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Self harming dd 14(12 Posts)
My dd self harms. I have been aware for some time that she's had marks on the back of her hands like she's grazed herself. She used to walk around in shorts year round but around age 12 she stopped, and is rarely seen out of jeans and a hoody. This summer we went to a water park and I saw her in a swimming costume for the first time in 2 years and saw numerous healed lacerations on her thighs. I have also noticed scratches that look like they have been done with a blade on her outer elbow. She is very anxious and highly self critical, sometimes can't sleep, often sleeps til noon on a weekend (I think this is relatively normal teen behaviour, though).
The pastoral officer at school contacted me perhaps a bit over a year ago and informed me that one of dd's friends had reported concerns of self harming. My dh and I talked it through at the time and researched a bit about self harm. At the time we decided that doing nothing was a course of action, in that we did not raise the self harming. I was acutely aware that the idea someone was talking about her would really upset her and destabilise her friendships.
I will admit shock when I saw her in her swimsuit, however I also felt reassured that none of the marks looked new. I have invested a lot of time in her during this period, whilst never addressing the self harm directly. I spend a lot of time chatting with her, she talks a lot about friends, school (worries a lot and is very hard on herself), she is also interested in lots of things, likes to talk about history, politics, and the environment.
I noticed some new marks on her hand, and also caught her rummaging in the first aid kit for antiseptic wipes this week. I said nothing, just encouraged her to chat and her mood seemed fine. I wonder if she had been cutting and felt better as a result. The next day I asked her about the marks, she told me she must have fallen over. I gently called her out on it and said I didn't believe that. I didn't ask her directly, she would have denied, but I told her I know sometimes people, (especially teens) harm themselves and some of the reasons why. She listened and nodded and looked all big-eyed but did not confirm or deny. However, she knows I know.
Other than encouraging her to talk about how she feels, and helping her with coping tools for situations she finds stressful, I don't know what else I should be doing. Do I report my own kid to the school safeguarding lead? Take her to the GP? Hide all the sharp things? Get her a counsellor?
I'm not sure if it's escalating. She is very private, is attached to her phone and laptop and is secretive with her devices. I don't have her passwords. I don't know whether her Internet use if harmful or is a protective factor. She is very capable of research and I suspect she has looked for info on her mental health and coping strategies. I don't know that enforcing new rules on Internet and phone use at this time may push her away.
I'm ashamed to admit I read her private notebook this evening when she was out, and she has articulated thoughts of self harm, and some of suicide. She described in her writing not being able to see herself past the age of 18. I'm so worried about her. We're such a nice 'normal' family, she's never had any trauma, not been bullied as far as I know and seems to have a nice group of friends. I blame myself, of course. I don't know how my baby ended up this way. I think of her sweet intact newborn skin and hate that she has done this to herself.
Thanks to anyone who has got this far. I would be grateful for any advice, any sharing of stories from people who have experienced similar, or even any challenges or judgment that may help me think differently about this. Believe me, I judge myself.
I'm so sorry. I have no experience of this but a friend is going through it too. Have you seen another post today about the same thing? Maybe you could pm each other?
Hello, I’m sorry you are going through this.
I posted roughly the same time as you.
My dd is 14 also. I am a single mum, she only sees her dad alternate Saturdays and he won’t be any help at all.
I had a call today from the school informing me they had found cuts on her arm, 10 of them. I didn’t unfortunately take the same action. I confronted her about it and she has completely shut down on me. I stayed calm with her and told her I’m am here for when she wants to talk to me and told her that I am worried about her but I won’t make her talk to me if she doesn’t want to. She didn’t react kindly to anything I said. I heard her on the phone telling her friend that she is going to have an argument with the head of her Year tomorrow. I had not mentioned a phone call from the school, although it was obvious, and did not mention who called me. I don’t know if she actually told her friend why or what’s going on though. She does seem to have a good set of friends.
I have semi controlled epilepsy and have always felt terrible and paranoid that she has seen me have seizures, had to call 999 a few times and that she has to help me sometimes with snacks and drinks and the odd occasion now she’s older make her own dinner.
I did look at her iPad while she was at school but it only shows iPhone msgs, there was nothing in the msgs I read. I can’t get to her phone, I know her code but it’s in her bed somewhere.
