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Self harming teenager

(135 Posts)
GnomeDePlume Tue 28-Jul-15 07:37:21

Apologies for this. I just need to write this down.

I am starting to think of the self-harm as being a parasite, like threadworms or head lice. It isnt the person, it is something feeding off the host teenager. Also, it is contagious.

And like thread worms or head lice it is extremely unlikely to clear up on its own.

My DD first started self harming about 2 years ago when she was 13. This outbreak was apparently in response to a difficult, bullying friendship. It was apparently just a week of scratching and cutting herself with scissors.

We reacted by surrounding DD with love and tried to help her build her confidence and distance herself from this bullying friendship. It seemed that the problem was solved.

Then about 6 months ago I noticed marks on DD's legs. Not cuts this time. I asked DD about them and got brushed off. I wasnt sure what the problem was but I was fairly sure it wasnt totally innocent. At the same time DD was 15 so I didnt feel in a position to force her to get help except in the practical sense of going to see the nurse to make sure that the marks on her legs were healing.

DD started leaving her legs exposed but was now covering her arms. Once or twice she would not cover up completely and I would see a mark. I asked her about these marks and would get brushed off.

Fast forward to yesterday. DD came downstairs with vomit on her clothes. In the early hours she had taken a shed load of paracetamol and other over the counter tablets. She was vomiting, feeling very ill. On medical advice (we are literally round the corner from our doctor who DH saw within 5 minutes) DH took DD to A&E. DD is now in hospital receiving treatment to protect her liver while the tablets work through.

Now looking back I can see that we made the mistake of thinking that the initial self harming would cure itself. It didnt and I wonder if our treatment made the problem worse by both rewarding the self harm and also pushing it out of sight. We didnt talk about the self harm, we wanted DD to focus on what we saw as the cause.

This was our mistake. We should have got help immediately for that first outbreak. Now the infection of self harm is worse. DD is older so her self harm has got more sophisticated. What a mess this is. We didnt do enough. We didnt take this seriously enough. Because of that DD has risked her life.

I spoke to the nurse in the children's ward where DD has been admitted. They see half a dozen or more self harm patients a week. So there are probably hundreds of families going through this today. If you are one of them you have my heartfelt sympathy.

AlternaTeen Tue 28-Jul-15 07:56:44

Oh no. I'm so sorry you're going through this. I hope she recovers quickly and fully. Hopefully there will be help for you all.

I've no advice but didn't ant to read and run. I've got a thread running here too as we are three years, maybe four, into trying to deal with similar. It's awful - wondering why she's wearing that long sleeved top while it's hot and sunny. Wondering what will happen next. Unable to relax into life.

Even though DD has had counselling for almost three years, it hasn't made a significant difference, so don't beat yourself up for not getting help immediately.

Thinking of you.

GnomeDePlume Tue 28-Jul-15 13:35:32

Thankyou AlternaTeen, I really do appreciate your comments. Still in hospital at the moment but hopefully CAMHS will be along soon.

AlternaTeen Wed 29-Jul-15 08:48:51

How are things today? Hope you and your DD had a peaceful night.

GnomeDePlume Wed 29-Jul-15 13:53:19

Thank you AlternaTeen, DD left hospital at lunchtime and is currently lounging on the sofa enjoying total love from the dog. DD was declared medically fit and has now been referred to CAMHS. We had the first visit before we left the hospital today.

How are things with your DD?

AlternaTeen Wed 29-Jul-15 14:51:58

Oh that is good news, I'm so pleased for you. I hope this is the beginning of change for you both.

My DD is hiding her arm today sad but her mood is good. Such a strange life.

GnomeDePlume Wed 29-Jul-15 17:31:37

I know it is possibly a daft question but does your DD know you know? My DD thought that she had hidden the scars.

Do continue to get help. DD went from cutting at 13 to burning herself at 15. The tablets were a further escalation. She is quite certain she didnt intend to kill herself but with a paracetamol overdose it isnt that easy to control.

AlternaTeen Thu 30-Jul-15 00:36:33

Yes, DD knows I know. She's been open about it for most of the time she's been doing it. In fact, in retrospect she tried to tell me sooner and I kick myself for not recognising that at the time.
Scary about the escalation. I shall remain vigilant. Thanks for the advice.

freddyfucktard Thu 30-Jul-15 01:51:26

Please don't blame yourself, I was 15 when I took an overdose and nothing anyone would have done/said would have been able to change my mind. Just focus on her getting well again

GnomeDePlume Thu 30-Jul-15 21:47:06

Thank you freddy. Can I ask how you felt after your overdose?

freddyfucktard Thu 30-Jul-15 23:12:06

I regretted it, seeing how hurt everyone was and having the people I love blame themselves when it was my own emotions that led me to it hurt. I have never attempted it again but I have cut myself since, it's a way to release the pain and confusion in my head, physical pain help release mental pain

GnomeDePlume Fri 31-Jul-15 21:34:13

Thank you freddy, we are trying to understand DD. At the moment this feels so fresh and raw. It feels like so many certainties have gone. It is hard to treat DD 'normally' because what is the new normal?

