My Self-Injury Experience
Janay is 18 years old and has been engaging in self-injurious behaviors since she was 13. Here, she talks about why she first started self-injuring, how she became suicidally depressed and later developed an eating disorder.
17 is the number of hospitalizations for cutting and suicidal ideation that Janay has been through. She has since stopped self-injuring but continues to struggle with an eating disorder.
Janay also related her version of what it's like to tell your parents about the self-injury, her experiences with treatment for self-injury, and her battle to not SI. We also talked a bit about being a black woman who self-injures.
Audience members also shared their experiences with cutting, ranging from how to handle it to what made them realize they needed to stop harming themselves.
David Roberts is the HealthyPlace.com moderator.
The people in blue are audience members.
David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to HealthyPlace.com. Our topic tonight is "Self Injury Experience." Our guest is Janay, one of the journalers in the HealthyPlace.com Self-Injury Community.
Our plan for tonight was to have 2 guests, but one of the guests had an emergency and had to cancel at the last minute. So, I'm going to interview Janay for about 20 minutes, then open the floor to audience questions. Also, tonight, I would be interested in hearing from audience members who have received any type of treatment for self-injury. I'd like to know what kind of treatment it was (weekly therapy, out or inpatient hospitalization) and if you thought it was effective or not and why. I'm hoping that sharing this information will be helpful to everyone here.
Now onto our guest. Janay is 18 years old. She had been engaging in self-injurious behaviors for about 5 years. She says "my most recent therapist terminated treatment because I am 'cured,' meaning I am no longer an active self-injurer and I'm not suicidally depressed." Janay also has an eating disorder which she finds is growing worse because, as she says, "I no longer have razor relief." (Read here: types of eating disorders)
Good evening, Janay, and welcome to HealthyPlace.com. You started self-injuring when you were 13 years old. Do you remember why and what that was like for you at that young age?
Janay: Hi. I don't really know why I started. It was just a test of endurance at first.
David: Can you explain that further, please?
Janay: I think I read a book about a cutter and wanted to see how strong I was.
David: And why did you continue after that?
Janay: I cut with a piece of a broken lightbulb, so light it barely broke the skin. I did that when I was 12 and didn't do it again for another year. I remember being late to school one day and, as I was crossing the grass, just for no reason turned around and went to a corner of the school campus and cut myself with an Exacto knife.
David: What is it that you got out of doing that?
Janay: I was really kind of upset from the night before and that morning over a fight with my mom. I was angry and upset and felt like I'd freak out at school if I went. I had the Exacto knife on me because I used to help my mom with various crafts. I also kept it with me as a "just in case" type thing; security for cutting, though I'd never used it for that before that day.
David: From previous guests, we have learned that many people start self-injuring possibly as a way to handle certain feelings stemming from sexual abuse. Is that the case with you?
Janay: Ummm... Yeah, I guess you could say that, but I'm reluctant to blame my self-injury on that.
David: In the letter you sent me, you said: "I (used to) self injure because it was the only way I knew to relieve extreme stress or emotion, i.e pain. The more extreme the pain or confusion, the less I felt, so the deeper I cut." Since this was going on for 5 years, I'm wondering if your parents knew about it and if so, how they reacted to it?
Janay: Actually, my mom didn't find out about it until I was about 15, and that happened during my sophomore year of high school. A few of my friends knew I cut. They told the teacher and the teacher called my mom. Everything went crazy after that. She called me names, yelled, hit me, and threatened repeatedly to send me to the hospital (though she'd been threatening that for about a year because she said my behavior was out of control).
David: So, to put it mildly, she didn't take it too well. I'm wondering if that was because she heard it through a third party, your teacher, rather than through you. It must have been a shock for her.
Janay: I think it was more that she was ashamed of me - having a crazy daughter. When I was younger I was "so smart, so pretty, I could be whatever I wanted," and then they found out about my cousin (child sexual abuse) from someone else. She was mad that I didn't tell her, and since that happened I sorta stopped talking to her; like being rude, withdrawn, disrespectful, to say the least. She was just disappointed in me, that I turned out the way I am.
David: We have a lot of audience questions for you, Janay. I want to get to a few, then we'll talk about what kind of treatment for self-injury you received and whether it helped or not. I'm also going to post the audience responses to that later.
David: Here's the first question:
shylacious: Did you feel betrayed by your friends?
Janay: Oh, very much so! I was furious, but at the same time, it made me feel good that they even cared enough to tell. I didn't talk to them for a long time though.
