Tough Times = Lessons Learned

Thursday, June 07, 2012

In April I learned that my daughter who is 13 was not only being bulled at school, which I knew some about, but I also learned she was self-harming; cutting and burning. The harming has been going on since she was in third grade.

The story of my daughter's harming is really her story to tell so I probably won't go into that much here. I will however tell you all that she is in counseling, she is on medication, she is working very hard to heal and she has not harmed in the last 31 days as of this writing. She has harmed once in 44 days, not too bad since she was harming several times a day earlier this year.

So, what are the lessons to be learned in something that is pretty tough to go through as a parent? First, you never know everything that is happening in your home. Second, if you feel that there is a secret in your home or one of your own is acting different, act on that gut feeling, do not give up until the truth is exposed. Third, your children can have troubles that are not your troubles. I'm not being hard here, but I cannot heal my dd from harming, SHE has to heal from harming.

I have some issues with the school where dd has spent the last 7 years. I don't blame them for dd choosing to harm, but what are the lessons that schools can learn from this experience? First, 'kids being kids' is not the same as 'kids being mean'. Bullying is a word that is more of a buzz word these days and I don't use it lightly. Any time a tween child complains of harassment, being picked on or no one liking them they are not being bullied. But sometimes they are. Second, actions need to equal consequences. Kids are allowed an awful lot of 'kids being kids' without any consequences for their actions. The kids who harassed my dd literally out of school early, laughed it up and finished their year.

Other lessons learned? 1) Self harmers suffer not only the compulsion to harm but also the shame of hiding the harming, the pain of the physical harm they've done and many emotions as they see the lasting scars they made on their own bodies. It's a difficult issue to understand. 2) Harmers have to want to stop harming in order to heal. 3) Harming is not an addiction like alcoholism, it's a compulsion so it can be healed.

Personally, I've had some life-altering revelations through this experience. My personal lessons are several: I can control my eating during stressful times. I can hold my weight very steady with diet and little exercise. Exercise does make me able to handle stress better both physically and mentally. I'm a good mom. Once you shine a light in a dark corner, it's never dark again. My faith in God was tested and I have faith. God put the *perfect* person in my dd's life every single step of the way; from the pastor she told, the counselor He put in her life, the way it was revealed to her dad and me, the clinician who is treating her wounds (prayed over her in the exam room), the only child in dd's school who knew is probably the only 12 year old who can actually keep a secret, the school administrator I went to was also a harmer and on and on. God is good.

Lessons learned through tough times...
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    Karen - With my daughter/ She saw a therapist that I love - Her issues were related to perfectionism and control. She was also essentially starving herself at the same time. (this I knew and was working with her on, but the cutting I had no idea.) She has a condition where she does not feel physical pain the way others do so this was even more scary as she could have taken it way too far and we would have lost her. My heart begins to race just typing that and it has been almost a year.
    The therapist worked with her on this book and workbook - I can't remember the title right noe but can get if you want. We also picked out a devotional and she worked hard toread her bible every day and pray. She knew that the closer she got to GOD the further away she would be from this "evil". That is really the perspective that has saved her - She surrounds herself with loving positive friends and works to remember that she is not perfect - no one is. Her stress level has decreased and her coping skill increased.
    One strategy she used for a while was to take a sharpie and write on her wrists when she had the urge to cut. Gave her the pressure feeling but no harm- Therapist suggested this and they practiced it together.
    Although, I hope and pray the worst is over for us, Iwill always worry. Whenever she gets quiet, spends more time in her room, etc...I worry. Luckily, she is a triplet and her sisters were greatly affected by this and I think check on her more - so I do not have to.
    Happy to share the experience with someone who understands.
    2105 days ago
    I am so, so sorry that DD and your entire family had to struggle through such a dark time. I am so glad to hear that things are going a bit more smoothly for all of you. My prayers continue for DD and the entire family.
    2106 days ago

    My dear friend, it is indeed a scary world we are living in now days! I do know every generation has said that same thing....tho it IS definitely getting progressively worse, just as the BIBLE says it will in the end times! I have no claim to know anything more than anyone else...I just do not see how it can go on like this....BULLYING is a most horrible thing in our schools...tho not only in our schools, it is everywhere among adults as well as youth!! I, personally have even been a victim of BULLYING!

