Seeing What We Don’t Want to See by Dayle Lynne
Author’s Caution: If you are a self-injurer, the following post could contain triggers.
topic: Warning Signs
I was 14 years old when I cut myself for the first time. I wasn’t very adept at it. I used an industrial razor blade I found on top of the refrigerator. I dragged it across the back of my hand, making scratches more than cuts. For several months, that’s all I did. But the scratches became a bit deeper each time, drew just a little bit more blood.
They may have been shallow, but they were noticeable. I was asked on several occasions what happened. I told everyone that my cat had scratched me. They all, without exception, easily accepted that . . . even though most of them knew my cat only had claws on her back paws.
The more they asked, the more I learned to hide my marks. By the time I was making actual cuts, they were on my upper thighs. I remember going into a panic before my 8th grade day trip to a pool. I tore apart my dresser for a t-shirt that was long enough.
I lived with an amazing mother. She loved me, cared for me, talked to me, and comforted me. And still, she was painfully clueless. Every so often she’d catch a glimpse of the darkness inside of me. She’d sit on my bed and I’d see pain in her eyes. I was ashamed, and I used my gift for words to convince her that everything was wonderful.
Maybe it wasn’t so much my gift as it was her desire to believe what I was saying.
She didn’t know I had a bottle of “just in case” pills in my medicine cabinet. She didn’t know that every time they switched her cancer meds, I’d steal a handful of the old ones. I never did have any idea what those pills would have done had I taken them. I pretty much figured that enough of anything would get the job done.
I always had a knack for convincing people I wasn’t crazy, but looking back, I think I was ridiculously obvious. I think, “If I saw me back then, I’d know I needed help.”
But as I watch my daughter grow up in a world where pain is so much more easily accessed than it was when I grew up, I begin to doubt myself. Will I notice if she gets panic attacks? Will I sense if depression sets it? Will I know if she cuts? Or takes drugs? Or any number of other things?
As a parent, will I notice the signs or will my desire for everything to be okay keep me in a fog of denial? And if I do notice, how will I deal with it?
A lifetime of my own dysfunction has taken on a new meaning now that I’m a parent. I may have several years before I need to worry about these things, but I’ve never been one to allow time to give me comfort.
There are countless commercials, made-for-TV-movies, public service announcements, and articles about talking to your kids, listening to them, and watching for signs of self-destructive behavior. But like everything else in life, it is all so much easier said than done.
The truth is I’m terrified that my daughter will be like me. I’m terrified because quite honestly, I don’t know what would have helped me back then. On the occasions when I was confronted, I became defensive. I put on my best, “I’m better now” face and swore I’d never do it again. They always believed me.
I think it’s human nature to believe those things we want to be true.
I don’t have the answers. Sometimes, I think I should. I think experience should give me an upper hand. But in the end, I’m just another parent worrying about doing what is best for her child.
And the best I can do is make a promise to myself and to my daughter that my eyes, my ears, and my arms will always be open.