David: Here are a couple of audience comments on what's been said so far:
BelleAngel: I don't understand why I do this!
loonee: I started self-injuring when I was 15. Now I am 22 and stopped doing it at the end of last year. I wanted to stop because I knew it was getting out of hand - cuts were reaching muscle. I was getting nerve damage. I saw a therapist, told my mum, and stopped lying to myself. Every day is a battle to not SI but, so far, I am getting there.
jess_d: The best thing to do is to be honest with your friends and don't take what they say too seriously because they probably don't fully understand the problem.
space715: I just wanted to say that my therapist is insisting that if I cut again, she will have to tell my parents about my SI. I am very concerned that my parents will have a reaction similar to your mom's. Any suggestion on how to handle that?
Janay: I don't think anything I'd suggest would be helpful, space. If it were me, I wouldn't tell my therapist if I cut. I hate being threatened with anything. It wouldn't serve an actual purpose for the therapist to tell your parents. It would only cause more problems. Try to explain that to her.
To loonee: I know it's hard not to cut; I'm there myself. Congratulations on not cutting for so long :-)
David: space715, I also want to mention that we've had several experts on to talk about how to address your parents on this issue. You can read the transcripts here.
I want to add, too, that hopefully not all parents will react the same way as Janay's mom did in this instance. From everything I've read and heard, it's difficult to recover from any psychological disorder without support.
Janay, I want to get into the treatment issues now. Can you tell us about that? When was the first time you received professional treatment and what were the circumstances?
Janay: The first time I was hospitalized, I was 14, but it wasn't for anything real. My mom said I was a smart ass, so she put me in the hospital to scare me.
Hospitalizations for cutting and suicide attempts: I've been in about 17 times since I was 14, not counting a 6-month stay in a (crappy) residential treatment center. Most of my stays were only 3-5 days because of insurance. A lot were just for "suicidal ideation," 2 for overdoses. And the cops put me in a few times because my mom told them I was suicidal. I've been through so many therapists, I've lost count. There were only two that I ever "cooperated" with. I don't like therapists.
David: So, in combination with the self-injury, you were suffering from depression. That's not unusual. Did you get anything positive out of treatment/therapy?
Janay: Yeah, I am diagnosed with depression, and anorexia, bulimia, and OCD, and a billion other things. Out of hospitalizations? Not particularly, no. I learned to hide what I was doing, better. I got sicker in the hospital. Whenever I was in, I wouldn't eat anything. It caused a lot of problems, mainly pissing off the staff, and when I got out, I'd continue that. And I'd always take razors into the unit. They never checked me good enough. I think they were incompetent, and I was sneaky and didn't want help. I hated them. I see no point in hospitalization because if I want to hurt myself, I can do it in the hospital or at home. They can't stop me.
David: You still sound very angry and like you are still dealing with a lot of issues, including depression and the eating disorder. How did you manage to stop self-injuring? How long ago was that? And how did that come about?
Janay: No, I'm not quite so depressed anymore. As for stopping - it caused a lot of problems with my "sorta girlfriend" Sarah. On new year's day, I cut myself at her house and she cried for a long time. I felt awful because I realized that it was my fault. I was screwing things up. I was hurting her. She made me promise not to do it again two weeks prior to that night. I broke that promise once. I won't ever again. I love(d) her so much, and I lost her. The cutting was only one of many things, but I'll never lose another person I love over something that I can control, over something so completely stupid and useless. So I haven't cut since that night, though I've had urges to cut and I've come really close.
David: We have a lot of questions and a lot of comments. I'm going to post the audience comments first, then we will get right to the questions. Here are the comments about things we've talked about so far:
jjjamms: My current therapist allows me to talk about all the aspects of self-injuring, unlike other therapists I have seen. It has helped me to realize just what I am doing to myself and why. Journaling is a great way to head off self-injury. I make myself journal a whole page about how I am feeling before I self injure. That either lessens the severity of the SI or stops it most times now. At first, it was hard to "make" myself journal about feelings at all.
shylacious: I think you look beautiful now (from your picture in your diary), and thanks for talking to us!!
jess_d: I had the same problem. When I was in the hospital, I'd be put in isolation for messing up and when I'd get out, I'd be so pissed I'd slam my head against walls and want to hurt myself even more.
loonee: I think that most mothers are very concerned to learn that their daughter/son is doing this. My mother overreacted (my opinion at the time at least), but I understand how it must feel to be presented with the news that the daughter you thought you knew thinks that she must physically injure herself to handle the pain going on inside her. I actually found that my mum was very relieved to find out why I was depressed.
jess_d: Sometimes, it does help to tell your parents about self-injury.
space715: I have thought about stopping seeing my therapist because of her threats to tell.