    I do admire your strength and the stand up attitude you have taken with helping DD...and placing your trust and FAITH in GOD!! Sometimes it may seem as if HE isn't doing anything...HE is! HE has HIS backfield in motion! I can tell by all you said here, HE has been involved and is helping her, and you!

    I do keep you all on my personal prayer list, as I am sure many friends are doing also! Yes, it can be healed! I know, from watching GOD heal people, even alcoholics can be totally healed through GOD!!

    The world will tell us it can not be healed...with GOD anything can be healed completely!!

    Stay strong! You are her best asset, and her hero!! Many parents would not be there for their child.

    LOVE heals all!!

    2107 days ago
    You know that you have my utmost respect for the way you plunged right in and worked side by side with your daughter to find the way from there to where she is today. We can't possibly know what the future holds or how the lessons you and she are learning today will influence the future. What we do know is that God's grace is ever sufficient and He loves us so very much.

    I echo the sentiments that your daughter is very blessed to have such an incredibly wonderful mom who cares about her inside and out. I applaud you for the way you have stood up to the people who tried to brush the problem aside and for the times when it would have been easier to just re-focus on blame and denial instead of just concentrating on the problem while working towards a solution. I saw a picture on Pinterest awhile ago of a female who was obviously a cutter who had scars from wrist to shoulder ... she was huddled up in a ball in the picture. My heart goes out to your daughter for the pain she was obviously trying to escape ... but I also think about a song I know that says "Scars are a sign of healing; like the rainbow that follows the rain" ...

    You look absolutely fabulous! Kudos for holding steady on the weight! This isn't a race, it isn't a "have to" in life, it's a work in progress. You are a winner, my dear because you've faced this difficult time and won in this area. I am so PROUD of you! Keep up your GREAT WORK!

    I'll keep praying for your family! HUGS!
    2107 days ago
    Karen, on some level I can relate (I knew a couple of women who were cutters when I lived in Vegas). I know it is very painful, and it shows great faith and understanding on your part to help your daughter and the est of the family through this. I don't say this lightly: I pray that God will continue to show his grace and watch over your family.
    2107 days ago
    Wow Karen, you were and are dealing with a boatload of stuff.

    First of all let me say I'm glad your daughter has you as a mom. I think you forgot to give yourself credit while you were giving others credit. It is going to take a lot to support her and her efforts but you can do it. You have an excellent grasp on the reality of the situation and now you can take appropriate steps when needed. That's huge!

    Also congrats on your control over the emotional eating. I'm not sure I could have done that so you get some major points for being strong!

    I'll keep you and your family in my prayers but I liked your line on shining a light in a dark corner. Those little dark secrets just eat us up but once they are revealed they seem to lose all power over us and the healing can start!

    Thanks for sharing this experience. I know a lot of others will no doubt benefit from it.

    Stay safe and stay focused on the prize.


    2108 days ago
    My thoughts and prayers are with you both...
    2108 days ago
    So sorry to hear this Karen.
    The main thing here is focusing on your daughters health and well being. Yes you are a good mom and I know you will ensure she gets all the help she needs and the support of you and family.
    Be hard on the school, this cannot be poo pooed under the rug.
    If need be switch schools.
    2108 days ago
    Times are not what they once were, KareBear. My heart goes out to you as you walk this path alongside your daughter, but I rejoice with you over the lessons learned and the increase in your faith.

    I am so sorry to hear that your daughter was being bullied and was harming her own self. How that must have grieved God's heart, but I praise Him and thank Him for being there with her every step of the way, lining up the people He placed in her path to get from point A to point B, step by step.

    Your daughter is in His hands, and that's the best place for her to be. I pray that she will learn some life lessons from this experience even as you have, and that she will come to realize that she is deeply loved, valued and treasured .

