My niece cuts, and I don't know what to do

  1. My 15 year old niece is a cutter. First she cut her face, then she cut her arm over 60 times. Now she has cut herself 21 times. I'm in an awkward situation - I don't get along with her parents, but this kid trusts me more than them, and feels she can confide in me. She is an extremely pretty girl (I'm not being biased), popular, successful, yet feels she is under all this pressure to be perfect and doesn't measure up.

    So, when I was sleeping today, she left a message on the machine, crying. I missed the call, but it was a cry for help, because she promised to call me if she had the urge to cut or commit suicide. I missed the call. I don't know what to do, and I can't live with myself.
    •  
  2. 10 Comments

  3. by   Liddle Noodnik
    Quote from markjrn
    My 15 year old niece is a cutter. First she cut her face, then she cut her arm over 60 times. Now she has cut herself 21 times. I'm in an awkward situation - I don't get along with her parents, but this kid trusts me more than them, and feels she can confide in me. She is an extremely pretty girl (I'm not being biased), popular, successful, yet feels she is under all this pressure to be perfect and doesn't measure up.

    So, when I was sleeping today, she left a message on the machine, crying. I missed the call, but it was a cry for help, because she promised to call me if she had the urge to cut or commit suicide. I missed the call. I don't know what to do, and I can't live with myself.

    {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{Markjrn}}}}}}}}}}}}}]

    Wish I knew, other than for you to be there when you can. She definitely needs some professional help, can she ask her folks for it?

    If she does say she is going to hurt herself, you can take her to the ER and they will handle the parents.

    This is so hard I know - I had a suicide attempt in 85 so I kinda know what she is going thru.

    Most important thing is that she knows you love her.

    Actually more important than that is that you know your limits and don't get over your head - cutters are very manipulative and can make you feel like you are responsible - and you are NOT!
    God bless!
  4. by   markjrn
    Quote from zoeboboey
    {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{Markjrn}}}}}}}}}}}}}]

    Wish I knew, other than for you to be there when you can. She definitely needs some professional help, can she ask her folks for it?

    If she does say she is going to hurt herself, you can take her to the ER and they will handle the parents.

    This is so hard I know - I had a suicide attempt in 85 so I kinda know what she is going thru.

    Most important thing is that she knows you love her.

    Actually more important than that is that you know your limits and don't get over your head - cutters are very manipulative and can make you feel like you are responsible - and you are NOT!
    God bless!
    Thanks for your response. I spoke with her mom (my sister) briefly, and she was taken to the ER, and will be an inpatient for at least a week. Her mom wants her in the hospital, and the dad doesn't (long story).

    I'll keep in mind what you said about the manipulation. She isn't laying any guilt on me, I'm doing that on my own. I just desperately want to help this kid!
  5. by   NurseRachy
    Sorry to hear this markjrn, sorry no advice just best wishes!
    Rachel
  6. by   markjrn
    Quote from NurseRachy
    Sorry to hear this markjrn, sorry no advice just best wishes!
    Rachel
    Thanks, I appreciate it. She's a strong kid, and she'll beat this.
  7. by   elizabells
    Quote from markjrn
    Thanks, I appreciate it. She's a strong kid, and she'll beat this.
    From a recovering cutter, the best thing you can do is try (and I know it's hard) to remain calm when you interact with her. She may already feel like a freak, on the one hand, and on the other validating what she's doing by getting outwardly very upset could feed it. I'm sorry that sentence may be garbled. What I'm trying to say is that for many people, cutting is a maladaptive coping mechanism akin to other people drinking heavily, or doing drugs. I'm not minimizing it or saying it's okay, just that keeping the concomitant drama down can be really helpful. Please feel free to PM me if you want to know more.

    Oh, and punishment is rarely helpful. Sounds like she's getting treatment, which is great. My mother became quite hysterical, understandably, but it really just increased the emotional tension that cutting can release, increasing my desire to harm myself.

    Best wishes,
    Eliza
  8. by   markjrn
    Quote from elizabells
    From a recovering cutter, the best thing you can do is try (and I know it's hard) to remain calm when you interact with her. She may already feel like a freak, on the one hand, and on the other validating what she's doing by getting outwardly very upset could feed it. I'm sorry that sentence may be garbled. What I'm trying to say is that for many people, cutting is a maladaptive coping mechanism akin to other people drinking heavily, or doing drugs. I'm not minimizing it or saying it's okay, just that keeping the concomitant drama down can be really helpful. Please feel free to PM me if you want to know more.

    Oh, and punishment is rarely helpful. Sounds like she's getting treatment, which is great. My mother became quite hysterical, understandably, but it really just increased the emotional tension that cutting can release, increasing my desire to harm myself.

    Best wishes,
    Eliza
    I appreciate the insight. I am very careful to remain calm around her - I figure she doesn't need any more drama. Her mom is pretty calm also, she just rolls with the punches. Her father is a problem.

    Thankfully, she is in the hospital. I'm not allowed to see her for a couple of days, and hope she does ok. She is very sensitive to pressure/stress, and needs to learn to cope. I'm hoping someone can teach her some coping mechanisms.

    I'm glad you're ok. Thanks again.
  9. by   elizabells
    :icon_hug:

    anytime, markjrn. let me know if you ever need anything.
  10. by   markjrn
    Quote from elizabells
    :icon_hug:

    anytime, markjrn. let me know if you ever need anything.
    Thanks!
  11. by   Psychaprn
    She's lucky to have you care for her. I hope she'll get hooked up with a good therapist after she leaves the hospital. I have found that therapists with experience in dialectical behavior therapy can be very helpful In addition, my patients have benefitted from the following:


    1. A safety contract with the therapist-i.e. calling when feeling self injurious.
    2. Writing in a journal about their feelings, events before their parasuicidal feelings etc. Showing the journal to the therapist is also helpful
    3. Using a non- ink marker to write on their skin instead of cutting.
    4. Taking a very cold shower or rubbing an ice cube over the area they want to cut to get a sensation of numbness.

    Hope these help but remember don't try to be her therapist, be her friend!
  12. by   chris_at_lucas_RN
    Quote from markjrn
    My 15 year old niece is a cutter. First she cut her face, then she cut her arm over 60 times. Now she has cut herself 21 times. I'm in an awkward situation - I don't get along with her parents, but this kid trusts me more than them, and feels she can confide in me. She is an extremely pretty girl (I'm not being biased), popular, successful, yet feels she is under all this pressure to be perfect and doesn't measure up.

    So, when I was sleeping today, she left a message on the machine, crying. I missed the call, but it was a cry for help, because she promised to call me if she had the urge to cut or commit suicide. I missed the call. I don't know what to do, and I can't live with myself.
    You are very right to be concerned. Self mutilation is often a sign of a budding borderline personality disorder, and usually these people also have significant abuse histories. She needs professional help, she needs it now.

    Because of the high statistical probability of abuse, be prepared for some family secrets to come out. Your ability to be nonjudgmental will probably be challenged in a lot of new and probably not too pleasant ways.

    I'd also suggest you pick up a book called, I Hate You, Don't Leave Me, which is all about how to live with and not be too damaged by someone you love with these kinds of problems.

    Good luck.

close