Myst15ical: Don't be afraid of what others have to say. This is something that I have dealt with a long time and people don't understand, so they say dumb things. Get help!! Don't be afraid to get help because we all need help. You can't do this on your own.
lonelyhearted: I haven't cut in almost a year and I know how hard it is. I pray that you can continue on the same path.
KarinAnne: Is anyone a parent that SI's? I have two children and sometimes they are the only thing (next to my therapist) that keeps me from hurting myself.
David: Janay, here is the next question:
MansonNails: I'd like to know what it was about the therapists Janay didn't like and how could they have acted differently that perhaps may have gotten Janay to be helped more by them?
Janay: Well, basically they would tell my mom the majority of the things I said and they would tell me how I felt when no one but me knows how I feel. I resented that. I had (still have?) a bad ass attitude and if I decided I didn't like someone initially, that was just it. They were too condescending towards me. I didn't want to be treated like a two-year-old.
Marquea: What things are you doing now to keep you from Self-Injury?
Janay: I work and I go to ROP. It's like job training. It's in a daycare. I can't be around the kids with fresh wounds. As it is, they see my scars. They finger them. They say "Miss Janay, what happened?" They say "Miss Janay has a lot of owies." It makes me want to cry. If only for them, I can't do it. They don't need to be exposed to that.
I'm determined to be functional - work. I have scars, deep ones, all over my left arm that will never go away. Employers don't want to hire someone with tons of scars. I have enough; I don't need to make new ones. People talk, anyway. People ask, they're nosy.
cassiana1975: Have you taken meds in order to stop SI-ing?
Janay: I used to. Not for the SI though, for depression and stuff. I stopped because they made me either incredibly nervous to where I was shaking constantly or they made me gain weight and worsened my eating habits. I don't take meds anymore, and I'm fine.
David: Here are some more audience comments, then we'll get to the next question:
jjjamms: I kept my SI a secret for over 35 years. My earliest memory of SI was at 5 years old. I think it must be really hard on children or teenagers. I didn't even know other people did what I was doing until about 5 years ago!
loonee: I thought therapists weren't allowed to tell anything you said to them. Mine never did. I decided for myself to tell my mum. My shrink had nothing to do with that.
jess_d: Being in the hospital was the worst thing in the world for me. It did absolutely nothing. I also want to say that not all parents have the same reaction as Janay's mom. My parents got me help and supported me completely in my struggle to stop and still support me even when I have relapses.
hurtin: I changed to a therapist that I can talk to about any aspect of my self injuring without them trying to save me. That helps immeasurably. I am currently dealing with sporadic bouts, rather than it being a daily ritual.
David: Here's the next question:
loonee: Janay, did you find that hearing of the experiences and methods of others triggered you to injure more?
Janay: Not really. It makes me sad, and I want to help them. It doesn't trigger me unless I am unstable at the time and wanting to cut already.
rekowall: How do you keep from cutting when the need becomes unbearable?
Janay: I think of the kids. I'm going to be a preschool teacher. It isn't something a teacher does. Or I cry and hyperventilate ( a lot), but afterwards, I'm exhausted and I fall asleep.
space715: Hospitalization has been suggested to me if I can't keep from SI-ing. What do you do in the hospital?
Janay: For me, the hospital is a bunch of BS. I've heard people say it was positive for them though. Basically, you wake up at 6 a.m., have morning group, breakfast, shower and have about a million more groups all day; like anger management, drug and alcohol group, affirmation, occupational therapy, etc. Things that cover the "issues" of the majority of patients along with a 5-minute daily meeting with a psychiatrist who puts you on meds. You'll see this person maybe a total of 20-30 minutes your whole stay.
David: Here's an audience suggestion on how to keep from cutting when you feel the need to:
KarinAnne: I've used rubber bands (to snap on my wrist) at times, but it's been 2 weeks and tension mounts when I don't take things out on myself.
David: Janay, I have a question, and I want to add here that I am not putting you down, but I'm wondering if you felt if you just weren't ready for treatment. We had a guest recently who said, if you are not ready for treatment, there's nothing in the world anyone can do to help.
Janay: I wasn't ready for treatment. I had nothing else to hold onto. They were trying to take away my coping methods without replacing them with ones I found were adequate replacements.
