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...