We have removed (with DD's knowledge) all the paraphernalia of self-harming from her room. I have also removed all tablets to a secret place.

freddyfucktard Sat 01-Aug-15 07:03:10

That was a wise thing to do, but regarding self harm, please rember it is a release. Maybe finding something to replace it would be a good idea? Suggest an elastic band on her wrist to ping when she feels anxious or upset. Or buy some cheap plates, go in the garden and let her scream and smash them, that sort of stuff brings so much relief. But also try to treat her as normal as possible, obviously you are going to want to wrap her up on cotton wool but if she needs space then give it to her. Things will go back to normal eventually. flowers

Clara66 Sun 02-Aug-15 09:06:01

Hi Gnomedeplume and all
Just wanted to say that I'm thinking of you. We have been through what you are enduring and, after 3 years, things are better but we still have a way to go. I don't believe that you have done anything wrong. You did what camhs would have told you to do by supporting your dd. We found camhs very little use until dd's problems escalated and she took an od of paracetamol. They then offered counselling with trained nurses, but my dd didn't really engage, she felt like she was being judged by people who were 'too old to understand'. After a 2nd od a new psychiatrist stepped in and things improved. Dd is now on sertraline and is much better but still self harms when the going gets tough but camhs are happy with this as it it is her release mechanism and they say it could be worse. She no longer hides the scarring on her arms unless it is new (I find this so hard to see but admire her at the same time). She has just been signed off by Camhs as she is 17, but I still feel there is a long way to go.

Watching your child go through this is so tough. I don't believe anyone can understand unless you have been there. There have been times when I have wondered where we've gone wrong, but as a family we never had any trauma until dd hit her teen years. When dd was at her worst the number of times I hid in my room and cried....

Anyway, please look after yourself so that you can look after your dd, and, as said before, I'm thinking of you.

GnomeDePlume Mon 03-Aug-15 19:41:24

Thank you Clara66, I think one of the things I am struggling with is that we have all lost a little of our innocence/naivety/smugness (call it what you will). We didnt think that this would happen to us.

Thealgebraist Tue 04-Aug-15 09:50:01

Just wanted to say i was a tennaged self harmer, no trauma in the family and I'd had a pretty idyllic childhood. I just struggled with teenager-hood, terrified of growing up and didn't fit in at school. My parents handled it well- they didn't judge or panic but didn't make any special fuss and just took it in their stride (or seemed too!) My dad later told me he'd self harmed as a teenager as well so understood it was a coping strategy rather than suicidal thoughts.

I'm now 31, haven't self harmed in years although it's always in there somewhere! Steady, challenging job, small child and a baby on the way so life turned out pretty well. I still struggle to cope with stress somtimes but have found more acceptable ways. I wonder how much is to do with hormones? Despite pregnancy being not a lot of fun and stressful in itself I always feel much calmer and centered during pregnancy and before periods came back?
Hopefully your daughter will come through the otherside, soon, I just wanted to share that there is life on the other side and that self harming as a teenager hasn't stopped me building a good life since.

GnomeDePlume Tue 04-Aug-15 21:53:28

Thank you Thealgebraist, I am glad that you have built a life after this.

Biglaugh Wed 05-Aug-15 14:22:43

I had a very similar experience recently but I wasn't at home when it happened but luckily she called our doctor. But it was awful and she had said earlier in the year that she was depressed but then wouldn't have any counselling although referred by the doctor.
so easy to think you should have done more but sometimes it takes something big for them to accept they need help.
We are seeing CAMHS regularly now and I am hoping we are on the road to recovery.
It is very hard. flowers

pasanda Thu 06-Aug-15 22:08:02

I have been through this, almost word for word.

Last summer (end of Year 8) he started self harming. No real reason we could fathom apart from an explosion of hormones and adolescence kicking in over the space of a few weeks. Maybe too much to handle? We thought the same as you. Friends feeding off each other, they're all doing it etc.

He stopped over the summer hols but started again in October Year 9. This time, it was more serious. It was more hidden, coupled with hours in a darkened room on his phone. We got him psychotherapy from December which we thought was helping (to be fair, his self harming got lots better) but this lulled us into a false sense of security. The signs were there, but we didn't see them, failed to realised their significance, purely because he wasn't self harming so much.

But 3 days after his 14th birthday, he did the same as your dd. Paracetamol, coupled with any other tablets he could get from our cupboard, washed down with vodka. Luckily, he was sick. I then spent 10 mins in his room clearing it up (at this point I still thought he had a bug!). But thank God I did, because it was during this 10 mins that he told me what he had done. We called an ambulance and he also spent 21 hours on a drip to counteract the side effects of paracetamol and protect his liver.

