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18 year old daughter been self harming since she was 13 - our world seems to have fallen apart

(21 Posts)
shockedmother Fri 17-Jun-11 02:20:45

I am occasional poster, have name changed for this posting.

Found out this evening that 18 yr old dd has been self harming - cutting - since yr 8 when she was 13. Has even attempted suicide.

I didn't know.
How could I miss this horror happening under my nose?

Her father and I separated 8 yrs ago, and she was devestated by his disappearance. He has had serious mental health problems before, and since, divorce - worse since he left - and has seriously neglected her.

I thought I had managed to keep things together, but it appears I didn't.

Am completely devastated by this.

laptopwieldingharpy Fri 17-Jun-11 04:04:51

Am so sorry to see this.
Have no experience but did not want to leave this unanswered.
Do bump it in the morning for more answers.

How did you find out? Did she confide in you?


meercatmum Fri 17-Jun-11 08:29:56

I am in exactly same position in terms of finding out about dd self harming - put my link on this and child/adolescent mental health area re daughter aged 13 with self esteem etc problems which is a live thread. I put on thread because of a whole range of things and now self harm has come into the equation. Is your dd confiding in u as mine seems to be just pretending I do not know , will not discuss and insists she does not want any intervention from professionals. The self harm, scratching with earring spikes is as a result of us removing all access to Internet as we found she had been on a chat roulette/talk to a stranger website so complete strangers could tell her how pretty she is. Sorry to hear about your problems - I guess u too need professional help - go see GP and get referral and hope unlike my dd that she will not refuse help!

shockedmother Fri 17-Jun-11 09:25:56

Thank you so much for your replies.

My daughter has now confided in me, and I know that this is now the start of a happier future for us all.

But feel as though bomb has gone off in my head. Cannot get my head round knowing that this was going on for so long, at home, in our home, and I had no idea. It's tormenting me knowing that she was this desperate for so long, and didn't/couldn't/wouldn't let me know - in fact, she seems to have gone to some great lengths not to tell me in case she upset me! She was trying to protect me!

I feel so ashamed of myself and so unutterably desperately sad for her.

shockedmother Fri 17-Jun-11 09:28:40

And meercatmum, I'm so,so sorry to hear that you're having to cope with such a similar situtation with your DD. Have you got support for yourself, as well as for her?

Think I'll take your advice and phone the doctor for myself. This is just so hard, isn't it?

MitchiestInge Fri 17-Jun-11 09:35:02

PM me if you want, my 18yo has long history (starting in middle school) of self harm, suicide attempts and anorexia. Don't want to go into it on here right now (am on way out) but can offer my ear in private and something in shared experiences might be helpful to you. I remember well the shock, even though at some level I knew and was concerned she just denied everything until it was a blue light sort of situation.

meercatmum Fri 17-Jun-11 10:45:39

On last posting should have written please do not blame yourself I am sure you have done everything you should have in terms of love and support.
We keep on beating ourselves up about our dd but actually she showed unusual behaviour at a really early age. Give her love and support - be strong and do not blame yourself and get some medical advise. It is strange but writing to u is making me feel stronger about my situation although have just caught sight of my beautiful dd arm all deeply scratched arm all red and sore and it breaks my heart! We must be strong and do the right things for our dd.

littlemisslost Fri 17-Jun-11 10:54:07

you need to approach your GP for an assessment, it doesnt mean she will end up having mentl health diagnosis or affect her future but it does mean she will get some one to one professional support and so will you. I dont know where you live but generally mental health is changing and it is a lot quicker and easier to access or you could ask you GP about IAPT because she is 18 she may not be accepted by CAMHS now. Self harm is a big problem and alot more common than you may think. Some of it is behavioural and attention seeking but alot of it is a genuine coping mechanism for an inability to cope with emotional and practical demands of being a teenager....nevermind dad leaving and having mental health issues of his own. Either way it needs careful professional help and if yor dd has been able to hide this from you for 6 years then I would say it more than attention seeking

meercatmum Fri 17-Jun-11 10:59:32

Hi you asked about support for me - friends are a great support. I am really close to my mum but how do I tell an 85 year old her beautiful gdd is self harming and talking to strangers on the Internet would break her heart as well. For the info I have been to Parenttalk sessions which were really helpful strategies and support

