Send your responses to Shy's query about self-injury--is it helpful or hurtful?

Hi Shy,

I cut for awhile to put the pain on the outside where it was more real. Yes the scars stay forever, even after the pain is gone. the scars can cause a stigma that is hard to get rid of. When I stopped cutting it was because I had a replacement. I started drawing the cuts I wanted to make. I could draw and redraw and didn't have to actually make the cuts. These drawings I would show my therapist and we would talk about it. Eventually I didn't feel the need to cut anymore. And I don't have to explain as many scars as I might have had. Finding another way to show the pain and get the relief, will prevent further stigma and problems.

Try this. It might work!



Hi Shy,

You are not alone.

My experience (I inflicted injury on myself beginning when I was little) is that I self-injure when I have an overwhelming internal conflict or a
feeling of rage. I think that there is an excellent book on this by Dusty Miller. Women Who Hurt Themselves: A Book of Hope and Understanding.
It's been a long time since I've read the book, but I remember it as being helpful.

The strangest experience happened when a physician saw the scars on my wrists (I had attempted suicide in addition to being a self-injurer) and she
asked me some questions and upon learning that they were scars from my childhood, she flew into a bit of a panic, insisting on getting me "a cup of water," and treating me for stress at that moment. I explained to her that the scars were from pain in the past, not something I was feeling in the present. It was interesting to have to explain that to someone other than myself! After that experience, I've been much more aware of the urge to self-injure as connected to past patterns of confusion or hurt. Becoming aware of those patterns can help.

Please take good care of you. You are worth that.



Dear Shy,
I'm so proud of you for opening up and talking about this hard thing. What a great start you made.
I hesitated to share my answer with you because it's so simple that maybe it only works for me.

At the end of every session my counselor prays that I find something to make me happy that day, or
both that day and that week, and, that I would have hope for something and that God would fulfill it.

I am deep in major depression disorder along with DIDNOS and a few other psych illnesses that make life very hard.
I need that piece of joy, and that hope, each week, to continue.
I stopped cutting about ten years ago except for the incident that brought me to my current counselor about one
or two Christmases ago.

The joys and hopes have ranged from minor to major. I'd have saved up enough money to buy an ice cream
cone after my session, or a meal out; my lilacs bloomed; my stuffed animal comforted the littles inside who got held
while they cried. Other examples: we wrote a poem (which brings great satisfaction to us); a friend said something nice.
Believe me, sometimes we had to really search for the thing. But I realize something cool as I'm writing this;
that the search was good. It helped me look for good on those days when I thought it wasn't visible, and for
someone with major depression disorder that's a good thing.

I hope this helps you, Shy, and please know that I applaud you for even starting to deal with this.
mary et al


Dear Shy,

I cut real bad for a couple years and I have DID. I was reading a college Borderline book called Imbroglio and in it I found written that they give "Navane" (also called thiothexine), to men with out of control anger outbursts and women Multiples who self mutilate. My husband was on it at the time and I asked my doctor for some to try and after two weeks on it I couldn't believe I ever found pleasure in that. I couldn't even believe I did that to myself and stopped in two weeks.

It must be a psychosis as Navane is an anti psychotic. I was on it several years and when I went off it I no longer wanted to cut. It took all the violence out of the man I was with who was violent with other women also. It does have side effects but I figure chopping myself up did also and was more dangerous and my husband would get very angry with me when I cut.

I went through some emotional pain giving up my children and I could not cope with that. That's why I cut. I had failed my kids and I was feeling their pain too of losing me, as when I was a child.
I hope this helps all who want to stop cutting especially if you can't get to therapy. I don't think therapy could have stopped me. It was such a compulsion.
God Bless.
Judy H.


Hey Shy,
I understand your struggles with cutting. I'm presently writing a memoir about my experiences with abuse and healing and just yesterday wrote about the years I used to cut. Mind you, this was back in the early 1970's long before anyone even called it "cutting" or knew that it was related to childhood trauma.

After awhile, I stopped cutting and began hitting myself in the head. This went on until I had a "breakdown" or "spiritual crisis" in 2005. It was while healing from this crisis that I was able to come to understand why I felt the need to injure myself. Everyone's triggers are different. Mine were directly related to some very specific episodes of abuse.

What I discovered while going to therapy after my crisis was that the self-injuring behavior gave me a way to deal with difficult emotions that were arising from my trauma during times when I had no other outlet for them. I would feel this the strongest when trying to drive over a bridge on my way to therapy. I would feel such terror that I might actually stop the car and jump off of the bridge that I would need to "put" these emotions someplace in order to keep myself safe. Although I was no longer cutting, I did on occasion scratch into my palm with my fingernail and this would enable me to get across the bridge safely.

