My teenage son took a knife out of the kitchen drawer. Feeling stripped of power and control, he believed the only thing he had left was pain. Behind the locked door of his room he began with his left arm. With each slice he traded his emotional anguish for physical pain. It was just enough to suppress his desire to die. An inch into the pain, a mile into the suffering.
I discovered my son was cutting after he gouged his hand severely enough to require stitches. It was only after I asked him to wash his hands, and I pulled up his sleeves, that I saw the other marks.
What did I do wrong as a parent?
That is what I asked myself. I was angry and confused. Why would he cut himself? Why would anyone want to deliberately hurt themselves? What I didn’t know was that his internal pain was far greater than anything he could have done to himself physically. I didn’t know that he had been suffering inside for many years and that he had buried his misery deeper and deeper only to have it turn into self-hatred and spill out from self-inflicted wounds. I didn’t know that watching himself bleed helped him feel real, in control, and sane. I didn’t know that every day my child fought to keep himself alive. Every day he won his battle and I never knew there was a fight.
After the anger vanished, I wondered why I didn’t notice that my child needed help. I wondered why he didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t come to me and tell me about his torment.
That is when the blame started.
I blamed myself for not being a good enough mother. I blamed myself that my sweet boy didn’t think I would understand how he felt. I blamed myself that maybe I was too busy or too self-involved or too anything other than the “perfect mother.” I blamed myself that I didn’t know. I believed I should have known. This was my child. Wasn’t I supposed to have some kind of intuition about these things? Wasn’t I supposed to protect my child from all the harm that came into his life, but how could I protect him from himself? How could I take away my child’s pain when I didn’t even know it was there?
How does a parent of a self-harmer heal from the physical pain inflicted on their soul? One small step at a time.
I had many steps to take and lessons to learn along the way. I learned how to validate my son’s feelings so he felt heard, acknowledged, understood, and accepted. I learned that I needed counseling just as much as he did. I learned that I could not fix his behavior; he would have to want to do that for himself. I learned that I didn’t have to be the “perfect mother,” just one that listened to what her child had to say, didn’t judge the choices he made, and loved him unconditionally.
With each step I not only helped myself, but I helped my son. I stood by his side, I helped him through difficult times, I counseled him, and I also reluctantly stood back and let him make mistakes, and each time he faltered, each time he fell, he would get up and start over.
I learned that being a parent wasn’t what I had dreamed it would be, instead it was painful, brutal, arduous, and exhausting. But being a parent was also rewarding and fulfilling and no matter what obstacles I had to face, being a parent always required love and acceptance, that is a true parent, where you learn that you can trade pain for love.
I recently had a conversation with a woman who is a parent coach. She is "coaching and educating parents on the parent-teen relationship, letting go of the need to control, how to help kids become super problem-solvers, infusing values into parenting. . .in other words, how to raise teens to confident, self-sufficient adulthood and maintain your sanity along the way."
This is such important work in today's society where parents want to hover and smooth the path of their children, thus taking away daily learning experiences. All parents need to learn these skills so that we can send the next generation of leaders into the world prepared to lead and not just follow.
Also have a look at her recent article on lessons she learned from parenting.
Yay! Psych Central has published another one of my articles-so psyched, pun intended.
I have been writing a lot of articles recently and I am not able to post the full article on my own site, so please follow the link to read my latest publication on Psych Central. Comments are appreciated, let me know what you think.
This short film about anger and mindfulness is excellent, please take four minutes to watch it.
I was asked this question recently and thought it was worth posting.
What are your views on treatment for mental health conditions?
Mental health wellness should encompass a multitude of treatment programs from medical to holistic. I do not think only one remedy is right for the recovery of someone who is diagnosed with a mental illness. Treatment should be approached from many angles such as exercise, nutrition, medication, skills training, talk therapy, art, and music. Incorporating a number of life skills with therapeutic skills gives the person with an illness a greater chance of moving forward to a place of life-long healing.
One size fits all does not work for mental health treatment. Explore multiple options and have a variety of skills and options in your toolbox.
The B.R.A.G. Medallion selection process:
"All ebooks brought to the attention of indieBRAG, LLC are subjected to a rigorous selection process. This entails an initial screening to ensure that the author's work meets certain minimum standards of quality and content. This initial screening may involve a review of sample chapters available on Amazon.com (or other on-line booksellers), or portions of the nominated ebook. IndieBRAG, LLC reserves the right to reject an ebook during this initial screening assessment for any reason in indieBRAG, LLC's sole discretion. If it passes this preliminary assessment, it is then read by members drawn from our global reader group. They judge the merits of the book based on a comprehensive list of criteria, including;
On average, 50% of the books submitted to us fail to pass the initial screen and another 40% are subsequently rejected by our readers. Thus, only 10% of the books we consider are awarded our B.R.A.G. Medallion and are presented on our website."
Thank you for this honor.
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