MrsDanverclone Fri 17-Jun-11 10:59:39

I think one of the worst things, about finding out that your child is/has been self harming, is that you feel you have let them down as a parent. I thought of my role as a parent, was to protect my DD from all types of harm and yet I was powerless to help protect her, from her worst enemy - herself.

Its hard to do, but you need to see the self harming for what it is, a coping mechanism. Once the subject is out in the open, it is easier to go from a conversation on making sure you have cleaned any wounds properly, to what could be triggers for the self harming, to alternative strategies to use in times of stress.
It has taken me a long time to get my head around the idea that this isn't something with a quick fix, and that she might go months without self harming but the need is sometimes just lurking there and you have to accept that.

Don't feel ashamed you have done nothing wrong, its hard to watch your child in pain. I felt helpless when I found out about my daughter, I just wanted to make everything better for her. It can be a long process but starting with a referral from our Gp was the path we took.
I hope your daughter is feeling happier in herself soon and I am sending a very unMn hug to you, because sometime that's what you need to help you make it through.

shockedmother Fri 17-Jun-11 13:10:11

Thank you everyone very, very much for your kindness and very helpful, supportive and informative replies. Reading them just now has lifted my spirits a bit.

I've phoned my gp who suggested that DD goes to see her, and she (the gp) will arrange some support for her from a psychologist. Now I need to tell DD that I've done this, and encourage her to seek help.

MrsDanver, how is your daughter now? I hope she's getting better, and that you're finding your way through too.

Meercatmum, you are clearly a strong and very loving mother; it's so good that by helping me you can see this more clearly.

Am going to see a friend later to talk to her; like you meercat, I don't think I can tell anyone in the family, not yet anyway. What can I say?

littlemisslost, I agree that it's astonishing and deeply worrying that my DD managed to successfully hide her cuts for so many years, at such a young age. She says she's stopped now, but maybe she'll keep reverting to this as a coping strategy in the future, so it really is important she gets help asap.

Still simply cannot deal with the shock of this. I feel like the last 5 years of our family life have been, well, a complete lie - I've been thinking that we all more or less coped after the divorce, and DD's dad being amazingly selfish and cruel, and all the time this terrible thing was happening, at home, day after day, and no one here realised. How did this happen???

Seems impossible not to blame myself at the moment, but I'm going to try not to pass this onto my DD - she'll blame herself if she thinks she's upset me, and that'll make things much worse.

But I can't help feeling that I must be a very terrible mother if she couldn't tell me about this appalling trouble for so many years. And if I'm that terrible mother, how can I have the skills or faith in myself to help her now? Must try to deal with this overwhelming guilt and despair that my poor, lovely DD has lived in such turmoil and pain for so long. Just like you MrsDanver, I've always felt my first and foremost and most important role as a mum was to protect my children, and feeling that I've completely failed to do this is, well, I don't have words for this terrible feeling.

But, she has coped, she seems ok at the moment - but what do I know anymore? - has passed all her essential exams (GCSE'S and A levels) and is off to uni later this year. She has lots of friends who all seem lovely. She's stopped the self harming, so maybe life at home has improved enough for her need to cope to have passed, for now at any rate.

It's going to take a long time to recover from this, if recover is the right word - feels like life will never feel the same ever again at the moment. Oh help, can't stop crying, it's so unutterable sad.

MrsDanverclone Fri 17-Jun-11 14:28:09

My daughter is much happier now, thank you for asking. We have had fantastic help and support from our Gp and Mental Health team, to get her to this stage.