Once I got to my therapy appointment, I'd be able to release whatever emotions I felt I needed to suppress while driving. It was during these more recent experiences that I began to understand the strangely "positive" way in which the self-injuring behavior helped me at times and that I was able to release the need for it.

There's a excellent article online at that you might find helpful:

Whatever struggles you're having with this complex behavioral "coping mechanism", Shy, it's most important that you discuss your difficulties with your therapist so that together, you can come up with the safest ways to deal with them. Hopefully, in time, you will be able to release the emotions that are creating your urge to self-injure and replace them with more self-nurturing emotions and behaviors.

I sincerely wish you all the best in your efforts to heal.



Dear Shy,

My sobriety date is 10/18/97. The 3 years before that date I picked up alot of white chips. But I kept going back.
It was tough but I decided not to let shame own me.

I don't drink because I know for a fact that would destroy my life, my health. It would be the exactly the same thing as a diabetic eating sweets knowing full well how deadly the results would be.

Cutting is also an addiction. For me personally cutting is more dangerous because it works. It does make me feel better, peaceful.
But!!! each time I have to cut deeper to get the same results. I run the high risk of cutting a vein.

The last time I cut was this past Dec. Bled through two gauze bandages. Very scary moments for me.

I have scars on my left wrist. I don't even think about covering them up but neither am I working outside my home.
Cutting was also a way to show therapists, and loved ones, that I was hurting. It's as though if all the pain I have felt, all I have suffered could be seen on the outside I would be covered in bruises. But I'm not so I cut to see my pain and for others to see.
It wasn't until I became sober that I could begin to learn healthy coping skills.

I had a therapist tell me to break up the word "dysfunctional, dys--functional."
The skills we learned to survive in abusive situations worked for us. You could say we developed the coping skills
needed to live in and survive a war zone.

Today those skills needed then are not needed when no longer living in a war zone.
Having left the war zone behind we need to learn new, healthy, functional, coping skills.

In a non war zone the skills we learned before are not needed now nor do they work for us in a healthy way.
The old skills are dys--functional in our lives that we are living now.
When getting sober I would put up post it notes on my fridge, my bathroom mirror, with short positive messages for myself.
I still do.

There is so much we have to unlearn. The abusers taught us so much and now we have to unlearn all that crap
as well as learn what is true.

Here's the blunt, plain truth; you can't learn functional, healthy, coping skills when still caught up in the addiction.
I found a therapist who was knowledgeable, caring, and not judgmental. I have two close friends who are there for me
when I need to talk to get me through that moment of wanting to cut. I also learned to recognize and be aware of
the triggers in my life that make me want the release of cutting.

To learn healthy life skills I watched shows like 7th Heaven to see how real people deal
with life issues and family. It was Touched by an Angel that helped me realize that even Angels would get upset with God, would questions His methods.

I read modern romance novels that feature real life situations. I found Harlequin Romance books and esp.
Harlequin Superromance books to be very helpful.
Thrift stores are a great place to find these books as well as your local libraries.
Many libraries now have books that can be read for free with a free program for your computer.
Check out local libraries website or call them.

Many soft hugs to you and anyone else who reads this.



Hi Shy,
I, too, used to cut myself for years. And I definitely bear the scars.
As for your question----First of all, my Therapist & I have learned that "Fighting" something never works. Fighting it.....whatever it is.....only seems to intensify it and make it worse. Fighting it only serves to give it More Mental Energy.

How did I stop? Well, by first asking myself : "What am I trying to SAY by cutting? For instance, I cut because I was trying to say:
"Help me, SOMEONE!" or "I'm in PAIN." or "I DESERVE to be punished." or "PLEASE....STOP this pain!" or
"I CAN'T handle this anymore!"

Well, you get the picture. Anyway, my therapist suggested that I buy kid's Washable Markers. And then, when I got the urge to cut, I would take the Red WASHABLE Marker and write my message on my leg or arm instead of cutting my leg or arm. At first, it seemed a poor substitute for cutting...but, as time went on...I then learned to use WORDS instead of a razor blade to communicate my feelings.

I haven't cut now for several years. Tho, the urge still comes up ,infrequently. But, when it does--I just ask myself--What am I trying to say by cutting?

Believe me, this was not easy. Especially at first. But, if I could conquer it...anyone could. As I was an avid cutter for 40 years.

I hope this helps a little.
I wish you strength and courage,
Jan T.


Dear Shy,
I don't recall experiencing self-injury as a "pleasure" but I do remember being surprised when I was young that I could walk through thick berry bushes with sharp stickers and not feel anything at all...even if my legs were bleeding. I could also "go numb" when other kids pulled on my thick braided hair like horses' reins. For me, it was the numbness that astonished me. I didn't seek it out.

I know lots of people do, for different reasons. And there are different responses to it. So I will be as interested as you are in what answers you may receive to this very important question.

Thanks for sending it in.

Lynn W.