such a dramatic change. It all seemed like normal kid stuff at that point. I should have listened better. If there were do-overs, I would take one for this decision. Giving a child the opportunity to step away from what, to her, is an overwhelming situation can lead to great strides in social development, self-esteem, and happiness. With the vast array of choices we have now to educate our children, it really can be a terrific option.

It seemed we were muddling through the transition from elementary to middle school. Tessa wasn’t elated, but she wasn’t completely miserable, either. She always made the honor roll, had a variety of interests, and thought often of the future. By 7th grade, however, we had a situation on our hands. The social environment at school had very definable fissures by now. Tessa, like nearly all of the girls, was in a group. Her group was populated by only a few: smart, sensitive, artsy types who made a point of eschewing their “preppy” peers for an endless string of reasons. In and of itself, this type of group is perfectly fine. But Tessa felt like it was her only option, and that WAS a problem. This, along with timing, cultural influences, and peer pressure were the breezes that built into a storm of darkness.

For my girl, the hormonal changes of puberty, the popularity of the emo subculture and its accompanying associations with self-harm / cutting (I realize that many insist quite forcefully there is no correlation. Based on my experience and my research, there certainly is in our case. Perhaps your experience is different. I’m sure it can vary by geography, age, how seriously one devotes themselves to it, etc.), and the modeling of risky behavior by some kids she looked up to all converged quickly and destructively.

Jumping forward, Tessa was diagnosed with major depression her 8th-grade year. Below, I’ve listed the symptoms of depression. When I found out that sustained anger and irritability can often be the loudest signals of depression in a child or teen, I was surprised. Please take note. Your daughter will thank you later. Many of the other symptoms on the list were absent or transitory, but chronic irritation stuck around and, I’m sure, contributed to the social marginalization my daughter felt she was experiencing.

There is some family history of depression, but what I saw in my afflicted relatives looked very different from what I saw in Tessa.

The bottom line is that we got behind the curve. It’s been much more difficult to catch up, clean up, and get ahead of it again than it would have been to stay in front from the outset. It sounds trite, but it really is better to be pro-active than reactive. I am not one to be an alarmist. I think far too many kids are put through the wringer of misdiagnosis and over-reaction. But the transition into puberty is a fragile time for girls. Some are more fragile than others. Stay connected even when you are pushed away and be ready to intervene decisively if concerning signs persist. She is worth it.

Signs A Child or Teen Is Depressed

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, any of these symptoms occurring over an extended period of time may mean a child is depressed :

  • Frequent sadness, tearfulness, and/or crying
  • Hopelessness
  • Decreased interest in activities or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities.
  • Persistent boredom; low energy. “The hallmark of depression is this inability to have joy,” Dolgan says. “There’s this low energy, this shutting away, shutting down.”
  • Social isolation, poor communication. “A child given the opportunity to play with friends who prefers to be alone” may be depressed, Dolgan says.
  • Low self-esteem and guilt. “The kids feel they’re not good or not worth very much,” Dolgan says. “I often ask, ‘Are you important to somebody?’ Depressed kids say no.”
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches. “A lot of these kids have physical illnesses for no real cause, especially stomachaches and headaches,” Dolgan says.
  • Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school.
  • Poor concentration
  • A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
  • Talk of or efforts to run away from home
  • Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behavior

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