She normally is very open with me and the last few days she has seemed happier than normal with me. She has asked to make dinner together, watch films, laughed about silly things, as well as the normal teenager in her room phoning friends and watching tv all evening.
The cuts are fresh, maybe a day or so old. She gets painful wrists sometimes and did go through the first aid box asking to use some wrap for her wrist, which we have used before so I didn’t think anything of it. And yesterday she wore a jumper indoors which is not like her but again thought nothing of it as it is cold. She’s normally in short sleeved tops maybe with a zip jumper now and then indoors
Apart from tomorrow morning I won’t be able to speak to her now as after school she is being picked up and is staying with grandparents the weekend and I’ll not see her until Sunday. Im thinking as I confronted her today maybe giving her the weekend might be a good thing...
I did mention counselling to which she reminded me rudely that she does already see a mentor at school once a week. But I don’t know wether to seek professional help, just her or for us both. I don’t know wether to bring it up Sunday when she’s back or to leave it and just keep an eye on her or take her to the drs to be referred?
Sorry for long post. Hopefully some people can help us both xx
Thanks for posting, and I'm sorry you are going through the same thing diamondt. This sounds like it has been such a shock for you. Don't beat yourself up over your initial reaction, as you can see my softly softly approach hasn't had any better results. I think you're right that a weekend apart will give you both some breathing space that hopefully you can move forward from. When you think objectively about her behaviour (not easy, I know) how long do you think it may have been going on?
My fear is that my daughter's behaviour is escalating and I don't know if its time to seek help or what to do next. I'm also worried I am too late in taking action to get outside help. I work in Health and I'm aware of how thresholds to access services are high, and I think 'well she's not that bad to warrant Camhs, seems to be coping' but what if she IS that bad and is just supremely good at hiding it?
When I'm not with her I worry like crazy, and I feel like I really don't know her at all. And then she's back from school, or Guides and she seems 'normal'. I feel like I'm permanently on the edge.
I think you've handled it really well so far.
I used to self-harm as a teenager and it was a cry for help. I would arrange counselling for her- even if DD is reluctant persuade her to try one session. I would also involve the school and GP with your DD's permission. Talk to her about it and say when she's ready you want to help her stop.
Also, what I remember is when adults found out everyone was really focused on why I was doing it. What had happened? Everyone seemed to assume there was a big traumatic event I was hiding.
In reality it was a lot of things and just strong feelings. Being 14 is tough. So my advice is don't push her to talk about why, just focus on helping her to stop.
There are things she can try too like squeezing an ice cube that can give the same pain release without scarring.
Thank you saphos for sharing your experience. What you said really resonates around the 'why' as my lizard brain is terrified that something awful has happened to her that I'm not aware of which is causing her to do this. I hope that, like you, it is more an accumulation of the stresses of being a teenager. Not that this would make me take it more lightly, but I would at least hope that it would resolve as she grows to have more control over her life.
I had a panic this morning thinking about all of the opportunity we have facilitated the cutting, as my dh uses Stanley knives in his job and would regularly leave these around the house as he empties his pockets after work. I'm going to have a cull and make sure these are all removed from the house. I don't think we can realistically remove all the sharp things, and I know she will find something if she is desperate enough, but I am going to be conscious of not leaving these as reminders for her.
I don't think she is depressed, although has down days, but is highly anxious and I'm going to help her to work on this if she wants to. I am trying to keep her busy in the meantime.
Dear OP, as the Pastoral Support officer has contacted you, s/he will have also logged a Concern. Did they advise you on the next steps?
A referral to CAHMs is worth doing at this stage, considering the talk of suicide you read about in her diary. Don't be ashamed of this , it was necessary to see what's going on in your daughter's head.
A lot of them are doing it,I don’t want to trivialise it but I sometimes think the cut marks are a bit of a badge of honour. It’s certainly more of a go-to thing than when I was a teenager .
My DD was the same and we found it very difficult to talk about. We were referred to CAMHS and went to the GP. We had some CBT. Knowing she wasn't at a high risk of suicide was reassuring to me. We talked through other strategies. Such as using ice for the shock. Elastic bands round the wrist. She didn't find those particularly helpful.
