Inside The Thoughts of a Cutter: A Poem

The other day one of my students who used to cut herself, but hasn’t cut in several months, shared a poem with me she wrote that I thought would be beneficial to share.

I think it gives a quick glimpse into the mind of those who self-injure.

Although she and most of everyone else who was a part of her group I treated for self-injurious behavior have stopped cutting, many of them still fight with the urge to do it when they are faced with certain stressors.

With her permission, I share this poem that has no title.

Depressed and suicidal

Need to escape the misery

Not caring to continue this life

Blood loss has me weary

Scars show my painful past

As the stained blade opens up

Areas of my skin torn and scarred

To be a reminder of a dark past

Mind torn between love and hate

Will I ever be free?

Everyday is a struggle

To be free from this depression

Lost in darkness and misery

Puddles of dried blood stains

From every deep cut that is made

Full of depression and misery

Not worth saving this life of hate.

Saving the Lives of Butterflies: Part 2

It’s been a few months since I first introduced The Butterfly Project to the high school kids I work with (if you haven’t already, you can check out my post entitled “Saving the Lives of Butterflies”). Well I’m happy to report that over the past two weeks I’ve had a number of them come up to me and show me the butterflies that they drew on themselves in efforts to refrain from cutting themselves! I was so happy to see one or two of them do this, but was overwhelmed to see nearly all of the ones who have issues with self-injury trying this technique and so far it appears to be helping! Some of them even name their butterflies and they have been encouraging each other. It’s a small step, but I am so thrilled by it’s success so far that I just had to share some of the pictures!

With summer coming up, I am really worried about all of the teens I work with at the high school, especially the ones who self-injure, but I am really hoping that everything I’ve taught them over the summer, including cognitive behavioral interventions, emotional self regulation strategies and now the Butterfly Project, will help them make it through whatever they encounter and that they will emerge stronger and more confident. I will also be worried about the ones who use drugs, the ones who make irrational decisions, the ones with anger issues and the ones with severe depression and anxiety. Pretty much, I’ll be worried about all of them, but I have to hope and trust that I’ve helped them all enough or at least did my part in preparing them to better handle life.

Saving the Lives of Butterflies

Self-Injury

The Butterfly Project

Self-injury, also known as self-mutilation and cutting is defined as the intentional, direct injuring of body tissue mostly done without suicidal intentions wikipedia.

Self-injury is unfortunately a very common issue among teenagers. According to research, it mostly effects women from ages 13 to 30.

In a typical year at the high school I work at, I usually only see about one case of self-injury a year. Not to say that there’s only one person at the school that cuts themselves, chances are, the rest are just hiding it better. This year however, I’ve had so many instances of self-injury that I actually have a group comprised mostly of “cutters”, as they refer to themselves. Coinciding with research, three out of the four people in the group are female. Most of them cut on their arms and one cuts on her arms and thighs. All of them cut out of anger, frustration and depression. They express to me that it helps them feel alive and/or that it helps them take out their frustrations on themselves. For all of them, it has become a form of addiction.

During my last meeting with this group, one of the newest members told me about The Butterfly Project. The Butterfly Project basically is a way to try and help those who self-injure and those who know someone who self-injures. It has seven rules.

1. When you feel like you want to cut, take a marker, pen or sharpies and draw a butterfly on your arm or hand.
2. Name the buttery after a loved one, or someone that really wants you to get better.
3. You must let the butterfly fade naturally. NO scrubbing it off.
4. If you cut before the butterfly is gone, you’ve killed it. If you don’t cut, it lives.
5. If you have more than one butterfly, cutting kills all of them.
6. Another person may draw them on you. These butterflies are extra special. Take good care of them.
7. Even if you don’t cut, feel free to draw a butterfly anyway, to show your support. If you do this, name it after someone you know that cuts or is suffering right now, and tell them. It could help.

I thought that this was a very creative and safe alternative to self-injury so my entire group is trying this and maybe it will help others out there who self-injure so definitely pass this on.

The above picture is an actually picture I took of a previous client of mine who self-injures. She actually did much more damage to her arms a few days after I took this picture and required psychiatric hospitalization.