Today, my daughter Lyra (body of a 5-year-old, mind of a 50-year-old)made me think. I was cleaning my wounds when she barrelled in on me, clearly full of some story or another. On catching sight of my arms, she stopped dead for just a moment and then, without more than a moment’s hesitation she ran to me and gave me a huge cuddle and said ‘Oh Mummy, that must hurt so much, but I didn’t know you were hurting because you kept it hidden.’
I was reflecting on this and whether and how I should be talking with my children about my self-harm with a trusted colleague, and her response has given me much food for thought. She said:
Remember the things they don’t know about and therefore cannot understand are generally much scarier than the things they do know about. If they see that you are cut, and don’t understand how, what they make of that could be even scarier than the reality. So giving them an understanding that the cuts are something that happen because you are unwell, and that though they are not nice, they are not too worrisome, because when you are better they will heal and be fine again? Something like that anyhow… I guess I meant acknowledging them so that they know everything is ‘in control’ and that they know what to expect – that they will heal and get better.
This is not something I have ever thought about in either my private nor my professional life as I generally work with self-harm in children and adolescents rather than adults.
So I’d like your help. Do you have any experience of sharing, or not sharing self-harm with your children? Do you have an opinion on this topic as someone whose parent, or loved one etc has self-harmed? Are you a professional who has observed things that have or haven’t worked?
PLEASE take a moment to leave a comment below with your opinions or experiences. Assuming I get a decent amount of feedback I will collate some suggestions and advice at a later date. If you would prefer to email me you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org but please note I may not reply rapidly as I’m focusing firstly on my own recovery.
Thank you, once again, for coming on this journey with me. I think we will learn much along the way.