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Please help - DD self harming

(8 Posts)
scarlotti Tue 14-Jun-11 21:39:37

DD (17) wrote a page of notes to gather her thoughts before speaking to me which I came across the night before last. I found it when I went into her room to put her lamp on as she was going to be in late and I do that sometimes so she's not walking up the stairs in the dark.

Spoke to her very briefly last night about it and whilst she in some way was pleased that I'd found it, she doesn't want to talk face to face about it and so has agreed to email me.

Note basically said that she thinks she is depressed, she self harms, she feels she can't speak to me, feels like a spare part in the family, feels she can't do anything right, feels her future is being decided for her, that I don't notice things I should that are happening to her .. that's from memory.

I also looked in her drawer after reading the note and found a pair of scissors and a small kitchen knife - incidentally the one I'd asked if she'd seen a few weeks back as it had gone missing.

I asked if she'd go and talk to someone but she doesn't want to. A friend had forced her to see college counsellor a while back (threatening to tell me and DH if she didn't) and she had a bad experience - I think that the friend then told someone else about it and so broke her trust.

DH and I are on a trial separation, and he is her Step-Dad. We have two DS' together who are 5 and 1. She says that for a while she's felt like the spare part and that she's ruining the 'happy family' that she perceives we would have without her and want - which obviously isn't true. She used to see her Dad but recently broke contact with him.

I guess I just need some pointers to know what to do with all of this. I don't want to force her into speaking to anyone and am hoping that we can get some discussion going even if it is over email - at least it's a start - or am I deluding myself here? She seems happy at times and still has a good social life but I guess that doesn't have to mean anything...

Any advice would be so gratefully received - I just want to help her and get all this sorted out but I am so scared of doing the wrong thing and making it all worse sad

RoseWei Tue 14-Jun-11 23:42:34

Scarlotti - feel for you. When my ds was your dd's age, he went through depression and, later, self harmed (put on loads and loads of weight - was awful - thought he was going to die at times). At times I felt guilty (family situation very similar to yours) although rationally I knew that I had given him everything and as much love as his younger siblings whose father I was married to. Now, I realise that other forces were at play - and outside my control. Things happen.

I guess that your dd knows that she isn't a 'spare part' - that she is loved as much as the other kids. Keep telling her how much she is loved, how important she is to you, her step dad and her siblings. Could you do stuff together - go out/away for a night or two (that might be difficult?).

Could you write her a note, telling her that she is so precious and that far from being a 'spare part' she and her brothers are at the heart of the family.
She is probably feeling quite shaken by the trial separation - one less anchor, perhaps. But reassure her that although he may not live with you at present, her step dad is there for her. Can anything be done to mend the relationship with the biological dad?

As for the self harming - I think your dd should see a counsellor as a matter of urgency. Does the college have a team or could the GP refer? This needs dealing with and as the only adult in the home at the moment (and with much younger kids), you need support and to know that you are not alone in helping your dd. Believe me, if you act from love, you won't get it wrong.

Maryz Wed 15-Jun-11 10:07:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

scarlotti Wed 15-Jun-11 20:01:49

Rose - thanks for your message and support. I think the doing things together is a good idea, we watched a film together last night and next week we're going out to dinner and the theatre. I am getting involved in her Uni research and chatting to her about all that.

Maryz - thanks for the link, I will get her to take a look and hopefully she will try the exercises. Ironically she wants to go study psychology and work with mental health patients, so maybe being able to work through her own stuff will pique her interest too.

I agree that talking to someone is what is needed, and I'm hoping that we can get there eventually. I did speak to our gp and she said I can't force her down there especially given her age. She told me earlier that she is writing me the email I asked for to tell me what's going on, and I hope that this will open up communication lines. Hopefully then this might lead on to her being able to speak to someone else. Sadly she tried the college counsellor and that didn't work for her, but maybe in time she may feel differently.

I will research the self harm aspect as it is that which I'm finding the most frightening. She is a sensible girl and I have always been happy she can be trusted, but there is a bit of me now that is scared I'll come home to find her bleeding on the floor or something dreadful. I can only hope that her telling me about it means that she realises it's the wrong thing to be doing but doesn't know how to stop it.

Thanks again for the support.

RoseWei Wed 15-Jun-11 23:03:08

Young Minds - for families and for young people themselves (they click on 'young people')
Forums, useful stuff, ideas.

And a freephone helpline for parents/young people. Should be a particularly interesting site for your dd given her interest in psychology.

As well as researching unis with her, you could go on visits that are open to families. I found after a few such visits, it was so good to talk to ds 2 about the unis and if/how he could see himself studying and living in those places. And you'll want to know what support is on hand for your dd once she gets there. I've been pleasantly surprised as just how much peer and professional support is so easily available to young people in the Unis we've visited.

Take heart - you've doing everything you can for your dd.

mercibien Thu 16-Jun-11 20:02:11

My own dd went through periods of doing this, usually scratching herself with a pin or needle, and oten at a very stressful time such as exams, fallings out with friends, feeling 'pushed out' in the family etc.
What seemed to help her was talking openly about it being a stress relief mechanism, in the same way that an adult may have glass or two of wine, perhaps a cigarette or by loosing their temper. (all of these harmful in their own way of course)
Identifying the triggers and pre empting them helped, so for example I'd try to spot the triggers and ask her directly if she felt like self harming or had actually self harmed and then suggest healthier ways of de stressing.
We did take out a gym membership for her and this helped
But what i think helped most was not panicking about it, and helping her understand that she had to choose a less harmful way of 'letting it all out' and that included ranting, weeping or moaning at me
Spending more time together, including good old fashioned hugging and cuddling up on the sofa is also an excellent idea.
sending you and your DD my very best wishes

scarlotti Thu 16-Jun-11 21:27:34

Thanks so much for the words of support.

mercibien - good idea to get it more out in the open and allow her to understand why she's doing it.

I am going to point her in the direction of some of these sites too.

DH is finding it hard too, he's desperate to know what is going on in her head and what she's doing to what extent. It's such a difficult thing to stop yourself forcing her to sit down and tell all, but I do think that would do more harm than good at the moment.

Rumplestiltskine Thu 07-Jul-11 14:25:00

I know it's hard because it seems so horrible and unnatural to think of someone deliberately hurting themselves, but try not to get too caught up on the self harm - it is just a symptom of the real problem (generally depression, low self esteem, anxiety etc). Self harm does not mean that someone is suicidal, and most self harmers are very careful about being safe and looking after their injuries, so it's very unlikely that she will do herself any lasting physical damage. It sounds like you're doing the best you can for her at the moment, and your love and support will be hugely helpful to her even if she doesn't always show it. This is a forum for people who self-harm, and it has a "family and friends" board for those who are supporting a loved one - it might be a helpful place to start looking for information and support. Good luck, I hope that your daughter feels ready to start getting better soon.

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