We removed razors but she found other ways of cutting herself. I would remove Stanley blades as they are very sharp and she could accidentally cause more damage than she intended. At one point I was scared to leave the house in case a self harming attempt went too far.
She's now 18. Will still cut herself in times of High stress. We are better at talking about it but it's still hard on both sides.
OP, I'm really sorry you're going through this. It's really hard and I've been there. I went to my GP when I found out and she was fantastic and gave us an immediate referral to CAHMS. I know that it varies depending on where you live, but we were very lucky, as my DD had a really good therapist through CAHMS who helped her a lot. Her school was also incredibly supportive, and put in place a number of measures to make it easier for DD if she was having difficulty coping on any given day. I have to say that having the support of CAHMS and her school was vital, and not only to my DD, but to me and DH. We didn't feel so alone in this. So please don't feel any shame in asking for help.
You say your daughter is very "private". I'm the same, so completely understand her feelings in a way. HOWEVER, her health is now at risk (sorry if that sounds dramatic, but it is), and her privacy is not a priority. Her recovery from self-harm is. So I would gently insist that she talk to someone. Also, please please get those passwords! It's really important that you know what she's viewing on social media, and what the communication is when she's self-harming.
This must feel like a very dark time. If I could give you a bit of hope here - my dd has made a complete recovery and is back to being a normal moody, annoying but ultimately terrific teenager. You and your DD will get through this eventually. to you.
You have handled the situation brilliantly so far. You should talk to your daughter about making sure her cuts are kept clean and if and when she feels she wants to talk you will be there. Also remind her childline is available 24/7 to maybe try giving them a call or online chat next time she feels like she needs to cut.
Thanks for your replies. We had another chat last night and I was able to get her to be a bit more specific about what she was doing and how she is feeling, and we also had a conversation about safety and infection. I agreed to get more supplies in like antiseptic etc, although this almost feels like I'm enabling her. Dh has removed all of his Stanley blades from the house, although I don't know if she has any stashed. I have no evidence she was using blades but have a strong feeling she has been using a school compass and a shard of a broken set square. Who knew maths could be so dangerous?!
I know she will find sharp things if she is desperate enough so can't make the environment totally safe, but agree that the Stanley blades may have been too tempting and so easy to go too far. She told me she doesn't think about killing herself. I'm not sure about that but if true, that's a good thing. We agreed that I'd she has ever really hurt herself or gone too far with the self harming, she will tell me. She told me the slicing thighs rather than anywhere obvious 'avoids the questions'. I think I gave her food for thought when I told her she doesn't need to worry about that now she knows we know. That feels like a small step of progress.
I tried to gauge her appetite to talk to a professional. My concern is I could get her to the gp or even camhs and she would minimise and say it was fine, getting better, not really a bug problem. Obviously this is not the case but she is pushing everything right down and is not visibly angry or scared or sad, just anxious. I would be prepared to pay privately to get the right type of support when she is ready to engage, and told her to think of it like a tutor. We can find one with the right skills and approach to help her progress.
We talked about her friendships and protective factors. She told me she confides in two of her friends, but one of her friends had her own stuff going on. I was alarmed to hear that one of her best friends has/believes she has dissociative personality disorder (multiple personalities). I can't help but think this type of friendship is really not going to help my dd who, apart from the anxiety and SH, is neurotypical. I don't want to judge and withdraw dd from this friend who may really need the support of my dd and other friends if she is genuine, but I am worried that this is 'acting out' rather than a genuine disorder. If that was true, then dd friend is no less messed up, however there would be an additional element of manipulation of my dd who is obviously very vulnerable. We have very good Internet safety features. I tested them this week and was unable to locate information eg. Encouraging self harm, or giving tips to do this. Equally drugs, violence, porn etc is all blocked. I'm sure my techy ds could get round all this but dd is not so technologically astute. She is rarely out of home with Internet access.
To the PP who referenced the bandwagon aspect of SH, my dd is certainly in the arty emo group. However, I was in a similar crowd as a teen, and although there was much less (visible) self harm, my peers took a lot more risks in yes of alcohol, drugs, unsafe sex, and other risky behaviours. I don't think the feelings are different, just that the world has changed.