We saw CAHMs crisis that day, then every other day at home once discharged. He saw a psychiatrist within 8 days (which we have been told is very rare and can often be up to 2 months later) who prescribed antidepressants a week later (she needed to be sure he would have ways and means of telling us of any suicidal thoughts should they arise before she prescribed them, seeing as they can increase such thoughts initially and also because he hadn't been able to tell us before).

Nearly 3 months later, he is a different child. I am dreading his coming off the ad's because I can't bear the thought of him going back down into the depths of despair again.

I feel like you do OP. I also think we didn't do enough. Despite all the psychotherapy. He gave us signs that I thought were just teenagerdom!!

It is a hard path to tread. I was (and to a certain extent still am) thinking that I would be pleased if he would self harm because at least then he would be doing something to manage his emotions other than trying to kill himself sad

GnomeDePlume Fri 07-Aug-15 08:50:16

It is so difficult isnt it? Biglaugh & pasanda, I hope that your children get the help they need.

The thing we dont understand is that DD has been quite definite that she wasnt trying to kill herself. If not then I dont know what she thinking. DD is now being seen by CAMHS. My worry is that DD is quite capable of dissembling, presenting a 'front' to anyone who talks to her. I saw her doing this in hospital with the HCPs who talked with her. Everything all bright and breezy.

hospitalworry Fri 07-Aug-15 20:23:01

My dd is a bit older 20
She's done some what I thought of as worrying self harming Around aged 15
Few cuts and the biggy That she denied and said was done by accident - a huge burn (scald maybe?) on the back of her hand. Still very visible scarring now.
She wanted camhs but would not go.
Fast forward to now
In hospital for something else but totally shit
Self harming (scratches very deep)
Been assessed to see if sectionable
Talk of voluntary psych unit when this not applicable
Scary shit

BoboChic Fri 07-Aug-15 20:35:27

I'm sorry to read about your DD, GnomeDePlume. Have you/she made any headway on identifying the sources and causes of her excessively painful emotions?

pilateswithdeb Sat 08-Aug-15 15:40:38

Oh GnomeDePlume, I've cried reading your message as it could be my daughter's story. Everything exactly the same. The cutting followed by a paracetamol overdose, resulting dash to the hospital and a few days in hospital with the drip to stop the liver being damaged. My daughter did this when she was 13. She was emotionally blackmailed by a lad who told her he would kill she tried instead.

Camhs were great but my daughter simply wouldn't communicate properly and eventually she was signed off. Since then, she took an over dose of caffeine tablets. carried on cutting until she had an accident with a stanley knife blade. But every cloud has a silver lining, she was scared by the accident and stopped cutting...just like that...proving it wasn't as addictive as she tried to have us believe.

She's now nearly 17 smokes weed and probably takes some legal highs on ocassions. it sounds awful but at least I have more knowledge of what is happening. I think, and I hope she is growing better and she is more honest with what goes on in her life. I think we are starting to get better, shes seems happier with herself about 70% of the time now...Its a big improvement.

But hang on in there. I have a pretty good idea of your feelings and thoughts. I remember so well her being in hospital and feeling so confused and heart broken. You will pull through some how.

I also looked everywhere for some help. some one for me to talk to to sort out my head. All the help online is for how to deal with your child. There isn't any help for how the parents are mean't to cope. I eventually went to a counselor and just talked and talked and talked. She was a counselor for self harmers and drug users. She helped me to learn what is out there and the more i learnt the better i have dealt with every thing. Knowledge has made me more confident with dealing with her.

I'd also like to add that my DD is not too wayward and i would still call her pretty normal.

I've rambled on myself now! Keep your chin up. Feeling for you. x

pilateswithdeb Sat 08-Aug-15 15:55:05

PS.Just a couple of other things. The scar that you saw but not sure what it was. My DD burn't herself using an aerosol can just sprayed it close to the skin till it burn't.

I took away all of her cutting "equipment" she just went out and stole stanley knife blades, so i then had the worry of her being caught shop lifting! In the end I just put first aid equipment in her room incase she needed it, at least she could keep things more sterile. it sounds shocking but as a parent of an older teenager it impossible to stop her form getting hold of something ie the blades on a pencil sharpener!

As for me and my husband its so hard to ever tell her off as you worry what she might go and do....its like walking constantly on egg shells.

DONT blame yourself though please please don't beat yourself up about it, you'll never understand it.

GnomeDePlume Sun 09-Aug-15 19:16:11

DD saw a CAMHS counsellor this week and has another appointment in a couple of week's time. There are also a couple of workshops for her and for us.

Something I am very grateful for is the treatment DD received in hospital. She was treated with nothing less than kindness. Because of her age she was admitted to the children's ward which was ideal I think. DD was treated in the same way as she would have been treated if she had accidentally swallowed the bleach. It was treated as an accident.

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