MellyNCo: It sounds like past therapists were violating Janay's confidentiality, and the resentment is understandable. However, I'd like to ask Janay, if you stop injuring for other people, instead of yourself, does that also stir up resentment?
Janay: It depends on the person. To be honest, I wouldn't do it for myself. I hate myself, which is something I'm still trying to get over. If I love a person, I'd do anything for them. It doesn't make me resent them because I love them. I don't know - it's different. I need that motivation from another person.
David: How has the self-injurious behavior affected your other relationships, in terms of having friends, etc.?
Janay: I've lost a lot of them. I push people away... I hide things... I'm tired of losing people over it.
David: What do you tell people (adults) about your scars, if they ask?
Janay: lol, at school the counselor told me to tell people I got bit by a dog, but the scars are obviously intentional. If a person is nosy enough to ask, I tell the truth. "I got upset, I took a razor, pressed it down and pulled it across my arm." Good for shock value anyway; they leave me alone. If they don't go away and they ask more, I walk away. It annoys me.
David: Here are some more audience comments on what we're talking about tonight:
loonee: I told my mum I was attacked by a dog before I told her the truth. I still say that to anyone who asks. I wasn't ready for treatment for about 5 years. I didn't want to stop. It was all I knew would stop the pain, even if only temporarily. I have tried to stop for other people; it worked for a while but eventually, I got sick of it. I just hid it better. I wore long sleeves and withdrew from them. I had to want it for myself before I could stop.
rotten_insides: One night, while I was having a cigarette outside at a concert, I overheard these 12-15-year-olds talking FREELY about how they CUT themselves and how DEPRESSED they are. I was standing behind them, watching them and feeling ill while listening to them speak of slicing open their arms and how it's "cool" watching the blood run down your arm. One says, "if you use a razor blade, you can actually cut REALLY deep and watch your wound split wide open." The other says, "Yeah, but I'm too scared to hurt myself."
Janay: rotten, I see that too. I think those kids do it because, for some reason, it's become the "cool" reject thing to do. At school, kids would draw wounds on their arms or write things like "insert razor here" on their wrists.
rotten_insides: I just don't understand people that would go around showing off their scars.
shylacious: Here's what helped me. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), for dealing with sexual abuse memories, led to a decrease in panic. Celexa dealt with depression. It's easier to not cut. It's been one month.
tinirini2000: Do you feel better now that things seem to be coming together?
Janay: Yea, I do. I am proud of myself for coming this far.
tinirini2000: That's really good, Janay. I'm really proud of you! You have come a long way! :-)
jess_d: I think it's really great that you're talking to people about this. I know for me it makes me feel like I'm not alone in my struggle.
David: One other thing I wanted to touch on tonight, Janay. You are a black woman. I have been with HealthyPlace.com for 14 months, since we opened, and have not heard of another black woman who self-injures. Do you know of other black women who are involved in self-injury?
Janay: I met two black girls in the hospital who self injure, but I don't talk to them anymore. My dad is white, and I've grown up in a white community. My mom and the rest of my family say I'm like this because I hang around white people and I think I'm white. ::shrug:: go figure. I know a couple of black guys that cut, though.
David: Here are a few more audience comments:
anaj2281: lol. We have a lot in common, Janay. I cut, my father is white, my mother is black, and my name is Jana.
jess_d: My dad is white too and my mom is Hispanic. The rest of my family say I think I'm white, too, because I grew up with mostly white kids.
loonee: rotten, I think that showing off scars is, for some people, a way of dealing with what they do. Making a joke of the fact that they do it may help them mask the reasons why they do it.
anaj2281: I self injure, and although I am multiracial, I mainly consider myself black.
David: I know it's getting very late. Thank you, Janay, for being our guest tonight and for sharing this information with us. And to those in the audience, thank you for coming and participating. I hope you found it helpful. We have a very large and active community here at HealthyPlace.com. Also, if you found our site beneficial, I hope you'll pass our URL around to your friends, mail list buddies, and others.
Thank you, again, Janay, for sharing your life with us.
Janay: You're welcome. Thank you for inviting me.
David: Have a good night, everyone.
Disclaimer: We are not recommending or endorsing any of the suggestions of our guest. In fact, we strongly encourage you to talk over any therapies, remedies or suggestions with your doctor BEFORE you implement them or make any changes in your treatment.
Tracy, N. (2007, April 11). My Self-Injury Experience, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/transcripts/living-with-self-injury