    I hope she also gets to the place where the scars she sees will not reproach her or cause her guilt or shame but will be visible reminders of the lessons she's learned and will remind her how great her God is, that He never left her but walked through this with her.

    Rejoice. Will keep praying for you and your daughter.
    2108 days ago
    I have a grandson who has a form of Autism. Diagnosed, we were told that his body doesn't produce the mind calming selenium. If he pinches himself the body does then produce the calming effect for him. He can't interact with others in the normal fashion so was an outcast in public school. After counseling and home school he is now in a Christian school in a special class with others with similar problems and is doing well but will never have the confidence to be in public places as we consider normal. In our country 1 or every 88 boys born have this problem and for some reason the numbers have increased in recent years.
    2108 days ago
    First and foremost -- I will keep your daughter and your family in my thoughts and prayers. I'm so glad that she has people surrounding her that love her and are caring for her.

    My daughter and son were bullied in grade school as well. I agree with you, when will adults stop protecting those that bully and start helping them and the victim. What message are we sending these bullies? I would think that kids that bully grow up to be adults that bully. Seriously, is that what we need more of in this world?

    I was fortunate that my children didn't harm themselves physically. My daughter did lose a lot of weight and my son internalized his anger -- but with God's graces, we were able to help them work through their pain.

    They are now 19 and 18 and look back on those years with wisdom and compassion, and have forgiven those who did this to them -- but will never forget the pain. I am proud of the adults that they are becoming!

    2108 days ago
    Sorry for the pain you and DD have endured. Life lessons are hard and inconsiderate people seem to try and make them worse. Keep your faith, with that all things are possible.

    Congrats on you recognizing the learned lessons are important and you are using them to make your life better. Pray that your daughter finds the strength to come to the same conclusion.
    2108 days ago
    Oh, Karen! I'm so sorry for your daughter, and your whole family. What a trial for everyone.... and you speak so much truth, wisdom and compassion... I pray I can find such grace in trying times.

    Your words have given me a chill. My daughter is almost 8, is very vulnerable emotionally, and is socially challenged (she tends heavily toward anxiety, and speaks about herself in a very negative way). She's seems well acceptd at the moment, but in her own obsessiveness, we fear she'll create exactly what she fears. She already has some red-flag behaviours, and we've been reading, learning and watching hoping to intervene now and early so as to avoid potential problems as she grows older. We've actually had a lot of success with diet... it is amazing how nutritional changes have impacted positively on her brain chemistry. We are already working with a counsellor. Yet, I already know that she has to choose her own life and be responsible for herself within it. It's so hard to watch them struggle, isn't it?

    I will be praying for all of you!
    {{{{{{{{{ HUGS }}}}}}}}}}

    P.S. I'm so glad you've learned to care of yourself within the midst of it all... I'm working on it, too!
    2108 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/8/2012 12:22:04 AM
    And you've come through this well my friend. I know there is still more to endure, but I'm proud of you. Praying for all of you!!
    2108 days ago
  • REDSHOES2011
    My son now goes around with cutters, and other people whom feel pushed out of society even if the therapist and social workers have made him realise he is a good kid.

    My sons friends are welcome in my door- these teenagers know my roof is a safe house where they are listened to when they have problems..

    It is a dog eat dog environment out on the streets.. Bullying is not just found in schools, and chatting with a therapist never fixed the trauma it caused my son..
    2108 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/7/2012 10:56:21 PM
    Oh i so understand - Last summer my daughter revealed that she was cutting - She was 15 at the time - Also told her youth pastor first. She was not to the level of your daughter but I know the pain and fear of hearing the news. We too prayed to give us all strength and healing -inside and out - She is great now and no longer in long sleeves every day. Praying for you and your family!

    2108 days ago
    Bless a parent of a child badly bullied I know where you are coming from! My daughter is now grown and a lovely young woman. I just kept telling her over and over during those rough years that we loved her....needed her....that it would end....that after high school was over she would never have to see them again....she graduated 2 weeks ago and didn't shed a tear. I pray your daughter heals and is able to find a healthier way to deal with it....

    2108 days ago
    Wow. Praying for you all
    2108 days ago
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