You do recover, you do move on, but you become a much stronger person because of it.

littlemisslost Fri 17-Jun-11 14:32:41

recovery means diffferent things to different people, it doesnt always have to mean the end of something but can be the acceptance of something and stabilizing. You are not to blame and neither is your dd or probably her dad. he has mental health issues himself you said and it isnt helpful for anyone when there is blame being passed around. She is a teenager i a very ifferent world from when we were teenagers and the internet thing is a whole new dangerous level that wasnt not around when we were.The going to the gp thing neeeds to be something she is ready to do ...make sure you talk about it with her prepare her or she may start self harming under the pressure of making it all official and out in the open to a stranger/official person. Make the appointment and tell her when it is and where it is and give her the option of going by herself. You have already told the gp so they should have the skills to talk to her about it. and act appropriately. If she wants you to take her then great but whatever, she needs to go herself and feels pressured or marched down there she might find it too much. The secrecy for such a long time shows this is a very personal, internal and private thing to her.keep calm and work with her, she is 18 and needs to be treated like a young adult not a little girl .....and tell her that!

littlemisslost Fri 17-Jun-11 14:36:26

sorry about typos, think you can make it out hmm

meercatmum Sun 19-Jun-11 13:20:34

How is it going - will your DD agree to support. I did feel for you reading your previous messages but pls don't feel guilty. I am feeling wretched today over what we may have kick started regarding CAMHS and medical support - I do not know how this will be broached with dd and I scared over what her response might be...

shockedmother Sun 19-Jun-11 23:50:18

Oh meercatmum, wretched is a good way of putting things some days. You sound like a very loving mother trying to find the best ways to help your young DD in impossibly difficult circumstances, and getting as much professional support and help as possible will surely be the right path now and in the long term for everyone - mind you, the here and now sounds very tough for you and your DD. And at 13, what is the 'right' thing to do anyway? Most 13 yr olds are desperate for some independence, and think they're 21 anyway, then suddenly seem to revert to 2 year olds - and which one are you parenting? The little kid or the potential adult?

I speak with experience of having had 3 DC's go through this age so far - I think all teens are tough going for their parents at some time, even ones that seem to have a fairly smooth ride. And to remember that I worried most about the ones who complained the most while all the time the one really falling to bits was the quiet one who seemed cheerful and jolly on the outside - how did I miss this??

My heart goes out to you with your DD's problems, my heart goes out to you.

What is worrying you particularly about telling your DD about CAHMS and asking for medical intervention? Do you think she'll take this badly and think you're interfering rather than intervening? I can only wish you very best of everything when you speak to her - sorry, no actual useful advice!

You're so right about the guilt! That's a really tough one to come to terms with, isn't it? - yet I can see some acceptance from me is essential in the long term so that I'm calm and strong enough to support my DD properly from now on.

Thanks again for your kindness and concern. x x

Walkinthesnow Wed 22-Jun-11 22:41:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

shockedmother Wed 22-Jun-11 23:39:53

Walkinthesnow: thank you so,so much for sharing your experiences with me; you must be a very strong person to have gone through such a painful time and grown up past it to be the stronger person you are today.

I can see what you mean, that the cutting is a coping mechanism, and by no means the worst sort. I'm so glad for you that as you've got older you've found other ways of coping.

Your post is definitely not too long!

In your description of yourself you could be describing my lovely daughter: she's also friendly, very warm hearted, on the surface seems calm and level headed, is thoughtful and generous and clever and funny - I think she's the most perfect daughter in the world, and it's just so sad that she can't (couldn't) see this for so many years. My hope for her is that now she will start to see herself the way other do, and I hope that you see yourself in a much happier light too now.

My daughter has been more bouyant this week than I've seen her for ages! So I'm starting to see that now that her secret is out, she seems to have taken a step into a big new world, and left the cutting behind her. I don't think she'll feel the need to continue, which is a huge relief to me.

I have to support her now going forward, help her to be more confident, support her as the young adult she is, and try to understand and accept that what happened was a choice she made at a very sad and difficult time for her, and she was trying to cope in the best way possible. And I have to understand that she needed to keep this secret, I don't know why, but I just feel she needed to.

