Browsing the archives for the wisdom tag

10 Tips for Parenting through Self Injury

family, Love, Mistakes, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

It has been a couple of months since I wrote about my teen daughter’s cutting, and what it was like to be a parent surviving through self-injury. Now I see parents arrive here at from time to time with searches that break my heart – for I typed so many of the same things trying to find answers. For these visitors, I offer the following wisdom gained from making a million mistakes in responding to my daughter’s self harm.

Victoria in a New Place
For those looking for people who are getting through this, I would point you to my daughter’s site where she wrote to share some of her story of Survival of a Self Injurer. Worthy of note and celebration in this is that she now has nine months free of self-injury, one day at a time.

Caring for Myself and Family

1 – There is nothing I can do to save her or protect her completely – The belief that if I just try harder to protect her, to limit her choices, and keep her safe to get her through this without being able to harm herself further is, in the end, a lie. I had to accept my powerlessness to stop her from harming herself before I could stop dying inside from whether she has or has not self-injured today. It’s her behavior and only she can make different choices.

2 – I did not cause it – I struggled with my own guilt for a long time. A long, long time of second guessing myself, thinking that my own faults and failures ends up, really, only another form of the false beliefs in item one, above.

3 – Her Self-Injury is not the most important thing in my life – She is more important to me than what she does. My son is equally important to me, and can’t be ignored because of constant crises in her life. Self-injury can pull a family out of a normal orbit into a tight orbit only around the self injury. This reinforces the self-injury from my experience, and it harms everyone else now out of orbit.

4 – I needed help for myself and my family and not just my daughter – It’s her behavior, but it affects all of us. More importantly as the family increasingly becomes centered on the self-injury, the more the family systems break down and require conscious rebuilding. Normal systems and family behavior that act as balancing forces for our children and ourselves become reinforcing factors for out of control behavior instead. And as we broke down, it was invisible to us. Outside help is critical.

5 – Learn to live in Daytight Compartments – The notion of “One Day at a Time” is almost a cliche in dealing with these situations, but there is some truth to the idea that just for today I can endure and do the things that I could never do for the rest of my life. For me, the idea of daytight compartments, like watertight compartments on a ship, helped me get through tough times.

Responding to Self Injury

6 – Talk about it – One of the things I did right in this was insist from day one that we would not act ashamed about it and talk freely about self-injury. It is always ok to ask if injuries need immediate treatment, for example. It’s ok to talk about feelings – from my feelings about specific events to her feelings before or after cutting. It’s also ok to talk about other things besides self-injury – there is a whole life taking place at the same time.

7 – Set Boundaries on Behavior – I mentioned above that trying to control her behavior stems from a false belief that somehow I can do it for her. This is one of the broken systems that reinforces negative behavior, rather than balancing or opposing it. Natural consequences are much better. One of the first consequences we had was that all cuts had to be examined by a medical professional within 24 hours.

8 – Build a Team – My daughter’s recovery team became her school nurse, her family doctor, her psychologist and later a psychiatrist. Each of them got a copy of the Bill of Rights for People Who Self-Harm and it made a very real difference in the level of care she received.

9 – Stay the Parent – My daughter at one point was using her self-injury as a point of leverage to take control of the family. She would threaten to cut herself to get herself out of situations, and these tools helped get us past that point. She would threaten, and I would respond that I can’t stop her if she chooses self-injury but then medical care is required, and if self-injury was a part of any behavior contract, then those consequences would happen as well.

10 – Love her enough to respect her decisions – This is the hardest one, and a recent bit of learned wisdom. I think this is because the same need I have to protect her from harm is also in play to keep her from harm by way of her consequences of her actions. This is still an ongoing struggle for me as it is a great theory until I see behavior that is likely to cause problems for yars to come or legal issues and so on. In our case, it meant loving her enough to respect decisions even when the consequences included not living at home for a while, hospitalization, school settings that took her away from music, and so on.


Merely Changing the Mask

Change, Life as it is

Recent visitors will see a new look to as I updated the theme for the first time since 2006. This is a change to the outward appearances of the site, much like changing masks. The outside changes, but the inside stays the same.

Mask by Tim Pratt

In addition to the change in the theme, I am trying a few things to make who I am when I am not typing here become more visible to you. In effect, showing more of my footprints as I wander the web, making mistakes sometimes, and trying always to learn from them. I am also trying to put into practice something I have been learning, that is that constant improvement must mean constant change.

