From The Grio — Sometime last year, during the course of a seemingly normal evening, I spotted an oozing gash across my daughter’s forearm. I was sitting in bed when she casually popped into my room to ask me a question. The sight of the wound jolted me awake, and I winced because it was fresh, bright red, and fairly deep.

“Skylar!” I gasped, pulling her to me for a closer examination. “What happened to your arm?” She waved away my concern in the nonchalant way that 12-year-olds do when they don’t feel like being bothered to go into the details their parents demand of them.

“Oh, I scratched it on a nail on the bulletin board in music class,” she told me. I knew it was a lie.

Usually, I commence to firing her up for even attempting to get one past me. This time, I left it alone for a few days. I wanted to pay closer attention before I unfurled any accusations. A week later, I spotted another cut. Then another. And another.

The discovery sent me into a panic. What did it mean? Was she suicidal? Even if she wasn’t, could she accidentally dig too deeply into her flesh and slice a major vein? It sounds so dramatic, but visions of waking up in the morning to find her in a pool of blood made me sick with worry.

Aside from watching anguished young white girls mutilate their bodies during the occasional episode of “Intervention,” I’d probably never had a concerted thought about self-injury. It just wasn’t part of our reality. I certainly didn’t know anyone personally who suffered from the urge to hurt themselves and, whenever I did run across a story, it was never about a black child. As a matter of fact, that cultural aspect ultimately made our situation even more complex. It’s been challenging to shed the stigma that self-injury is confined to white kids. Even I used to think that way.

I kept my daughter’s struggle with self-injury secret for a long time – this is actually the first time I’ve shared our story with a group outside of our circle of immediate family and close friends – partly because I felt like a failure as a mother, partly because I didn’t want anyone to write her off as a troubled child or a razor-wielding psycho.

She wasn’t. My baby was cutting herself – like others before her – to vent her hurt, anger, feelings of inadequacy, awkwardness, and despair. The point is not to commit suicide. The normal angst of puberty was exacerbated by a tenuous relationship with her father and drama with friends and classmates who seemed to have the most tumultuous, fine-one-day, chaotic-the-next relationships I’d ever seen, even among tweenagers. I’m sure I contributed to her frustration, too. To release the emotions she couldn’t verbally express, she cut her arm and eventually, her belly and thigh, too.


(Continue Reading @ The Grio…)

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  • Dee

    Six years ago, I began working in a pretty affluent predominantly white school. I had never witnessed anything like this until then. One of my athletes came to me about one of my other athletes that was actively cutting. Initially, I had no idea of how to handle it. I spoke with her parents and quickly decided it was a “white people problem”. Fast forward 6 years and I am now a counselor in what is considered an “urban school” in the same school district and I see this on a regular with my African American and Hispanic students.

    I feel that our kids today don’t have the coping mechanisms that we once did. I attempt to get them to channel their thoughts or find some person that they trust to talk to about how they are feeling. I’m praying that this gets better.

  • JC

    I have a friend who used to cut herself. I could barely stand to hear her stories. I don’t know how parents deal with this …

  • sharay

    Yeah, I cut myself a lot from the ages of 12-19. Also tried suicide on several occasions. I was told that it was white girl problems and to stop it. I didn’t and as a result I ended up in the hospital several times.I finally stopped cutting myself at 19 convinced that I was over it. In reality, I just traded one vice for another. Started eating every damn thing and gained 60 pounds from 19-22. Looking back the problem wasn’t that I was crazy or hanging out with too many white girls. The problem was that the environment I lived in was toxic. I was abused as a child(physically,mentally, and sexually) and then lived in a toxic environment with a step mother that hated me for years. My parents did me a disservice by not stepping up to the plate to get me the help(and the correct living environment) I needed. Instead they choose to ignore it with grave results.

  • Bump Mediocrity

    Cutting is not a black or white issue. It is a human response to intense suffering. At the root of it all is toxic shame: a feeling of being deeply flawed, unlovable and worthless.

    Understandably those of us who aren’t cutters cannot understand why someone would want to do that to themselves. Simply put cutters are people who cut to feel pain. They want to feel pain because to feel pain is to feel alive because their souls and spirits are lonely, disconnected, empty and broken.

    The truth is that common mental health issues including depression and personality disorders are not truly explored or discussed openly within the black community. There is a true SHAME STIGMA based on ignorance (white people problems)that keeps a lot of people suffering in silence.

    While I do believe that having a spiritual connection with God helps greatly in healing; many brothers and sisters have suffered from severe physical, emotional, and mental abuse and often that abuse gets in the way of believing and trusting in a higher power. Abuse, neglect, toxicity and abandonment are real and as black people we have come up with some crafty ways of dealing with our pain. We’d rather hit the bottle, smoke that
    Scooby Doo, eat the Hot Wings and fried Twinkie with a side of Cherry Pepsi, or become the neighborhood bicycle than to show that we are fragile. We are much happier with appearance: Teflon on the outside; but living with combustible rage on the inside.

    Women who cut have usually been sexually abused, raped, molested with a combination of emotional abandonment and neglect. It is truly a horror to have to have lived and my heart goes out to these survivors. Prescription Meds can help in the short term but a diagnosis, talk therapy and the desire to heal are key in helping those who suffer deal with their toxic shame.