Can I ask you, did you tell anyone? Why and when did you stop? - it sounds from what you said that you sort of outgrew the need for cutting?

Thank you again. You've helped me a great deal; getting past my sadness and guilt isn't easy, but you've helped me. x x

Walkinthesnow Thu 23-Jun-11 20:38:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

manicmummyonadietcokebreak Thu 23-Jun-11 22:55:16

hi, I'd just like to echo what Walkinthesnow*has said, don't blame yourself, I wish I could tell my mother the same thing, that she's not to blame for any off i know how much i have hurt her through my actions and feel awful for that.I wish you and your daughter the best, and her being able to confide in you shows how much she trusts you. good luck in finding the help she needs. Walkinthesnow well done on your 3 years and happiness, wish I could find the strength to get to that point. I'm terribly worried that my dd, 11 will be like me, she's already shoing signs that are worrying me, like picking at things and stabbing at herself, I'm sure she dosnt know about my problems as i hope I have managed to hide it, apart from my depression as I not want her to think my crying is any of her fault. It makes me feel sick to think of my baby harming herself, even though I put my own mother through that same thing.

shockedmother Sat 25-Jun-11 23:55:06

walkinthesnow: your honesty and openness is amazing; I can't tell you how much your posts have helped me start to understand what's happening with my dd, and come to terms with the complexity of this.

Like you, manicmummy, I almost think I'm in denial about the reality of what's happened, because I simply cannot bear to believe that my little girl has been so physically damaging to herself - I know she's 18 now, but I can't stop images of her when she was younger haunting me. Children are so physical, aren't they, and you hug them and hold their hands when you walk along, and they have such lovely skin and smell so lovely - I've always loved the physical closeness you have with your kids. And yet it's that lovely, lovely child body that she's harmed - it's so selfish but I simply can't seem to come to terms with that fact that she clearly feels so differently about herself from the way that I do, this is hard to accept because it's so unutterably sad to me.

Still, this week has probably been a big wake up call for me: my dd is actually a young woman taking actions entirely independently from me, however desperate these actions were, and I need to respect and understand this, not keep living in the past when she was little, and maybe I'm sort of expecting or hoping she'll stay young forever. But she needs to be allowed to grow up, and be respected for her choices, whatever they are.

I am so glad for you, walkinthesnow, that your desire for cutting has stayed away for 3 years. Am shocked at the overreaction of that youth worker, and what a pity that she overreacted so badly because that seems to have stalled any conversation you could have had with your parents at a time when you could have done with their support. You have clearly gradually grown in strength and confidence over the years, which is wonderful to hear despite it being a long and rough road at many times. You are an inspirational person.

I'm not expecting a magic wand to wave, but sometimes I think my huge desires for things to be 'all alright again' for my dd may was well be a desire for something magical to happen, for a miracle to cure everything and put everything back how it was, and I'm being very unrealistic to what her real needs may be for many years to come.

I guess that as parents it's very difficult, probably impossible, to protect our children from all sorts of problems that they'll face, however desperately hard we want to protect them; I guess that only thing is to keep supporting them best as we can when the problems arise.

manicmummy, you sound so worried. I suffer from depression too, though less so recently than when I was younger. I find that one of the hardest things, where my dc's are concerned, is that if something goes wrong I blame myself - I've had to learn over many years that the kids don't like that; they've already got whatever problem it is that they've got, and now they've got my guilt to deal with too. Sadness all round, and nothing moves forward.

My best way of trying to stop my guilt is to try to focus on boring practical things, if possible, try to take the heat out of the situation and deal with things when they're calmer. So, go for a walk, cook a meal with dc's, tidy stuff up with dc's, etc etc. and worry later when I feel I can cope better. Simple but works for me. Oh, and Friday night is wine night smile

You sound like a very caring and loving mother, doing the best for your dd - have you got support for yourself? I've got less depressed over the years as I've managed to accept more support for myself.

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