Changes have been made in the comments now as well. You may now not only reply to what I have to say, but also to one another so that you may converse and share wisdom between yourselves rather than merely interact with me. And trust me, the wisdom of some of the people who have honored me with their visits and their comments is great indeed. so take a moment and comment on something you like – either from me or from another visitor.

Sometimes the search for a right outward appearance takes a while, but when it works, it can help transform the inside as well. Consider for a moment this poem by Tim Pratt:


Feathers and paint, kohl sticks and smeared
pigments, cerulean blue beads, scales
and links of chain mail heaped on a rough
wooden table in a narrow room, four
hurricane lamps lighting it up. This is
the maskmaker’s workshop on the avenue
of greater dreaming, a place only open
at night.

I have come to find a new
face and body, a truer expression
than the one I see in the mirror. Here is
the Lakota ghost shirt, feathered and white
and clacking, and stone jars of pale
face paint. Here is the zippered leather
mask of a fetishist; it gives me a chill
because I think it can only destroy
identity, not reveal a deeper one. I move on, to
Carnival masks, a crocodile headdress I linger
over but know is not mine, a harlequin’s
cloth face of fixed hilarity, a beautiful
smooth gold mask of the sun. These all have
power, but none are mine.

Then the maskmaker
enters, a lush woman serene and regal as
the moon, her eyes blue and lively behind
a simple silver domino mask. “You want
to be a serpent,” she says, picking up
a length of python skin and putting it down
again. “Or an angel, above everything.” She lets
white silk run through her fingers. “Or
a manitou, with a face that shifts like the sky or
water, changing to fit your needs.” She shakes
her head.

“But you are not those things.” She lifts
a bundle wrapped in gray cobwebs. “You are a
spider. Lonely architect. Thought-maker. Weaver.
Moving in two worlds. Poison-head.” She unwraps
the webbing. I see segmented legs, glossy
black mandibles, and something scuttles under
the trapdoor of my heart. Not a lion, then, or
an eagle, but this feels right. She holds out the spider
mask, sticky filaments still trailing, and eases it
onto my face. I see with spider’s eyes, geometry
and possibility and vibrations in the air, corners
and spirals and prey. The legs on the mask wrap
tightly around my head and I

wake in my dusty bedroom,
looking at the corners where the ceiling meets
the walls, thinking

“I’ve never noticed how much
a spider’s eyes resemble diamonds.”

May these changes help weave a better community, and possibly break free our inner thought-maker as they are intended. May you find some glittering changes along the way as well. And please, if you find any comments left here as having helped you, or at least made you think, please leave a note to tell that visitor. And if I broke anything, please let me know as well. 🙂 Thanks!

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“Because I am Furious” is Never a Good Reason

Spiritual Journey

Normally I try to focus on mistakes I have made and the lessons I learn from them. Tonight, though, I almost made a mistake, realized it, and made a different choice. That was such an unexpected wisdom, I had to mention it. Also, I fear that it is not the first time I have tried to make a mistake like this.

I went to the gym tonight to hire a personal trainer. It’s been a to-do item for a long time and today seemed like a good day since I am starting a weight-loss competition at the office today. The salesman and I sit across from one another and we haggle the price on a solution that I could not afford this month or next month or any of the months for the one year term to which I was agreeing. I kept thinking how foolish this was. I am trying to save money – not pay more than my car payment for someone to make sure I show up and work out.

A Calm Rage

So I finally stepped back while he tried to get his manager to accept my offer and asked myself why I was going to do this. And I screamed my answer back to myself, “Because I am Furious!”

I already was aware that I was angry. I noticed it on the drive and there were a number of reasons for it – not the least of which was the need for joining this weight-loss competition. But what made me stop and think was the fact that there was such a sense of entitlement attached to that answer. Like doing something that will cause me a year of financial stress and potentially damage me and my family is a reasonable thing to do just because I am angry.

It was just so matter-of-fact. I am angry, therefore I will go do something stupid and risk harming myself because that is a good and right solution. And it felt like an argument that had worked many times before….

I did not buy anything. I took a price sheet and a card and left. And I thought about healthier solutions. Better alternatives. And so instead, I went to the local massage place (where I had a credit for a massage) and found I was early enough to get a one-hour massage. I even had enough time to sit in their “relaxation room” and just feel my feelings and breathe and start to let it all go before the massage.

This was a victory for me. I don’t always see my way out of my anger – usually I just get lost in it. But tonight I chose a healthier path. And so in following the wisdom of “Celebrate every Victory” I share this with you all….

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